If your students are anything like mine, at this point they’ve had about enough of breakout rooms in Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams to last them a lifetime. Live breakout rooms are good for some group work and short discussions, I use them for those purposes. However, the time constraints and general nature of synchronous online classes can make it hard to get into really deep discussions in live breakout rooms.
Deeper, threaded discussions are better suited to an asynchronous discussion platform. There are two platforms for this that I like, use, and recommend.
Synth is a free service designed for teachers and students to record spoken audio. People can listen to the audio recordings and respond with audio recordings of their own. Listeners can also respond to each other’s responses. A simple example of this is a teacher starting a conversation with one audio recording about a news story then students respond with audio comments. Classmates and the teacher can then respond to those responses. All recordings created by students are automatically held for moderation by the teacher. Here’s a video that provides step-by-step directions for using Synth.
I, like thousands of other teachers, use Flipgrid for asynchronous online discussions. Instead of having the whole class participate in one large discussion, I’ll create multiple small groups. I also don’t make students use their webcams if they don’t want to use them. This year Flipgrid finally added an audio-only option. Your students will find that option when they click on the “options” menu just to the left of the record button in Flipgrid.
Why Audio Only?
Like many other teachers I enjoy using Flipgrid and similar video response tools. However, they do have some drawbacks, particularly when used in the context of remote teaching and learning. One that I’ve heard from students, parents, and teachers this year is that they don’t like having to turn on their webcams when they’re at home. There can be some unintentional judgements made from what’s seen in the background of a webcam video. Using audio only is an easy way to remedy that problem.
On-demand Professional Development
Did you know that I offer a series of self-paced PD courses? You can view them all right here or as listed below.