Alright class, pull out your textbooks and flip to page 39, what do we see in the image at the start of this section? Guilty.  I’m guilty of doing this very same introduction to a lesson.  Is it great, nope, does it engage the students, well maybe some depending on the content.  There’s no hook, there’s no flashiness to the introduction, there’s really minimal effort on my part.  How many of you see this happening in your schools and classes?  It does happen and sometimes it is totally fine, but does it have the engagement factor needed for your students in your room?  You are the only one who could answer this, because you are the one who knows your students best.

So now what?  Anyone?  Anyone?

Connection is a crucial part in establishing relationships in your classroom in a physical or online setting.   As I look at my module and the creation of assignments, there are multiple attempts at having students converse and work together.  In the Google Classroom, we have a Google Meet area where students if at home, can still connect face to face with the teacher.  Using Flip responses in the Flip classroom, also will allow students to verbalize and talk their way through the process.  Where the real connection happens though is in the physical space.  My modules are designed for mostly in person learning to occur within a group setting.  This is for a couple reasons.  The first is so students can experience working with others- the good and bad experiences will be learned from.  The second is so students understand that they need to develop accountability and responsibility in a group dynamic.  Ultimately showing ownership and pride in their work.  Now my expectations would obviously change depending the Grade level of students I would be teaching.  This also applies in the online setting.  Older students have a better understanding of how to engage online, still the assignments need to be relevant and engaging for them.  If students can’t connect with the task, then chances that you get their best work will be limited.

3 R’s- Respect, Relationships, Relevance

I found myself really connecting with the article by Dr. Andrea Parrish.  The 3 R’s in particular.  Time and time again, I hear people complain about students and a lack of respect.  Sure, some days that is the case.  For the most part I find, it is because of the lack of relationship that students have with that person.  It is so important to build connections and show students you are invested in them.  This isn’t anything new, but often times we can forget about how what we say or the actions we do, stays with those students.  Once the relationships are built, the respect follows.  Relevance is the piece that often gets overlooked.  Not every student enjoys Science class, but if you are able to apply real world examples of interest to those students, then they can relate it to the own knowledge base and understandings.

The Wow Factor

In an online course as a facilitator are tasked with creating that engaging environment without the physical space of a traditional classroom.   OCL can still occur through developing strong conversations and discussions amongst the participants.  I would say that age of the students is a huge factor in this.  As the facilitator, making sure your students are well aware of proper digital citizenship behaviors is a must.  Creating relevant topics with clear goals to steer the discussions is also important.  I would argue with Bates in the following statement, “It could be argued that there is no or little difference between online collaborative learning and well-conducted traditional classroom, discussion-based teaching.”  For me the tangible environment a traditional classroom allows students to be more present.  It would make for a great debate topic though!  In either space though, the engagement and wow factor needs to present similar to the class experience Michael Wesch shares.

In the below Ted Talk, Eilish Dillon shares experiences from the classroom and some important takeaways that apply to creating a connected classroom.  Firstly, how do the students relate to one another and the teacher?  How as a teacher can you work on developing better practices to connect students?  The importance of creating a space for students where they can share their voice.  Never do we want to see students checking out of  class.  So how can we keep them connected and active in the lesson? Lastly, that we need to teach students how to be critical yet still find connection to real people in real situations because that’s where some of the best learning takes place.  Embrace the opportunity when we are present with one another physically and virtually, and take time to connect to one another should be a goal for all classrooms.

What’s the best way you connect in your classrooms with a group of new students?  For me, it’s about learning their hobbies and interests, and making it a priority to connect through the use of them.