With much of the northern hemisphere about to return to school amid continued uncertainty about the current COVID19 pandemic, it is clear that many schools…
A school teacher, impacted by the current COVID-19 emergency, asks:
How can I address ways to build community in asynchronous environments?
First, Amy, thanks for your question. This is such a common enquiry right now, expressed by many people (especially teachers and corporate trainers) in response to the current COVID-19 emergency.
Second, let’s explore what the word asynchronous means. I admit, until a few minutes ago, I was a little dazzled by that word too.
For the benefit of everyone reading this, and in the context of online gatherings, it means that communication within the group is NOT in real-time. Unlike regular classroom settings, an asynchronous environment does not allow your students to see or hear what everyone else is doing at the very moment they are doing it. It’s a bit like watching a recorded video – you can stop it at any time, and you know that what you are watching is not happening in real-time.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s attend to your question.
You are right, inviting our students (or anybody) to interact online is a challenge. Yet, no matter where people are located, continuing to build connections is just as critical as ever, if not, even more so these days with social distancing becoming the norm.
My primary message in response to your question is to be intentional. No matter the medium or method of delivery, if there is no intention to build connections, then it just won’t happen, especially if people can not see or be with each other in a “live” environment.
For example, if it is not possible to get all of your students on a video call at the same time (eg, synchronous setting,) then asking each student individually to post their “work” (whatever that means) to a central location is a great idea, especially when you invite all the students to circle back (at a later time) to see each other’s work.
To illustrate, you could ask your students to record a very short video of them responding to a question or task you have posted, upload it to a central location (web page?) and then invite everybody to visit the site at a later time. This ‘circling back’ or loop is entirely intentional, and a great way to continue to keep your students connected when they can not share the same physical space.
No, these types of interactions are not the same as immersing your students in a live or real-time event. And yes, this will take more time and energy. But, there are benefits, such as allowing some of your students more time to consider their responses before posting, not to mention, enabling all of your students to express themselves via technology (which is so much more powerful than texting or using emojis.)
If you’re looking for activity ideas which you can embed into your synchronous (or asynchronous) settings, here are two useful resources:
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