Educators finding creative ways to help students interact in virtual classrooms

Educators finding creative ways to help students interact in virtual classrooms

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As virtual learning continues across the Commonwealth, families and educators are worried about the lack of social interaction that comes with virtual learning, and finding ways to keep young people engaged and connected.

“You’re in contact with the teacher, but it’s really hard to get the kids to connect with each other in a virtual environment - how do you get them to socialize in that virtual space? They need that as much as the pedagogy, the learning,” said Anne Marie, a Richmond resident.

With Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras expected to recommend a virtual second semester, there are questions and concerns about how to ensure students continue social connections with their peers and teachers. It is the reason Angela Jones, Director of School Culture, Climate and Student Services says RPS has intentionally carved out time during the day for social interaction.

“The first thing you do when you click on in the morning is not open up your math book, as important as that is, the first thing that we are doing is stopping and connecting with each other on a human level,” explained Jones. “It is a place to channel some of that energy. You can be playful during the time--or talk about the difficult or tragic things that happen. Not a therapeutic time, but just a time to talk about what you you would talk about with your friends anyway.”

Jones says teachers continue to find creative ways to engage their students academically, and they are also encouraged to give students the freedom to allow organic conversations to take place.

“Whether it is 10 minutes, 20 minutes, we’ve got to get on with instruction, obviously, but we wanted to allow that uninhibited space, where kids could do that,” she said. “Those moments of connecting on a human or real level can make or break your day.”

In speaking with families, Jones says some parents find their children are more academically engaged in virtual learning, but students continue to express they are missing “in person connectedness.”

“[Teachers] are encouraged throughout the day to allow for that informal connectedness--those soft connections I like to call them, or in our virtual world, break out rooms,” she said. “It is tough, you want to make sure you get your lesson out, our teachers are working so hard to create really good, impactful lessons--but being creative to allow room for that space. A lot of learning happens in that space.

Moving into a new semester, that will likely remain virtual, Jones says it will be a “continued work,” to keep students engaged and feeling a part of their community.

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