Over the past couple of years, K-12 schools in the United States have transitioned to and from remote and hybrid learning models. At the onset of these non-traditional classroom models many teachers were forced to quickly adapt to new classroom tech tools, many for the very first time. 

Video conferencing apps and classroom cameras have allowed educators to continue teaching students with a cohesive learning experience, regardless of where they attend class from on any given day.

As remote and hybrid learning continues to be a reality for many school districts — for the 2021-2022 academic year, 24% of K-12 schools are using a hybrid learning model —   educators are continuing to hone up on their video conferencing and hybrid teaching skills. To keep up engagement in the classroom, educators are using technology to create collaborative hybrid learning environments with their in-person and remote students.

According to Trenton Goble, Vice President of K-12 strategy at Instructure, classroom technology is no longer simply a nice set of tools to have, but has grown into being a necessity for educators. 

“Technology will remain pivotal as the pandemic shifted its role from a nice-to-have to an essential service that connects teachers, parents and students with the entire learning journey.”

Trenton Goble, via Deseret News

Read on for all the tips you need to successfully master video conferencing tools in the hybrid classroom.

How can video conferencing be helpful for teachers?

Whether you are teaching fully-remote or a hybrid mix of students, and even for students who are primarily learning in-person, video conferencing tools act as the bridge that connects the happenings of your classroom with your out-of-classroom students. Video meetings can be a safer, more convenient option for parent-teacher meetings or student-teacher meetings. They provide more opportunities to check in on students who need extra one-on-one time.

For teachers, creating a space where students feel comfortable in hybrid classes often means translating between the groups. With classroom tech like a camera designed for teachers moving around the classroom or a whiteboard camera that shows remote students what’s happening automatically, teachers can spend more time teaching.

Video conferencing tools enhance the in-person classroom environment and improve the class experience for remote learners.

How to Choose a Classroom Camera

For teachers with hybrid classes, a classroom camera is a worthy investment and can save time and headaches if they have easy setup and wireless tech. Choose a camera that works with any video conferencing platform and has plug-and-play setup.

When choosing your classroom video conferencing camera, look for one that:

  • Is high resolution, so students and teachers can see the details on the other side of the camera.
  • Integrates with your video conferencing platform of choice.
  • Is smart and able to pivot automatically or with a remote control, for more natural classroom movement.
  • Has smooth sound recording.

In addition to your primary classroom camera, many educators also opt for the use of a smart whiteboard or whiteboard camera in order to round out the classroom experience for remote students. 

The Whiteboard Owl camera is a dedicated whiteboard camera that— when paired with the Meeting Owl Pro classroom camera— is designed specifically to enhance the view of the whiteboard for remote students. To learn more, Meet the Whiteboard Owl camera.

Best Practices for Teaching Using Video Conferencing

  • Familiarize yourself with the technology before the semester begins, to avoid running into tech roadblocks.
  • Make eye contact with the classroom camera as well as on-site students, to further engage remote students.
  • Start classes by checking in with remote students, to ensure all of their tech is working properly and they can participate to the fullest extent in lessons.
  • Establish classroom communication rules for on-site and remote students, to ensure everyone in the class feels heard and seen.
  • Break up activities so no students are spending the whole class period watching a lecture through their computer screen.
  • Have remote students mute themselves if their environments are noisy and distracting to the classroom.
  • Have an IT team on call in case any spontaneous tech problems need addressing during class time. 

Using Video Conferencing to Record Lessons

Teachers can record their lessons with Zoom so students can play lectures or classes back and take notes or listen again at their own pace. Many students prefer to learn in an auditory way and listen to lectures over and over again to study. 

To record a lesson using a video conferencing app, start the lesson, then look for a button that says “record.” Begin recording and choose to record to the computer (and choose a file location, like your Documents folder), or the Cloud. Then, you can access the file after you end the lesson and send it out to students or upload it to your LMS. 

You can choose to record a live class session or lecture, or record yourself. This allows teachers to use video conferencing to record:

  • Video-only lessons
  • Video lectures with slides
  • Audio-only lectures with slides
  • Tutorials
  • Demonstrations

Here’s everything you need to know about using Zoom, including how to record Zoom lessons. 

5 Hybrid Teaching Tips for Teachers

Hybrid teaching isn’t as simple as setting up a classroom camera to connect with remote students and then going about business as usual. Instead, leading an effective hybrid classroom requires teachers to be acutely aware of the experience of all of their students, making sure no one gets left behind during lessons— regardless of where they are learning from on any given day.

Here are the top five tips for teachers running hybrid classrooms.

1. Teach to your entire class.

For educators who are new to hybrid teaching, there is a natural learning curve before they are completely comfortable in their new roles. Some have the urge to tailor their lessons to their in-person students, sticking to their traditional methods of teaching and assigning completely separate work for their remote students. Others swing in the opposite direction and focus lessons on engaging their remote students.

However, the most successful hybrid classrooms are cohesive. By crafting lessons that engage with both your on-site and remote students, teachers are able to use hybrid learning as a tool to further lessons, as opposed to viewing it as a barrier to overcome. Use classroom time for video collaboration, discussion, and activities, then assign asynchronous classwork for hours outside of the live class times. 

2. Take the experience of all students into consideration.

In addition to taking the experience of remote and on-site students into consideration, teachers of hybrid classrooms also need to have an eye on the individual student experience. In a hybrid learning model, there is an opportunity for shy or introverted students to participate in different ways. On the other hand, students who aren’t comfortable with technology or without caregiver support at home may struggle to adapt to new tools or online expectations.

To reduce the chances of students falling behind during lessons and over the course of the semester and maximize student engagement, when implementing new classroom tech and introducing new lessons, take the experience of all students into consideration. Offer ample time for students to ask questions and adjust to new ways of learning and participating in school, and consider their home situations. 

3. Use a mix of asynchronous and synchronous learning.

Taking a comprehensive approach to hybrid teaching involves the combination of both synchronous and asynchronous learning methods. Synchronous learning (activities that take place in real-time) is ideal for instances that require hands-on teacher involvement and collaborative activities. On the other hand, asynchronous learning (activities that do not take place in real-time) is better reserved for self-paced activities and independent learning.

By using a mix of both methods, teachers of hybrid classrooms are able to better balance their use of classroom time. For example, students can capitalize on their time in the classroom by synchronously working together on group projects. 

4. If it’s new for you, it’s new for your students.

As mentioned above, the integration of classroom technology is a central part of the hybrid learning experience. At a minimum it requires educators and students to familiarize themselves with video conferencing technology, and in many cases requires them to learn how to navigate a whole collection of education technology tools.

When introducing classroom tech to your students, remember that if it’s a new tool for you, you can safely assure that it’s a new tool for your students as well. To ensure a seamless integration, take the time to appropriately train them on the tools they’ll be using. 

Provide students with both clear instructions on how to navigate the tech and free time to explore the tool on their own. Then, open the floor for questions until all students feel comfortable using the new tools.

5. Be flexible.

Transitioning to a hybrid classroom is an ongoing process. New classroom tech tools are released seemingly every few days and every student comes with their own unique set of skills and preferences. Hybrid teachers need to maintain a flexible mindset in order to lead successful classrooms.

Remember — that nothing is permanent. Crafting the perfect hybrid lesson plan may take a period of trial and error. You may teach a semester of students who are all tech-savvy and eager to learn from any location. Other semesters you may find yourself leading a classroom of students who heavily prefer synchronous learning activities over asynchronous ones, or the other way around.

When hybrid teachers are able to be flexible in the classroom and when creating their lesson plans, everyone benefits. To start wiring your classroom for hybrid learning today, learn more about the Meeting Owl Pro classroom camera for educators.

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