Quiet Connections: How Do These Work In Our Online Learning World?

This past week, my teaching partner, Paula, and I continued with providing interactive lessons through our online learning platform. To help introduce a platform that our Board is using now, we provided an additional meeting time from 9:00-9:30 each day, so that we could support small groups in Microsoft Teams. While most students chose to come to one meeting time or another, there was one child who always came to both. While the lesson was repeated at both meetings, she didn’t mind, as she added to or extended her work during this second time.

Observing her and others during these online meetings, made me think about the value of quiet contemplation. 

Each day, as we gave kids a chance to work during the online meetings — if it was about creating shape pictures, experimenting with lines, or creating art along to some music — I was taken by the silence and stillness. Of everyone. Often during these meeting times, Paula and I were the only ones talking quietly to each other and remarking on some of our observations of student work. We tried to leave children with an idea that they could go and extend on their own, and loved how some parents shared with us the work that came during these meeting times as well as afterwards.

List of Shapes

Abstract Art

The Silly Cat And The Girl

The Silly Cat And The Girl — Part 2

One day, after everyone shared and there were just a couple of kids left in the meeting, Paula and I started to wave goodbye. A child unmuted her microphone and said, “Oh, I thought that you could stay on for longer. We could just talk as I work.” I had to gulp down some tears. We did stay on for a few more minutes as the kids continued to create and chat with us, and then gave them a way to share with us later. This helped with the “goodbye.” 

Yesterday though, towards the end of our final meeting, I noticed the most wonderful thing. As I was talking with one child, everyone else was working quietly. Even Paula was adding to her picture, working alongside the other little bubbles of kids adding to theirs. It reminded me of the classroom, when she sits at the creative table, and everyone is sitting, working, quietly chatting, and creating together. 

In this time of extreme uncertainty, is it just “being together” that helps us form connections with kids? How might this decrease their stress and ours? Our online classroom definitely looks very different than our regular one, and with everyone doing close to the same thing, it has a different feel. But these few moments of quiet contemplation brings me back to our classroom environment. The whisper hum provides a wonderful sense of calm, and I begin to wonder if this might be a little bit of what we all need. 


2 thoughts on “Quiet Connections: How Do These Work In Our Online Learning World?

  1. What a wonderful post. I need to look at some back posts and see exactly how you are running your teams lessons. (And I do mean the nitty gritty). We started much later that you in BC, and my first teams “lesson” felt very abbreviated as I have yet to figure out how to move from the lesson to the work and interaction. Sounds like you have that figured out. Have you figured out how to make sure they don’t mute each other? How did you get that nice “hum” if they Mute? Wish I could be a fly on the wall.

    • Thanks for the comment, Eileen! We’ve been using both Teams and Meet, and while kids are more familiar with Meet than Teams (as we’ve used it for longer), the “hum” still happened in both. Part of it is that the work and the lesson kind of intersected. Paula models something for kids (e.g., students discussed a few different shapes, and she showed how to make them). We pinned her and shared the desktop, so that they could see her in a slightly larger frame. Kids had the same materials with them (we emailed parents first, so that they would bring these items with them), and as she modelled, they started experimenting. She might leave them with a question to consider or something to think about as they give it a try (e.g., how many different ways can you make the same shape), and she often tried to provide some options in case people brought different materials (e.g., showing how to draw them as well as cut them). While I sometimes set a timer on the iPad that kids could see to give them an idea of time passing, we invited kids to share as they created. Maybe because we had some smaller groups, the muting and unmuting was easier, but the conversation almost seemed to flow. We have a couple of kids who almost seem to “need” their mics on, and maybe by letting this be, it creates this “hum.” Then as they shared, they also started to talk with each other, and even question each other. Sometimes we needed to facilitate this, but in the smaller groups, it seemed to work better. We are continuing with this more interactive approach this week, but we’re back to two meetings instead of three. I’m curious if we get this same hum and more free-flowing sharing if there are a few more kids in each session. I’ll have to let you know. Good luck as you work this through too, and please let us know what you try. This has definitely been a work in progress, and we do find that keeping a consistent routine while modifying things slightly, seems to work well. It’s a bit of a balancing act. 🙂


      P.S. They haven’t seemed to be muting each other yet. Not sure if this will come eventually, or if by the time we started using Teams, they figured out the flow without doing so (due to their Meet experiences).

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