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How do you keep students engaged in your online classroom?

I am taking an online class, about how to teach an online class, and this is a big topic that we are learning about.  I am really curious, using all the different tools of the internet and computers, how do you keep your students engaged?

I have seen polls, online games, discussions, group activities, etc.  How do these work in your online classroom?

Seeing as I have not taught an online class before, what are some of the biggest issues with teaching online versus face-to-face?

Thank you!

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Jackie,

I am actually taking the same class you are!  I have not taught online classes at the secondary ed level before, but my senior level classes do have some integral online components that I've found have worked extremely well for many reasons.  I begin Advanced Placement Poetry forums the first week of school where I provide about 15 poems for the students to read, appreciate, digest, contemplate, and analyze.  Throughout each marking period, students are required to submit four separate posts (each with a different focus for them to address) and reply to one classmate.  The dates are set but if a student wanted to do all her posts for the marking period on the first day of the marking period, that would be possible.  I've found that when kids have time to ponder these assignments and the time to formulate responses, they generally turn out rather well.  This activity serves to prepare them for the open-ended poetry response on the AP test each May, but they work on it throughout the year and don't even realize they are completing test prep.  It's truly netted some wonderful results.  In addition, students are required to complete online journals throughout each marking period.  Again, the due dates are set but the kids can make their entries anytime a class discussion, reading, project, etc.so moves them.  This simple activity levels the playing field.  Kids who need more time to formulate a response have it, and students who aren't into voicing their thoughts out loud excel in this activity.  By reading their journals I not only get an idea of what they think but also how they think. 

Hello Kathryn!

Sorry it took me so long to respond.  Thank you so much for your post :) I guess we picked the same PLN!

I love the idea of having them do "test prep" without even knowing it! Having an expectation for students to also read and comment on their peer's assignments also promotes community, which can be difficult to foster in an online environment.  I also like the idea of the journals.  I have had a few teachers when I was in school do that, and it was actually a lot of fun. I had to do a journal for my student teaching, and I really enjoyed getting out my thoughts and feelings. Not only was it reflective and a learning experience, it was therapy too!

Journals are different than the posts because they are intimate, and only the teacher reads them.  I bet you noticed some differences in writing styles when students write to their peers, vs more private writing in a journal.  I imagine that also told you a lot about the types of learners they were.

Creating a mashup of different media platforms/tools is really helpful. I have been using Simple Booklet to embed videos, provide games (I'm K12 tech and language) and downloadable docs to edit/revise to our online classroom. We have a flipped classroom and I use the class time itself to discuss what was learned and provide f2f support for important concepts. Most work of the creative writing activities they are required to post on their e-portfolios through GAFE.

The best way to keep students engaged, is to make the learning interactive. involve students by asking questions, creating quiz for them, playing games and making the session fun and interactive. It is important to use different tools to teach like audio and visual. This helps children concentrate better. It also helps them remember what they learnt, once they can associate it with a event that was unusual, like a video clipping etc. 

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