In only a year, our educational system shifted from in-person classroom learning to online and hybrid learning. Technology became equal parts friend and foe as we soaked in each tool, resource, and program that would support the “new normal” of distance education. Educators and students faced new challenges that required a whole different level of patience, knowledge, and focus as we spent hours in front of a screen teaching and learning.
To say it has been a rollercoaster ride would be an understatement. In fact, distance learning is more like a rollercoaster that managed to accelerate backwards and then get stuck upside down mid-loop with admin, teachers, and students holding on for dear life. Despite the chaos, there have been moments of growth for each of us. Some positive takeaways: how tech-savvy our world has become, and that we each hold a special amount of resiliency to overcome any obstacle.
On the other hand, the countless hours spent in front of a computer screen in synchronous virtual learning can be a challenge in preventing students from becoming what we refer to as “Zoom fatigued”.
Here are three tips to prevent Zoom Fatigue in your students:
1. Avoid Multitasking. As teachers, we are incredible at multitasking and sticking to a schedule. Therefore, it is tempting to check an email, plan ahead, or even check personal accounts while solely online. To avoid Zoom fatigue in our students, it is important that we do our best to give our full attention, focus, and energy to not only the lesson, but to our students. When focused on what is in front of us and prioritizing our attention, our students will feel calm and engaged in the lesson with us.
2. Permission to rest. One of the most important things we can do as teachers is to not only teach our students, but lead by example. Take stretch breaks, encourage students to turn off their cameras and walk away from their computer during scheduled breaks, and remind students to blink! When the school day is over, remind students to not only recharge their computers--but to also recharge themselves by giving themselves permission to rest. One of my favorite things to do is share my screen with a workout or stretch video from UNICEF Kid Power or Youtube. I also choose a handful of students to lead us in a few stretch exercises. Taking these stretch breaks together gives everyone a nice break while building a classroom community.
3. Build relationships! Acknowledge the situation and reality of distance learning with your students--and that being on Zoom for long periods of time can be difficult and draining. By humanizing yourself and building relationships, students will feel more comfortable and secure in being able to notify you when they need to take a break. Additionally, make your online learning environment engaging by having students pick activities through student choice boards, having classroom spirit days, doing community bonding games, etc. In my classroom, we have "Fun Fridays" with a different theme of clothing attire, activities, and team bonding after school weekly. Since most students dread our mandatory assessment Fridays, our Fun Fridays help balance those out and alleviates stress. After school, I allow students to stay on and teach me some of their favorite online games and activities. Sharing in moments of laughter, non-school related fun has nurtured not only a positive classroom culture, but one that allows students to feel calm, engaged, and focused in their learning.
Whether you are hanging upside down mid-loop or finding momentum to climb the next incline of the rollercoaster of distance learning, remember that you and your students are on this ride together...so throw your arms up, scream, laugh, and smile for the camera that captures this moment. You will be onto the next rollercoaster before you know it!