Developing Quality Relationships in Digital Learning Environments

There is power in experiencing things together!  In digital learning environments, these experiences only occur if purposely planned. 

Recording video and sending email is useful, but genuine relationships are best formed when communication flows in both directions.

Relationships between teachers and students are essential, but students also need to interact with each other!  A “class” is a group of students working together – it is up to the teacher to make this happen!

Strategies to Develop Relationships Synchronously

Using programs such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, or WizIQ allow teachers and students to meet synchronously in a live video call.  These whole group meetings can be lots of fun, but can also be chaotic unless a teacher is familiar with the crowd control features built into the programs.  Many of these tools allow a teacher to establish “breakout rooms” where they can purposely group students to have more focused conversations.  Remember, to accomplish our quality relationship focus, these live calls can’t become one-way digital lectures.  If the students aren’t going to get a chance to talk, then why not just have the call be a recorded lesson?

Collaboration in the digital environment has never been easier!  Students and teachers can team up on a project by using collaborative document building tools, such as Google Docs, Microsoft 365 or Miro (a free digital whiteboard program).  Each of these tools allows multiple users to make edits and comments in real time on the same file.  Take your next live call to the next level by supplementing with a collaborative document.

Part of developing quality relationships is enjoying each others company.  Try engaging your students as a group in digital games where they laugh and play while also increasing their fluency in essential skills.  Programs such as Gimkit, Kahoot, Quizizz and Classtime accomplish this goal.  Your students will love live calls that include these playful learning interactions.

Strategies to Develop Relationships Asynchronously

Digital environments provide barriers to forming genuine connections with other people. Teachers can help overcome these weaknesses by creating showcase and/or spotlight opportunities where students share their interests and opinions. These personal sharing moments can be as simple as posting a few sentences and sharing a picture or more complex like creating a video or presentation.  They become especially effective when creating tasks that align content to the student showcases, such as sharing an “all about me” post written in a foreign language or using new vocabulary words in a show-and-tell video. The same tools we show you for creating content for your students can be used by students to create content for each other!

In the face-to-face environment, students naturally provide feedback and respond to each others work.  This can and should still be done digitally.  We like to use Flipgrid to accomplish this important communication. This program allows students to post videos and create responses to other videos posted by their classmates.  This is a fun way to get them talking about content without needing to work at the same time.  We also love engaging our students in showcases by having them share a talent, joke, or all about me.

Discussion boards are great way to engage students in digital brainstorming.  Unlike collaborative documents that get bogged down with lots of users, discussion boards can handle large classes posting  new ideas and responding to the work of others.  Try using tools such as Padlet or Yo Teach! to hold class discussions without students needing to meet together at the same time.