Teaching has always been rewarding, but I have to admit that my current teaching opportunity is the most inspiring. The inspiration doesn’t come from the material or my teaching; it’s from working with the students.
My students come to campus wearing many hats. Very few of them are just students. Most are working parents or returning adults looking for a new career. When they leave my class they head to work or school to pick up their children. It is inspiring seeing people push themselves to live better.
This semester is no different. One of my students, Crystal, was due with a baby right in the middle of the semester. When she gave birth we were just starting a project exploring digital communication tools used in business or the home. I assigned her to understand how she could use Pinterest for professional gain or how businesses use that tool today. It was important to me to prepare for Crystal’s absence, but yet allow her the time to spend with her new baby, so I had to think of a digital conferencing tool.
I decided to experiment with Google Hangouts. I’ve participated in them before, so I wasn’t nervous, but I’ve never initiated one. Plus, Crystal was scheduled to give her presentation on Pinterest on the first day. How could she present a power point and web tool from her location?!
Class started with me starting the hangout and Crystal joined shortly thereafter. The class in the room was very curious to see Crystal and her new baby. As you can see, they are both very happy. We quickly learned how to activate the microphone and use the chatroom.
Crystal presented first. I didn’t know if I could somehow give her control of the hangout, so I had her email me her power point. I advanced the slides when she told me. I’m certain that’s the hard way to do it, but it worked for that moment. Crystal handled the presentation just fine, as if she were right in front of us. She rolled through every hurdle with no problem, all while holding her son.
When she was finished, we left the cam on so she could watch her classmates’ presentations. I still have to learn an easier way to share the desktop. I had to share it every time the presenter needed to toggle between programs like Power Point and Chrome. Again, I’m sure there’s a way around that.
My class is Crystal’s only class on Friday, so I’ve decided to run a Google Hangout for her every Friday until she wants to return. She still attends our other block earlier in the week, but on Friday, she would have to drop her little man off with a sitter for just my class. I figure if we can get through a day of presentations using Hangout, then we can do anything virtually.
It helps her take care of her child and still remain in the class. I am able to distribute handouts to her via Blackboard or even in Google Hangout. She can ask her classmates questions and she can even team up on assignments using Googledocs. I like knowing that there are free tools out there to help our students further their education, regardless of how many hats they’re wearing.
If you haven’t played with Google Hangout, you should. It’s awesome.