Today I tried to lead my students through some simple genetics problems over Zoom. In class, it would be easy: put up the problem, have the students pull out a piece of paper and try to solve it, while I wander the classroom seeing what they were doing, offering hints and suggestions as I go, and at the end I’d have an idea of where the individuals were struggling.
On Zoom, nope.
I’d present the problem, and then…no, I have no way to observe the process. I told them they could let me know their answer over the private chat, and if it looked good, I’d call on them and they could explain how they solved it.
First difficulty: these are smart students, and they quickly figured out the flaw in my plan. If they gave the answer, I’d call on them; simple solution: sit on the answer for as long as possible. The first problem I put up produced a deadly silence, with all those black rectangles not showing anything, and my chat window being totally blank. I’d try to nudge them along, but not knowing where they were in the problem meant I had no idea where they were stuck. Or if they even were stuck.
They started to warm up as the hour went on — probably as they realized these weren’t really that hard, and they were seeing how to reach the solution — but it was still agonizing. It took us the whole hour to do 3 problems. And I’ve promised/threatened to do it again on Thursday. As it stands, they’re getting an exam next week and I’ve had little opportunity to interact with them to work through even simple problems.
Stupid virus. Let me get back into a real classroom again.