Remote Teaching: maintaining community, engaging students

Global Languages (Course 21G)
Maria Khotimsky
Digital Innovations & Tools
Remote Teaching

Language classes are inherently interactive and discussion based. In her Russian language class (21G.614) Prof Maria Khotimsky used technology to encourage participation and engagement with her students when the class transitioned to remote learning.

She began by helping her students understand their new classroom space which had suddenly grown from Cambridge MA to Alaska, Florida, California, and beyond. Students were encouraged to visualize their new surroundings through collaborative tools, and to reflect on their home environment and connect it to the classroom. Tangible objects from home, such as a favorite book or item representing a hobby, became prompts for engaging in creative storytelling in class.

Khotimsky also helped students connect their classroom experience to what was happening in the world, to reflect on how people’s lives and schedules had changed: what was missed, what new perspectives had emerged from the experience?

Establishing and maintaining connection with the students was key for success in the class. Khotimsky alternated between large group sessions and smaller break-out rooms to help students stay focused and engaged.

She also made use of online tools such as Google docs and Padlet online bulletin board to facilitate students working together. She used Piazza for text-based discussion and Canvas for a video discussion forum.

Unencumbered by global limitations, Khotimsky took her class on virtual field trips walking city streets together in Google View mode, virtual visits to museums, and browsing restaurant menus. Students in her class created a virtual museum for playwright Anton Checkov with images and quotes from his life and work. When the museum was finished, the students gave ‘tours’ to others in the class.

Outside of class time, technology was used to support student-student interactions, as well as student-teacher meetings.

Learn more in Prof Khotimsky’s video.