Education | 4 Minutes

From Earth to Sky: Moving to Online Classical Christian Education - Part 2

Tom Garfield Written by Tom Garfield
From Earth to Sky: Moving to Online Classical Christian Education - Part 2

Let’s recall the million dollar question can all the elements of a classical, Christian education be done through an online program? I submit the answer is YES and here are some samples of the methods we use at each level of the Trivium:

Grammar - Our live classes start in third grade and pretty much any activity (short of sharing snacks) done in physical grammar classrooms can be done online, e.g. jingles, chants, songs, sound-offs, even hand motions in Latin or other subjects. With webcams, we can see the students' faces very well and hear their pronunciations in oral reading. The platform we use allows teachers to ‘send’ the students into Breakout Rooms (BORs), where they can work in smaller groups, interacting with each other on webcam. The teacher can visit each BOR to monitor the kids’ work (picture a teacher walking around the room). The virtual site also makes bringing in music, photos, maps, or short videos to use in the classroom as easy as clicking on the right link. How about using hand-held whiteboards? Yup, we do that, too; a child (or children) may draw on the room’s whiteboard(s), while at home the rest of the children write their answers and then show their work on their webcams.

The kids can’t go out to recess together, but they still feel and are very connected through the classroom.

Logic - What about the students who love to argue, or to talk a lot, or want to know ‘why’ this material matters anyway? In other words what about students in the Logic stage?

As to sheer communication opportunities (and encouragement), it’s hard to beat the Chat Box in every classroom. It’s exactly what it sounds like a box in a corner of the screen where the students (and the teacher) can type to talk to each other. Keep in mind the average young teen today can text, just using their thumbs, at 120 words a minute! Ok, I just made that up, but they ARE fast at typing. Combined with the Participation list of students in the room, an observant teacher can easily keep track of not only who is answering but also who is NOT answering. Candidly this is one of the points I stress with the teachers during my observations of them not to let a half-dozen kids in a class of 20 do all the talking in the chatbox. ALL the students need to be addressed and encouraged to speak during the class. To be fair, though, this happens in physical classes as well you know, the ‘front row’ syndrome.

What else can be done to leverage the frames of these pert students? Well, Socratic questioning can be done in any context, as can use anticipatory questions or, along with those, what about a series of powerpoint slides of intriguing images? All done without having to set up a projector and screen! How about competitions, games? Students in this stage love to compete so we bring in a virtual game, similar to Trivial Pursuit, called Kahoots, which can be loaded with applicable questions by the teacher ahead of time. Teams are easy to construct and points noted on the board. And the timer can be seen by everyone! Or how about planned discussions or disputations? A portion of the class comes on webcam to address the topic in a specified manner, while the other students observe and take notes of the points made (or blown). Even short dramatic readings, presentations, and enactments can be done, once again on webcams.

Hopefully, you can start seeing other possibilities for these pert kids.

Rhetoric- Then we get to the highest, the most intellectually challenging level the Rhetoric or Poetic. Why is this a challenge? These students are not only usually very tech-savvy, they can be, like most older teens, rather self-absorbed. At the same time, they want to be treated with respect and given real work, not just exercises, to do. They are old enough to know and even recognize there are usually at least two sides to a story. So biblical worldview discussions and even debates can and should be conducted. With these kids, it can be tough to keep up with their chat box comments, unless you set some ground rules for that interaction, just as you would in a physical classroom not letting the talkers dominate the discussion. Here again, the tools with the virtual classroom: webcams, BORs, multiple whiteboards, powerpoint slides, maps, short videos and quick access to the internet can be wisely employed to enhance activities and make the most of the class time. Oral and visual presentations, planned (and graded) discussions, short versions of Mock Trial, dramatic readings, small group work and then presentations, even biology class dissections, where they can see everyone else’s work, too. (I find this a delightful benefit in my art studios.) Impromptu speeches can not only be timed accurately, students can sometimes select a virtual background (like the Capitol Building or the Pyramids) to add ethos to their webcam speeches. Oh yes, and since these kids have immediate access to Google, either on their computers or their phones, there is very little time lost trying to recall or research facts, figures, and events. In the next post, we will look at the real kids, parents, and teachers we have!