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Avoiding Synchronous Video Fatigue During Remote Learning

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in some monumental shifts to practice.  Educators have taken a critical lens as to why they teach the way they do and how it can be done more effectively.  For virtually every school that is, or will be, implementing some sort of remote or hybrid learning model, you can bet that videoconference tools will play an enormous role. While it is excellent that educators now have a variety of options at their disposal, there is a growing concern that has to be addressed if learning is the goal.

I need to get something off my chest.  Have you heard of Zoom fatigue? It is a real thing I assure you, and it applies to Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or any other similar platform.  Facilitating professional learning using video conferencing tools is exhausting.  I have experienced this firsthand over the past couple of weeks as I have worked with numerous districts on remote and hybrid pedagogy through all-day virtual workshops.  Being put in this position empowered me to critically examine how the day would playout for the educators I was working with.  In the end, I went with shorter sessions, longer and more numerous breaks, loads of collaborative activities, and asynchronous tasks where I remained on-hand for individual coaching and feedback.  

I bet many of you have experienced the same thing in meetings and professional development since the pandemic began. Now we need to see ourselves in our learners' shoes to provide experiences that both engage and empower them. It becomes harder to do this if we miss the mark with the synchronous component. Heather Marcoux recently shared this:

Experts say it's understandable that kids are just "over Zoom" as the Huffington Post put it. Just like adults, kids are feeling what experts are calling Zoom fatigue. It's a real phenomenon that experts like Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Insead who studies sustainable learning told the BBC. "The video call is our reminder of the people we have lost temporarily," he explains. "What I'm finding is, we're all exhausted; It doesn't matter whether they are introverts or extroverts. We are experiencing the same disruption of the familiar context during the pandemic."

Below are some strategies to consider in order to get maximum impact from any live video tool.

  • Interactivity during synchronous sessions in the form of discourse and collaboration are vital as is being laser-focused in terms of the content that has to be delivered. 
  • Less is more in this case, and brevity combined with sound instructional design can work to create impactful lessons.
  • Co-create norms with learners for behavior, attentiveness, and interaction.
  • Don't teach every standard. Prioritize those that are the most important by grade level and content area.
  • Begin with a short anticipatory set to infuse relevancy and get learners fired up about the lesson or activity.
  • Infuse routine breaks that incorporate movement and social-emotional (SEL) activities.
  • Achieve a balance through the use of asynchronous learning tasks that can empower learners both on and off the screen. Remote blended learning and authentic challenge problems always work well.
  • Try to keep the direct instruction component between 10 and 15 minutes with at least two checks for understanding to break up adult talking.
  • Bookend the synchronous component of the lesson with 10 minutes in the beginning and ten at the end for closure.
  • Seek feedback from learners and families on how they feel about synchronous video lessons.
  • Build-in time to reflect on whether the synchronous component of the lesson was successful or not. Ask yourself, "Would I have been engaged and empowered if I was the learner?"

Fatigue is yet another challenge that educators need to overcome in a remote or hybrid world. Most of us know all too well how this feels, which compels us to act. A healthy combination of sound pedagogy, professional learning support, feedback, and reflection will help any educator grow and improve their craft.  

Be sure to check out my entire #remotelearning series.