Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 5 seconds
My institution has announced plans to go back almost fully f2f (with maybe some dual delivery similar to low tech Hyflex), with almost all employees & students vaccinated (thanks to a straightforward government vaccination plan coupled with some intensive dates reserved in one vax site for members of our institution). I heard in the US masks will no longer be mandatory, but here, it is still masks and distancing, just to be safe. So I asked on Twitter for help.
My overall conclusions are:
- For my own voice to be heard, projecting will be important. Perhaps a head mic can help
A microphone will make life a lot easier even if it’s a medium size classroom.— Eiman Elnoshokaty | إيمان النشوقاتي (@eiman) June 15, 2021
I wear a head mic that is synced with a karaoke speaker. It saved my voice this school year. I also prefer a pleated mask as it doesn’t move when I talk.— Katie Bills-Tenney (@KatiesWrite) June 14, 2021
- For a discussion based class, students will need to project, and this may be a bit stilted and not easy for especially shy students. I wonder if there might be a way for students to enter something like Zoom on their phone for their voice to be projected more easily through my teacher computer speakers? Have them write more?
Patience with people needing things repeated and with yourself for asking to hear something (it's just sometimes it was muffled especially across a room).— Dr. Heather Miceli 🦋 (@hsmiceli) June 15, 2021
Yes, I had to use a microphone all year, which wasn’t my favorite but necessary. It was also harder to hear & understand my students who were wearing cloth masks.— Sharon Vestal (@SharonVestal) June 15, 2021
I did this for a bit last fall. We got used to projecting and asking for people to repeat what they said, but it also pushed me to think about other possibilities for in class time. Writing prompts for folks to do in class were great and really centering!— Erika Luckert (@ErikaLuckert) June 15, 2021
- Text back channel may be really important. I always used Slack for this, because I know before the pandemic that I can’t hear everyone’s contribution to every single question or point of discussion and some will be shy to speak up, so it was an equity thing… but a text back channel like Slack or a polling tool with open ended questions or word clouds gives quiet and reflective students better opportunities to participate.
I am slightly hard of hearing (because of hypervigilance, not deafness), and I have struggled a lot not being able to read lips. For me, having a text backchannel helps with that.— Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer) June 15, 2021
- Group and pair work will be more difficult because of distancing. Perhaps use Google docs or slides for folks to write while working together. Or let them go outdoors where it will be safer?
Accommodations need to be built in, obviously— Dr. Crystal Alberts (she/hers) (@ckalberts_phd) June 14, 2021
Oh, and small group work is rough at a distance w/masks, if the students have tech access, shared documents can sometimes help that although not the same
I was not in the classroom this year, but my spouse was. He wore a three layer cloth mask, and kept 3-6 feet distance. He felt pretty safe, but distancing from students definitely impacted his teaching. Be prepared for how staying physically distant will impact pedagogy.— martha (@mburtis) June 15, 2021
- Masks on for long periods is exhausting for many – maybe take breaks half way through class, give those breaks to students to go outdoors and take masks odd and breathe? When weather is good, perhaps do more outdoor classes, or walking classes?
- You will need to explicitly ask for emotional reactions because you cannot see mouths. This is a little bit worse than cameras off in Zoom, because with cameras off, you could still hear student voices clearly most of the time and you always know their name. Now, you can’t see their facial expressions, you probably can’t tell one student from another because you can only see their eyes, right? Maybe name tags to know names? And you can’t hear their voices clearly either, and probably won’t know their voices from each other (on Zoom w cameras off I got used to knowing their voices so I could tell who was speaking most of the time without checking the screen) m I wonder if I can ask ppl to use emojis on Slack for example every now and then. Sound exhausting to be having to read emotions so explicitly all the time. But hey, some ppl had to teach women with face coverings regularly. I did it once and I actually could tell what she was feeling. But it was just one person to everyone.
On the other side, I use a lot of non-verbals in the classroom, and I have found that with a mask I have to make those more explicit to students, telling them that I’m smiling for example. Some will see it in the eyes, but not all will.— Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer) June 15, 2021
Here are some more tweets that were particularly helpful:
1) You'll have to project more, which is hard on your voice & no way to drink (breaks btwn or during class help)— Dr. Crystal Alberts (she/hers) (@ckalberts_phd) June 14, 2021
2) Practice wearing a mask for long periods (hot, sweaty & can be hard to breath)
3) If you rely on facial reactions asking for hand/body signals can be an alternative
Face shields may be a better idea for language teaching classes so students can read lips – unsure if this will be allowed for us
I wore a full face shield and stayed more than 6 ft away so that the international students could read my lips… not seeing the mouth us a huge barrier for second language learners— Wendy Murphy (@wlmurphy_mb) June 14, 2021
It seems people learn to adjust – this from Maida Ali is a smart idea. Plan for group work when you need a break! But I think also give students breaks
The 1st time I returned, I had issues keeping my breathing normal. Mask was putting a strain on my voice. So, took small scripted breaks. I planned the activities with my 'breathing breaks' if that's even a term. I'm abt to teach right now & I don't even feel a mask anymore. 😷— Maida Ali (@maidaali) June 15, 2021
Some people may experience difficulty breathing and masks getting wet, causing anxiety – apparently anticipating this helps, plus swapping masks around sounds like a great idea!
Because projecting is different from normal speaking, you'll experience the mask very differently than normal contexts. Sucking in air will be uncomfortable at first. Your mask will get wet/damp/moist much more easily. It can lead to bodily reactions similar to anxiety/panic.— Dr. Jake Wright (@bcnjake) June 15, 2021
Knowing that this was coming was helpful for me because it helped me work through it. For me, it passed in 15-20 minutes. Also, depending on how wet your mask gets, maybe bring a spare or two. I did fine teaching two sections a day, my wife changed out every period. YMMV.— Dr. Jake Wright (@bcnjake) June 15, 2021
I understand that sometimes disposable masks project better and are more comfortable. For me, I wear cloth masks in winter and disposable in summer because the sweat means I have to keep changing it often. Also KN95 masks naturally stay farther from my mouth an any other type of mask so may be more comfortable for speaking
I've tried various cloth masks, and haven't found one I can get on with.— Sean K (@SeanMaths4EAL) June 15, 2021
Disposables seem a better fit, less uncomfortable, and take longer to become clammy. Students report that my voice is too muffled through a cloth mask, so it needs to be disposable when teaching.
Also several comments on anti-fog solutions and also masks that don’t hurt your ears!
Cloth masks are nice because you can re-use them; make sure that if you go that route that they are comfortable for your ears. The disposable masks are probably more comfortable than cloth. If you wear glasses, consider getting an anti-fog glass cleaner.— Sharon Vestal (@SharonVestal) June 15, 2021
OK I think I have captured the bulk of the ideas I got so far! I hope others will share more in the comments here or on Twitter!
Name tents on desks? Let them create and personalize?— Karen Costa (she/her) (@karenraycosta) June 16, 2021
Header image: my baby guinea pigs under a blanket. Mainly for cuteness since they are clearly not distancing or wearing masks or anything