Zoom Tips from an Engagement Pro

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“I do not teach anyone, I only provide the environment in which they can learn.” — Albert Einstein

Over the course of the last year, I have facilitated more than 50 online learning sessions for Freechild Institute and SoundOut. More than 5,000 students and adults have participated and I’ve become really excited about facilitating learning online.

Along the way, people have asked what I’ve learned about synchronous online facilitating. Whether you’re using Zoom, Google Meet, or another live technology, I think there are some standards everyone has come to expect. That depends on how basic you want to be. You can be very explicit and tell them the basics, or just the more event-specific stuff.

However, I want to get into my advanced tips for online facilitators. Here’s what I do when I’m facilitating on Zoom, Google Meet, or elsewhere.

Adam’s Zoom Tips

Angela Davis quote, "You can never stop and as older people, we have to learn to take leadership from the youth and I guess I would say that this is what I'm attempting to do right now."

Just like in person, throughout the session I will…

  • Ask questions throughout the session focused on finding out what participants know to inform my process
  • Ask questions for participants to respond in the chat and with the raise hands feature
  • Solicit questions from participants
  • Ask for participant feedback on the stuff I’m talking about at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of our time together
  • Ask participants to write and draw things, so everyone should have paper and writing devices as well as their attention!
  • Ask quick yes/no questions to give participants chances to respond

Those are my advanced tips that apply to Zoom and in-person. Here are my other tips. I encourage participants to…

  • Use the chat box and use the “raise hands” feature to engage me with questions and do that throughout the session
  • Circulate with other participants physically and/or in the chat to make sure they’re contributing
  • Ask questions in the chat, giving commentary and sharing reactions using emoticons
  • Reply when they’re asked
  • Make “accountability pairs” with other participants to keep each other engaged in the session

If there are multiple facilitators, get anonymous feedback from participants during the session by using Zoom’s polling tools and use them to provoke passive discussion while another person is facilitating. They can also monitor the chat box and field questions to me if there get to be a lot.

Cameras? As a facilitator I find cameras super useful, although a lot of people have a lot of different expectations / realities. You have to choose what’s best for you.

Those are my Zoom tips. If you’re interested, I have an article about excellent facilitating — send me an email for a copy, or ask questions in the comments if you want more info!

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Adam F.C. Fletcher is available to consult, speak, and write.

Powerful Facilitation Principles

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Powerful Facilitation Principles

For more than 20 years, I have strove to create learning environments in all of my knowledge and skill-building activities. I also work with hundreds of teachers and other learning leaders every year to encourage them to do the same.

Powerful facilitation matters to young people and adults!

Each time I have shared my programs and facilitated activities, I keep the following principles at the core. I commit to upholding these principles too, and I’m glad to share them here publicly. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Adam’s Facilitation Principles

  • Be a Facilitator- Not a Teacher, Speaker, or Preacher. There’s a difference between a teacher, a speaker, a preacher, and a facilitator. A facilitator leads the gathering or group towards learning; guides the gathering towards its goals; and leads by example, not force.
  • Be Humble. You do not know everything and you do not need to know everything. Be a learning facilitator who goes with an open heart and an open mind to learn with participants, not just to show others how to do it.
  • Create Guidelines and Goals. Overcome cynicism and inability by having learners create ground rules or guidelines before you begin. Brainstorm potential rules and write them down – but avoid too many rules. Every group should have some specific guidelines that all learners agree on.
  • Think about Framing & Sequencing. Facilitators introduce the purpose, or frame, to the group they’re guiding. An important consideration is the order in which you present learning, which is also called sequencing.
  • Reflect, Reflect, Reflect. One way make learning matter is to reflect before, during, and after activities. You can see reflection as a circle: You start with an explanation what you are going to learn and frame its purpose and goals with learners.
  • Create Safe Space. It is vital to create, foster, and support safe spaces where learners can engage together. Establishing a safe space is powerful, positive, and hopeful, and hope is a requirement for excellent facilitation.
  • Seek Consensus. Whenever learners are discussing a possible solution or coming to a decision on any matter, consensus is a tool excellent facilitators turn to.
  • Embrace the Journey. Learning is a process, not an outcome. Encourage learners to view the group process as a journey with no ending, just stops along the way. However, even experience cannot teach us what we do not seek to learn. John Dewey once wrote that we should seek… “Not perfection as a final goal, but the ever-enduring process of perfecting, maturing, refining is the aim of living.” This is true of excellent facilitation.
  • Embrace Challenges. Since excellent facilitation is a process, it is important to understand that there will be difficult times ahead. One of the keys to excellent facilitation is knowing that criticism will come – and that can be good.

If you’re interested in booking a training on excellent facilitation for your school, nonprofit, community, or agency, contact me now!

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Adam F.C. Fletcher is available to consult, speak, and write.

Meaningful Student Involvement through Learning Design

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Meaningful Student Involvement through Learning Design

Creating powerful, practical and effective learning opportunities should the goal of every educator committed to increasing student power. When students have voice, authority, and take action to improve in learning, they find meaning in what they’re doing. Working to build student commitment to community, democracy and education requires Meaningful Student Involvement in learning.

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Learning design should happens before education happens in schools. While it cannot and should not capture every single part of the educative process, learning design should consider several important elements. Each of these can affect Meaningful Student Involvement, and can be affected by Meaningful Student Involvement.

Elements of Learning Design

Ensuring that Meaningful Student Involvement in Learning happens requires engaging students as learning designers.
Ensuring that Meaningful Student Involvement in Learning happens requires engaging students as learning designers.

Designing learning includes deciding what you’re going to teach, how you’re going to teach it, who is going to teach, and what the outcomes are going to be. Educators call this learning design.

Meaningful student involvement in learning design can center on infusing the Cycle of Student Engagement into whatever activity you’re facilitating. You can learn about the Cycle here »

When you’re considering meaningfully involving students in designing learning, you might start with authorizing them to take action by introducing the learning to them. To do this, you can share with students why they are learning a specific topic. Teach them about engagement styles and teaching habits, and ask them what the best possible ways there are to learn specific materials. Show them primary materials, tools, timelines, deadlines, related topics, and specific deliverables from the learning.

Teach students that the way learning is designed affects all learners both positively and otherwise. Encourage them to ask critical questions and share their authentic responses. Ultimately, show them how their perspectives on learning an issue are informed by the ways that issue is taught both within and outside of the classroom, and that all learning extends far beyond the classroom walls. This is Meaningful Student Involvement in learning design.

Examples from SoundOut

For almost 20 years, our SoundOut program has been working with K-12 educators across the US to promote Meaningful Student Involvement in learning design. Here are some examples we’ve collected from our work and research in the field:

Help Is Available!

If you’d like to learn more, including technical assistance or professional development for Meaningful Student Involvement through learning design, contact me today!

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Adam F.C. Fletcher is available to consult, speak, and write.