Online Learning

Building Identity-Safe Online Classrooms

Online Classroom

Building Identity-Safe Online Classrooms

We’ve spent the last few weeks showing you how to cultivate student-centered teaching with Zoom in online learning. Today, we’re bringing this series to a close with our final topic: building identity-safe online classes. We’ve already covered student identity to an extent in our last post on the importance of pronouns. But in this post we’d like to talk about allowing your students to use Zoom backgrounds to help create an identity-safe classroom.

The Importance of Student Identity

Whether it’s students conversing in a classroom, a teacher having a one on one with a learner, or an after-school study group,  educational settings are intrinsically social. When students are subjected to a negative social environment, they become distracted. Can we blame them? All of us yearn for safe social environments. Environments where we feel like we belong, accepted. Unsurprisingly, when given these safe social environments, these so-called identity-safe classrooms, students perform better. Full stop. According to this Edutopia article, students feel a greater sense of belonging, want more challenging work, and feel more positive about school than students in less identity-safe classrooms. We’re sold, so where do we start?

Forming Identity-Safe Classrooms

The above-mentioned article lists four ways, or “domains,” of identity safety.

  1. Student-Centered Teaching – Promoting autonomy, cooperation, and student voice.
  2. Cultivating Diversity as a Resource – Including diverse music, art, games, stories and activities in the classroom every day,
  3. Classroom Relationships – Focusing on teacher warmth and availability, and building positive student relationships
  4. Caring Classroom environments – Attending to prosocial development, and ensuring students’ emotional and physical comfort.

So, how can Zoom help with this?

Zoom Backgrounds Help Build Student Identity

Our unique idea for building identity-safe online classrooms utilizes Zoom virtual backgrounds to help students express themselves. It may sound obvious, but Zoom virtual backgrounds give us all a simple, quick way to express a little part of our identity. Whether that’s representing our favorite sports team, conveying our mood on any given day, or just being silly, they’re a great way to let students share their inner voice. Plus, they offer the added benefit of blocking a student’s surroundings, which they may not feel comfortable sharing. We think they’re the perfect addition to any identity-safe online classroom.

Thank you for joining us as we explored the many benefits of student-centered teaching. In our next blog series, we’re going to focus on some of the most influential online education tools that have come out of the pandemic. We hope you’ll join us! And as always, if you enjoyed this series, let us know on Twitter and share with your colleagues and friends.

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