By Betsy Allen-Pennebaker
How did you use Jamboard in your class this summer?
“When I’m teaching in person I do a lot of work on the whiteboard, especially if I’m teaching in one of those CCM classrooms that has whiteboards all around the room. I wanted to see if I could recreate that whiteboard technique virtually when I was teaching this summer. Jamboard ended up being really great for that.
“I used Jamboard to help students work in small groups to analyze and discuss readings. I also used it when I wanted students to apply a big-picture theoretical framework to a particular reading.
“What I did was create one Jamboard for the entire summer session, that I wiped clean before each class meeting — I did this to make it easier for the students, since it was the same stable link for the Jamboard for every class meeting. I had one ‘frame’ [page] on the board for each breakout group. Then, depending on the length or complexity of the reading or the ideas I wanted the students to work with, I put up sticky notes on each frame either with the titles of the various headings and sub-headings in the reading, or with some of the most important topics or big ideas I wanted them to focus on, from the reading. I then asked students to talk together in breakout groups to pull out what intrigued them most, or what they questioned, or what they thought were the most important ideas from each section of the article, or to capture what their group said in their discussion about the reading in terms of the most important ideas or topics I’d identified. Then they would add their own sticky notes on the appropriate group page, near the ones I had already posted.
“Then, when we came back together into the large meeting, I shared my screen with the meeting, and opened the JamBoard, so we were all looking at it. I would ask each group to pull out a couple of the ideas they had captured on the JamBoard from their discussion, and talk to the class about them. Each group would present some of their ideas, and I would also chime in as necessary.
“Another way I sometimes used Jamboard was to have a single frame for the entire class (or maybe use two frames, and put, say, two groups together on each frame) and assign each small group a specific color for their sticky notes – that way, I could still see who was adding what and when we debriefed as a class, we could compare and contrast what the different groups said. Rather than doing this in breakout rooms, the students would only communicate through the sticky notes on the JamBoard — but they were in a larger subgroup (i.e., Groups 1 & 2 on one frame, and Groups 3 & 4 on another frame). This particular technique was especially good for making connections between a specific reading and a broader theory – I would put sticky notes with the main concepts of the framework on the jamboard and then students would add their own notes explaining how the reading connected to the theory, or come up with real-life examples for the theory.
How well did Jamboard work for this?
“It was great! It came quite close to replicating the whiteboard experience. There were a lot of things I liked about it.
“First, it held students accountable for doing the work in their small groups, even when it was a little harder for me to supervise them than it would have been in a regular classroom.
“Second, it helped me manage breakout groups much more easily. I was using Meet to do breakout groups, which meant that I had to set up several concurrent Meets and then keep them all open on my screen and jump around between them as students were working. This was hard because, among other things, you have to make sure you mute all the groups except for the one that you’re interacting with, otherwise the students can hear all the background noise on your computer from all the other groups. It was just a lot of fiddling to manage all that.
“With Jamboard, though, I didn’t have to actually intrude into the breakout groups all the time – I could see what they were doing in real time by watching what they were adding to the different frames on the Jamboard. I could also add my own sticky notes to the frames of groups that seemed to be having trouble to help them out. Sometimes I would also post notifications about when it was time to go back to the main Meet.
“Sometimes, too, I would ask students to go and look at the work that other groups were doing simply by clicking through to those groups’ frames the way I was doing, since we were all on the same JamBoard. This was helpful if a particular group seemed to be struggling and I wanted to give them some inspiration.
“Then, after we all came back together, we would review the Jamboard to see what everyone had added to it. I’d ask each group to present what they’d talked about and then we’d discuss what people had posted.
Any tips or tricks you learned that would be helpful for your colleagues to know if they try to use this technique?
“One trick I learned was that if I was running multiple Meets but recording only the main Meet, what would show up on the full-class Meet while students were in the breakout groups was simply me with an intense expression on my face, clicking around, listening and talking to other groups. This was not the most interesting content for the students if they ever came back to the main Meet while the breakout groups were meeting, or if they were watching the recorded version. After a while, I learned to do “present screen” and show the Jamboard instead of my face on the main Meet while the breakout groups were meeting.
“I would ask students to elaborate on the things they’d posted to the board on their stickies. I learned that I could not only just point to a particular sticky note, but also drag the corner of it to make it bigger and to make it clear to students which sticky note I was referring to.
“I also learned that when you use Jamboard to facilitate small groups you can still get a sense of who has done the work to prepare for class and who has not, just like you can in an in-person classroom. This is especially true if you do occasionally drop in and out of the groups in person. And, just like in an in-person classroom, you can assign the students roles to make them engage in the work. For example, you ask a student who hasn’t prepared for class to write the sticky notes, or you can call on them to report out on what was said in a particular sticky note by the group.
What did you do with the Jamboard after each class was over?
“If students missed class, I shared the recording of the class and the Jamboard. Sharing the Jamboard wasn’t hard, because it was the same one for the whole summer session, and I gave the students the link at the start of the course. The Jamboard would stay the same for a full week until I wiped it clean in preparation for the next class session.
What pedagogical considerations did you have to be aware of when you were using Jamboard?
“My initial experience with Jamboard this summer made me think a lot about how I put people together in groups. I decided that in a virtual environment, which is new to everyone, it would be more important to have people stay in the same groups for consistency and to build community as much as possible. So, I not only kept students in the same groups all summer long for Jamboard discussions, but also for small-group discussion forums. Basically, I erred on the side of stability.
“I am not sure I would do that again quite so strictly for the fall semester course because, first of all the fall semester is longer, and also, if you have negative group dynamics, they can get locked in and that’s not good for the students in the groups that aren’t working. I think I’m going to switch things up more.
At this point, as all teachers do whenever they’re talking about teaching, our conversation turned into a shared “riff” on teaching ideas, and especially about making the synchronous and asynchronous elements of a flex-hybrid course feel coherent and building connections between remote and in-person students. Here are some ideas that came out of that part of our discussion:
Kerry mentioned that she had learned over the summer to require students to end their discussion forum posts with a question to provide other students with an opening to respond in a meaningful way and not just with a perfunctory, “Great idea, Joe! I like it!”. We got to thinking that discussion posts that end with questions could also be used as a springboard for Jamboard discussions – perhaps by posting some of the questions on Jamboard frames on sticky notes, or simply by requiring each group to go back and look at the discussion forum for the week and respond to some aspect of it.
We also got to thinking that although Kerry was teaching in a fully-remote environment over the summer, a Jamboard could be a great way to connect remote and in-person students in a hybrid course – regardless of location, students can post pretty easily to their group’s Jamboard frame and participate in the discussion on an equal footing. They’d really only need to be connected via audio for that.
Finally, we also were thinking about ways that Jamboard could be used to enable students to make up missed synchronous class sessions. For example, it’s easy to save a Jamboard as an image or PDF. This could be shared with students who miss a class and, if you want, you could even ask them to “participate in the discussion” by elaborating in writing on one or more of the sticky notes.
Thanks so much to Kerry for sharing her experience and her great ideas!