Introducing: The Virtual Classroom.
I very good teacher friend of mine shared this idea with me on Instagram and I was hooked immediately. What would we do without our teacher friends? Since then, I have been slightly obsessed with this idea.
I'll be honest, when I started creating my classroom, I wasn't really sure how I'd use it. My students don't have affordable internet access at home, so I can't really use it for our distance learning programme which is currently via Whatsapp.
I decided to make mine for "Early Finishers" - a place students could go when they are done with the work in class to find something meaningful to do. Because I'm a Grade 5 teacher, that will only be in August, but I am helping with the Grade 7 facilitation at the moment, so they can be my guinea-pigs.
So what is a virtual classroom?
A virtual classroom uses presentation software (like Google Slides or Powerpoint) to create a virtual space where students can explore.
Here's my virtual classroom. This is a preview because I wanted it embedded on this page, but I'll show you a better way to share yours with your students below. For the full effect, try to only click on the objects in the slides, rather than clicking the arrows at the bottom.
1. Create your background
I started by creating my background. I used Freepik to find images that I liked and I put them together in Adobe Illustrator but you could easily use Google Slides as well. These were some of the images that I used to create my virtual space:
You could also search for things like "wooden floors" and "white walls" in Google images. Feel free to save the image below and use it, if you would like.
What is your virtual classroom going to be used for? What will the content of the slides be?
My virtual classroom is specifically for Early Finishers. It's a choice board of activities that students can do when they are finished with the assigned work in class. So for me, this step was about gathering the different activities that I wanted my students to do, and creating slides for each one.
You may decide that you want your virtual classroom to be for intervention or extension activities or maybe to contain all of the work for a specific day or week.
You might also go between steps 2 and 3 for a while until you're happy. That's what I did anyway. I definitely didn't have it all figured out when I started.
Once you've created your background and your additional slides, now's the time to gather your objects for your home page (first slide). These are things that will link to the other slides in your presentation.
These are the objects on my home slide. They are mostly objects that I found through Google Image searches. I then removed the backgrounds using remove.bg. I also included a Bitmoji version of myself to add some personality to the class.
Once all of your objects are where they need to be, it's time to start linking them to other slides. Hyperlinking is what creates the "magic" in this virtual space. When you create a hyperlink, you're telling the object where to go when it's clicked on. For example, when you click on the clock in my virtual classroom, it takes you to the time activities. If you click on the cushions, you land up with the mindfulness video. A click on the typewriter and you're at the writing activities. You get the idea.
There are many options for hyperlinks. The two most popular are: hyperlinking to other slides in the same presentation and hyperlinking to websites.
To create a hyperlink for an object, you click on the object and press the "link" icon (the one that looks like 2 links in a chain) in your toolbar. You then select what you would like to hyperlink to. Click on the GIF below for a step-by-step:
Your students will need a way to get back to your home screen. I added a "home" icon to every slide and hyperlinked it to the first slide.
Unfortunately, Google Slides doesn't have a way to get around clicking to go to the next slide. This means that if your students click randomly on the page, they will go to the next slide instead of only going to a slide if they click on a hyperlinked object.
To get around this, there's a bit of a hack:
- Create a transparent rectangle that covers the whole slide.
- Now, hyperlink the rectangle to the slide you're on.
- Send the rectangle to the back of your slide by right clicking on it and going to "Order" and then "Send to back".
- Now send any other objects that you don't want students to be able to click on to the back so that they are behind the rectangle.
You've done it! You've created your virtual classroom. Congratulations!
There are many options for sharing with students. Ideally, you don't want them to have access to the original slides, though. You want it to open in presentation mode. There's an easy way to do this.
Copy the link that's in the omnibox at the top of your screen. Look for the word "edit" and replace it with the word "present". You can also copy this new link into bit.ly to shorten it. Once you give this link to your students, they will see your slides in presentation mode. I've shared mine through Google Classroom, but any platform will work.