Connecting with Your Class Using GoToMeeting
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NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a post by Alexandra "Sparkles" Lund. Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please click here.
Dellos Performing Arts Center is located in California, where the shelter-at-home order has been put into place. Like most of us, my students are scared and feeling disconnected from their dance studio home and dance family.
Worried that our studio cohesiveness and energy was going to fall apart if we couldn’t be in the studio together, the staff put our heads together and developed a simple, inexpensive and effective way to help keep the kids on a regular schedule by using a mix of live and pre-recorded classes. The goal is to keep their bodies moving and help provide them a bit of consistency and “normalcy” in such an unpredictable time.
Many businesses use online webinar systems like GoToMeeting or Zoom in their daily operations for meetings, sales calls and presentations. One of our studio parents was familiar with GoToMeeting, so we decided to try that one out first.
While the process of teaching a live, online class is quite taxing, we find that it is working to keep the kids moving through the curriculum we have laid out for each genre.
So here’s how we did it, if you want to give it a try yourself:
- Sign up for a GoToMeeting subscription, and set up your account. (They also offer a free trial offer if you want to test it out first.)
- Invite all of the students in the class to join in by sending them a link and call in number. You can host a class size of up to 25 if you would like to see them all on camera. We suggested that students sign on at least 15 minutes early to be sure they have solved their technology issues.
- Ask each of the students to turn on their cameras so the teacher can see them dance and provide feedback as needed.
- If you are using external speakers to broadcast the music, turn down the volume on the computer you’re broadcasting from and plug headphones into the audio port so that you don’t get an echo.
- Before you begin the session, turn on your own camera so you can see how far back from the camera you need to be in order for your students to see your feet and entire body.
- Ideally, have another teacher or volunteer who is familiar with the platform log in with you so they can provide tech support to the parents and kids in case they are having troubling connecting, hearing the audio, etc. That way you can focus just on connecting with the students. There is a chat function in GoToMeeting, so you can ask the participants to put a message in the chat if they are having any technical trouble or even have a dance related question. 8. If you would like to, you can take online attendance because these systems tell you who has logged on. Your support person can write down the names of attendees for yo.
- We would suggest starting your audio and camera at least 30 minutes in advance to be sure you have figured out the technology yourself before the students start jumping on the call.
- When it was time to start the online class, I stopped to wave and acknowledge every student that logged in, to make them feel welcome and to let them know that I could see them. The nice thing about these systems is that all of the participants who choose to turn on their cameras can see each other as well. While it is certainly not as fulfilling as giving each other hugs like they normally do when they start class, it gives the student some sense of connection. Some of the moms told me afterward that they were in tears just watching the kids wave to each other and connect even in this small, virtual way.
- While teaching the class, I used my normal warm-up, set to music without any talking. They followed the moves we normally do in class so I didn’t have to talk to them then. Once the warm-up was completed, I taught a combination. I talked them through it as I normally would in a face to face class, and broke it down into small chunks. The material was a little simpler than usual on purpose because we wanted to first find out if this format would work at all.
- At certain times I would stop and ask each of the students to show me a particular move so I could provide feedback, just like I would normally do in class. Because each of their cameras were on, I could see each of them clearly and could provide individual feedback.
- Toward the end of the session, I was able to watch each of them run the full combo a few times, just like a normal class.
- At the end of the session, I asked each one of them to practice the combo a few times at home and then send me a short video of it. With these videos, I was able to give each of them individual attention and feedback.
- We recorded the session so now we can share it with others at the studio.
While I found it exhausting to teach this way when I’m used to live sessions, especially having my own worries, stresses and uncertainties at this time, it helped me to pull myself out of my own concerns and do what teachers do best: love on their students! The kids and moms told me it was the highlight of their week. It made them feel like we CAN continue to dance as a team even if we’re all staying in our own homes. I would highly recommend it!
If you have any questions please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to help you! Happy Online Teaching!
Alexandra AKA Sparkles Lund has danced at Dellos Performing Arts Center since she was 8 years old. She is an inductee of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA). She is now a teacher and choreographer as well as continuing to be a dedicated student. In that time she has been featured in TV shows such as Dancing with the Stars, The Voice, and CBS’ the Millers. Her live performances include working alongside artists such as Jason Derulo, Justin Bieber, Zendaya, and many more. She most recently worked on Disney’s Bizaardvark where she not only danced in the episode but also choreographed. She dances all styles and has won national Dancer of the Year twice. She loves to help inspire younger dancers through her classes as well as online with her popular YouTube channel SparklesLund that features educational videos, dance demonstrations and life and leadership lessons. Headshot by Romark Photography