Teaching basic statistics in google sheets – the online dialogue way

As a maths teacher for 7th to 9th grade, I have had to teach students how to use google sheets to work with statistics over the last couple of years. My online dialogue brought a new twist to this. Where I’ve previously taught this in the classroom, while my students were sitting in front of their computer following along, or through screencast lessons that I had prepared – this online tutorial centered around delivering that same material, but through the use of google meet.

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Participants in the online dialogue

The aim of this online dialogue was to teach the same material, to a group of 15-year-olds. I work with this age group everyday, but as I prepared for the dialogue, I kept wondering: Will they learn anything when they don’t know me? I worried that I would have a harder time teaching, as I worried that my relational abilities would be muddied by them not seeing me face to face. I only knew one of the kids in the group, and had never met the rest. Could I teach strangers?

Preparing for the online dialogue

I prepared my online dialogue according to the provided script, and had many considerations. I chose to use google meet, as it was easy to invite participants, and there was no time limit. It also didn’t require participants to download software – which, in my opinion, is a plus when working with students who may not have their own device to work on.

I had to find a time that suited my participants, and myself. This meant that it was a Monday afternoon at 17:00. Being eager to learn from this course, the time suited me well.  However I wondered if the participants would be able to learn about statistics, having returned from a seven hour school day.

On the day I had a run though of my lesson and a “cheat sheet” beside me. I was anxious that I would lose the attention of the participants if I wasn’t on point the entire time, or if I would have to do some trial and error in case something wasn’t working right.

The online dialogue itself

The time came for the online dialogue, and I was a little nervous. However, it seemed to all be for nothing. None of the things I had worried about happened.

I started of introducing myself, and explaining the task behind the online dialogue. I then joked about how good I was at statistics with google sheets, comparing myself to a ninja, and the participants laughed. I told the participants about the timeframe and plan for the lesson, but also instructed me that they could stop me at anytime if I was going too fast. I was very aware of my body language, and of acknowledging their comments to each other verbally.

We started off with basic statistical terms, and exploring the google sheet that I had created. They were all invited into the same google sheet, so as I explained, and asked them follow up questions, they could highlight or manipulate certain things in the google sheet so that I could see that they did in fact understand it. The lesson really turned into a dialogue, as we could all point to and do things in the same spreadsheet.

Reflections on the dialogue

Opening with humor really helped create a relation to the participants – I didn’t ask them to evaluate on my sense of humor, and whether it helped them learn, but I know that it did help me teach, as it made me feel more confident that I had their attention.

Inviting participants into the same google sheet turned out to be a good call. I feel that it made the lesson much more of a dialogue, as it made it easier when we all had our “hands on” the same thing. This was actually the key thing that I take away from this experience. I felt that the learning environment was much stronger, being together in the same spreadsheet. I will bring this to my regular, off line, teaching as well.

Would I teach with online dialogues again? Absolutely. Although online dialogues are not the way we teach in secondary school in Denmark, it definitely gave me a lot of insight and reflections and what I value in teaching on an everyday basis. The experience has given me courage so that if it was to become part of my job description – I say ‘bring it on(line)’

One Comment

  1. It was inspiring to read your experiences of online-dialogue as I also have (had) the same worry as you. That is, how the relational abilities and student learning is affected when the students do not know the teacher. It was good to hear you had no reason to worry and that it all worked out fine. Thanks for the advice on ensuring that everyone works with the same spreadsheet/or other material.

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