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“Bringing you into the Zoom”: The power of authentic engagement in a time of crisis in the USA


In the chaos shrouding 2020, students have been tasked with another challenge: finding meaningful connection in an age of virtual classrooms. To counteract the silence and emotional distance of e-learning, educators have tried everything from break-out rooms to Google Jamboards. However, our team of researchers and teachers found that educators don’t need an arsenal of digital tools to engage students. Throughout this pandemic summer, we developed and taught a series of online interactive workshops with students from middle school and high school. In our experience across grades, we found what made students come alive was the opportunity to share themselves – their passions, pets, and the issues close to their hearts – with us and their peers. We draw on Kearsley & Shneiderman’s engagement theory of technology-based teaching and learning into the reality of 2020 by reflecting on the question: How can we help students and educators “Bring you into the Zoom?” How are opportunities for genuine, meaningful connection within the con- fines of digital space created? We suggest how three activities (show & tell boxes, personal capstone projects, and deep appreciations) used in our teaching may help spark authentic engagement in educators’ digital classrooms – and even moments of joy.

Angela Y. Lee
Gloria Moskowitz-Sweet
Erica Pelavin
Omar Rivera
Jeffrey T. Hancock
Journal of Children and Media, DOI: 10.1080/17482798.2020.1858437
Publication Date
April 23, 2021