After some trial and error, I realised that the Electroboom style of teaching with the whiteboard was basically useless. The best set up ended up being having the ROV webcam mounted facing downwards held by the clamp stand over the paper while I wrote or drew on it with a fat black pen. Incidentally, this is the preferred technique that Physics Girl on Youtube used for her Physics 1 videos. She, of course, does it far better!
The school's online system has a subject 'bulletin board' which I found useful to put links and lesson schedules on. Each day I would put the google meet time, lesson outline, relevant links and assignments on to the class bulletin board. Having a routine where the students signed on at the start of class and then having to complete a very short assignment worked the best. These assignments varied from a google doc or slide, screenshot of a finished PhET simulation or game to going outside and taking photos of them stirring salt into warm or cold water. However, this did demand a good deal of follow up straight away with parents to keep tabs on some of the more work-shy students...
With the senior year students that were forced into online learning just prior to their AP exams it was especially difficult. A third of my class simply 'checked-out' and never engaged no matter how much I implored their frustrated parents. Not surprisingly, these students did not get the results that they were capable of. Until the pandemic I had never really used AP Classroom. It was a rather clunky and difficult website to use, but as it had all of the past questions built in and was an indication for how College Board were going to handle the online exams, it became a lifeline.
With regards to the lectures, these were generally broken down into chunks separated by 5 minute 'tea breaks'. Lessons tended to include lecturing, Q+A sessions and breakout rooms. Not altogether convinced that breakout rooms always worked. Often I felt that I was neglecting the students in other rooms while I was dealing with one batch. Perhaps if the students had the ability to write on a screen somehow then it would work better. Tried Jamboard but for physics calculations it does not work very well. In the end, google slides and having the students crudely typing the physics and maths into textboxes seemed to be the best solution. Some of my colleagues used apps like Peardeck to great effect but I never really tried it.
- Videos. Processing, editing, rendering and uploading videos is a time consuming and slow process. Changing from the school laptop to a Mac speeds the process up significantly but required another learning curve as the windows software that I had purchased was not licensed for the Mac - why do they do this?
- Dongles. My Macbook Air only has two ports, of which nothing I owned would fit into. This meant that I had to purchase a USB C hub. Turns out that even a fairly expensive one a) gets hot and b) interferes with the wifi. This is a crippling problem and caused issues with a few lessons until I figured it out. Turns out that it only affects Mac laptops and is solved by covering the cable with tinfoil. I can attest that this unorthodox solution actually works. Foil on - wifi ok. Foil off - wifi terrible. Someone has to re-engineer this stuff... Incidentally, the USB hub also interfered with the Wacom tablet and caused spiking to occur randomly while I was writing.
- Sound quality. Only solved by investing in a decent mic.
- Connecting devices. Early on, I tried to use my phone as a webcam and mic. Could not get the laptop and phone to connect to each other. Looks easy on youtube, but could not do it. Same with an attempt to use a school iPad as a writing tablet.
- Student uploads. The new classic excuse is to share a google doc that the teacher cannot access. Registers online that the student has uploaded the assignment, so parents are satisfied when they check on the system. But still means that you cannot grade all the work at the same time and need to get chasing them.
- AP Classroom. Has improved quite a bit, but still very difficult to use effectively.