July 14 Day 128: Origin Story

First, I am grateful for the automatic extension of the tax deadline to July 15. There was no way in this world I could have completed our taxes by April 15. I was a little preoccupied with other issues.

Today, while working to complete our taxes, I came across the picture above. It is a record of my first “hyflex” in-person/remote Zoom class ever. February 4, 2019. I think it deserves its own post.

February 4, 2019: Day -398

It was a cold and snowy Monday morning. Public schools had been cancelled. UW Seattle and UW Bothell were on delayed start and UW Tacoma had not yet made the call. I was teaching an 8 am Abstract Algebra class—inquiry-based learning style (à la Dana Ernst).

I started receiving messages from students by 6 am: “I won’t be able to drive safely from …”, “My kids don’t have school. I need to stay home,” “Are we having class?”

I announced my plan: take public transportation, meet with whomever could make it, and create a Zoom meeting for everyone else. The amazing folks in IT created a licensed Zoom meeting with practically no notice, I published the invitation in the course management system, and we were ready to learn!

About 1/3 of the class braved the weather and arrived safely to campus. Another third of the class joined online. One student tried to make it to campus but ended up joining us from a diner with free WiFi. I did not yet know about Zoom recordings but I soon learned.

This class revolved around collaborative work and student presentations. I was the most Zoom-savvy person having used it to participate in remote Board meetings—but I had never thought about using it in class. There were lots of creative improvisations that first day. The mounted camera was originally oriented so you could see a person talking at the front of the classroom but not what they had written on the board. We pulled a rolling white board into the room and pointed the camera directly at it. The people in the room either scooted around to the front or watched the projected Zoomcast from their seats. A team successfully presented with one person in the room writing on the whiteboard and the other speaking from the diner.

It was a pivotal moment. The class really bonded through the shared experience. We were learning new skills from each other—both technical and mathematical.

The next week, the campus cancelled classes on Monday and called a late start on Wednesday (which effectively cancels an 8 am class). The call to go to Zoom was much smoother. Then I took the plunge and ordered a Professional Zoom license through my institution and I have used it in class ever since. Students need access for all kinds of reasons, not just the weather.

Bonus: It was great preparation for emergency remote teaching during a pandemic.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

2 thoughts on “July 14 Day 128: Origin Story

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