Before lockdown, I was delivering regular beatbox workshops and demos in schools, youth groups and at corporate events. Of course this all changed in March this year when London went into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. After a minor blip of apprehension at the thought of running online beatbox workshops for groups, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to find out if in fact online group lessons can be effective.
In my usual fashion, I dove right in and programmed a 16 week online group beatbox class beginning at the end of March 2020, with 2 x 1 hour sessions each week. Essentially the idea was to offer support to parents and children during this challenging period, so I ran the whole thing for free (with the option to donate). I didn’t only receive a huge number of sign-ups from a range of children (well parents of children) from all over the world but also many donations from thankful parents, guardians and carers.
It was immediately apparent at the beginning of the first class that the children were fired up with excitement to be a part of these sessions. I felt a huge level of satisfaction in successfully being able to teach an entire group online, answer individual questions, give the students things to practice at home and see them working together and supporting each other as I'd like them to in the classroom. Another point, and an extremely important one, was the ability to control the students' microphones! This last point may sound 'control-freak-esque' but it is entirely necessary in order to run an online children's workshop effectively.
In fact, I will headline that and write a paragraph solely on the importance of that very function.. here:
Most Valuable Zoom Function For Delivering An Online Children's Workshop - 'Mute All' & 'Unmute'
Zoom basically gives you the power to 'mute all' participants with a click of a button and then 'unmute' individual participants of your choice as you speak to them directly, to ask a question for example. This has proven to be the most valuable function to support the smooth running of an online workshop with children. If someone manages to design a similar 'mute-all' button for the real classroom environment, I have a feeling teachers will be lapping them up. It seems that, now, when you choose to un-mute a participant in Zoom, they will receive some kind of notification on their screen which they must click in order to un-mute their microphone. When running online classes for children I find myself prompting them verbally with "just click that button on your screen" and they quickly know what to do. Just be sure to uncheck the box that reads 'Allow participants to unmute themselves' to ensure you have full control.
Although I'm looking forward to getting back in the classroom, this new wave of teaching groups online has been surprisingly effective.
If you're having second thoughts about taking your group classes online, I would encourage you to give it a go.
If you have sound issues on Zoom when teaching or playing music over Zoom, you might want to read my article - Most Important Zoom Setting For An Online Percussion Workshop (beatbox, djembe, drums etc)