This post has been sitting in my drafts for quite some time now. Thinking about online training formats and choices, I came across my notes from 2019, and… they asked me to share them 🙂
In general, I am a believer and supporter of the idea that teaching needs to be learner- and learning-centered, and that the students (or teachers in the sessions) need to be engaged in what is going on in the classroom (by ‘classroom’ here I mean lesson space, discussion board, etc.)
At the same time, as a learner (audience, participant, conference attendee, etc.) I sometimes have different thoughts and reactions. Let me share two examples here.
I went to see a show in the theater in Lviv Les Kurbas Theatre. It was my first time in this theatre. My assumptions and expectations from being a show spectator is that you are sitting and watching the show. I thought about it as a ‘passive’ activity (verbally and kinesthetically) which provokes thought process and mental engagement. Actually, that idea generation and thought process was my primary goal for that night. I was very excited to get there.
What felt very different, and completely unexpected for me was how actors engaged the audience into the show (by asking questions, sometimes ‘appointing’ someone to respond, sometimes repeating the same question multiple times, if the person in the audience was not ready with an answer.) Well, it was a comedy show, so the expectation was that your response would be witty, and, in the style of the show, provoking some laughter from the audience (and actors). I was in the second row, grateful for not being at the very front.
Well, I must confess, this did not feel comfortable to me. Quite the opposite happened: instead of ‘just’ watching the show and letting my thoughts wander freely, I felt a bit of pressure and was checking if there was someone approaching me with a mike. I realized I was not making an eye contact with the actors. I was actually checking my watch and thinking about the break. I was not ‘in the momentum’ of the experience.
While wondering if it was just me feeling this way (and blamed myself for not having read more about the theater beforehand), I heard a woman’s loud comment that the actors were too close to the audience. She repeated this twice, which to me was a sign that I was not the only one not at ease.
Why was that happening? Maybe, I was older than the typical/expected watcher (the theater is aiming at young people, I guess). Maybe, it was not the right day/mood. Maybe, and most likely, being informed about the nature of the show would have helped me to what to expect.
I was attending a teaching webinar. The speakers were new to me, and I was very curious about the topic. At the beginning I was asked to turn the camera off and to say hello. Then, the presenters showed the slides and started sharing their story/activity. From time to time (every 5-7 minutes), they paused slide sharing and asked us to turn the cameras on and respond, write in the chat, ask questions, etc. If someone’s camera was off (like mine), they referred to me by name and asked to turn it on. As a result, I could not make notes the way I wanted, and at this point can’t recall the exact ideas or activities from that session. I wish there was a chance to chat with the presenters (they were both amazing, had lots of cool ideas to share, and are clearly both wonderful teachers!)
Again, I must confess I was not comfortable. I take full responsibility for feeling that way: I think I was assuming that a ‘webinar’ is a less interactive genre, and that it is more about watching, typing in the chat, asking questions in the Q/A section. Maybe, it was based on my assumption that there are ‘Zoom meetings’ (where I had spent several hours on that day) and ‘Webinar rooms’, so when there is a webinar, it is a different format. Maybe, I am a less interactive person (and at this point the reader may be wondering how I got to be a teacher, right?) Or maybe I am still defining the ‘genres’ of the online interactive sessions: Webinar? Workshop? Discussion? (if you have good resources or links about these descriptions and differences, I would like to learn more!)
Thoughts, reflections, and questions
Getting back to the title of the post: does being ‘truly engaged’ always lead to being responsive in the process? Being on camera? Saying something? Do/Can my sessions offer choices for people not to start off a conversation immediately? What could some pros and cons of asking an open-ended question to the whole group? How can I inform my audience of ‘what’s coming’ to make them more comfortable and clear? And… how could feeling/being uncomfortable be useful, from time to time?
Thank you for reading!
P.S. Susan Cain’s books and TED talk were helpful to me to get more comfortable with the introverted part of my personality 🙂