This is kind of in response to the Zoom genius prompt, and kind of a continuation of a previous post, MYFest Regrets and Lessons Learned, based on a conversation Maha and I have been having by email.
I learned a lot about Zoom this summer. When I was living in rural North Carolina, my Internet was not really Zoom-friendly. But it’s more than that: Zoom actually had very little appeal to me. I totally understand how people who were used to in-person classrooms and in-person meetings embraced Zoom… but that was not me. Literally decades ago, I decided that classrooms just could not be the democratic spaces that I wanted them to be (more on that below), so I started teaching online, and back then teaching online pretty much meant teaching asynchronously (we’re talking dial-up modem days, people). In addition, when I started teaching online, I was no longer part of an academic department at my school, so I didn’t have in-person meetings. I was all online, asynch all the time.
And I loved it.
I have no doubt that it is the best way for me to teach. And it also happens to be the best way for me to learn, two things that are no doubt related.
So…… about classrooms. As a student, I was always bored and frustrated. I did my learning on my own from books, or in small study groups with my friends. I cut class. A lot. Plus I generally learned more at work than I ever did in the classroom because the jobs I had were always about doing things, making things, producing things (I had some awesome, interesting jobs; at least, I always thought they were interesting!).
Then, as a teacher, I could not help but take up too much space in the classroom. I talked too much. I talked too fast. And I had no idea what my students were thinking most of the time. How many students would ever speak up in class? And did they ever say more than a few sentences? I felt lost.
But once I started teaching online with students blogging, everything fell into place for me.
I finally had an idea of what they were thinking and learning day to day. What they wanted to learn. The obstacles they faced in their learning.
Which meant I could help them along.
I could connect with every student.
Even more importantly: every student could connect with every other student, and probably my favorite thing was hooking up students based on shared interests, needs, accomplishments, whatever…
I could never do that in a classroom, and I could never do that in a Zoom. (Unless it were ultra-tiny; the writing workshop I’m doing by Zoom right now has a half-dozen participants, and it’s amazing; it feels like a study group, not like a class.)
So, kudos to all the people who have figured out how to make Zoom work for them as teachers or as learners.
My goal right now is to figure out how to take my skils and experience as an asynch teacher (a.k.a. coach/cheerleader) and make that more useful for MYFest next time. I honestly didn’t do a very good job of it this time around, but this was all so totally new. Pretty much everything about how MYFest was organized was new to me! And new things are hard.
Which is true also for organizing asynch spaces, if people are not used to that.
And even more so in a pandemic. Probably the worst possible time to be doing new things.
Anyway, I am glad I came up with my “daily announcements” idea for next time. When I was teaching, my daily announcements blog was just part of our blog network (I also had a blog just like the students had blogs; our network was always hopping…!). We aren’t ever going to have a hopping blog network for MYFest, but I hope I can do a daily blog that will turn into a kind of web-hub that makes our Zooms more like a network.
In the spirit of networking: MYCELIUM for the Zoomshrooms. 🙂
And if you don’t get that, you can learn about mycelium and mushrooms here: MYFest Dreamscape.
During synchronous Zoom sessions, I admire how you share thoughtful comments to the group using the Zoom chat and sometimes even to a wider audience on Twitter, Laura. Surely this is one way you are already drawing on your asynchronous teaching skills.
Mycelium for the Zoomshrooms is an intriguing idea. 🙂
Oh, I definitely learned to love the Zoom chat, that’s for sure, Heather… Zoom chat is like being on Twitter at the same time as your friends so that the tweets become a back-and-forth conversation, like convos in the Zoom chat. Chat is my favorite part of the Zoom for sure. I’ve participated in a lot of Twitter chats too: just chat, no video. And I liked those Twitter chats very much. Organized Twitter chats don’t seem to happen much anymore, at least not as often as in the Before-Zoom-Time. 🙂
One of the things I’ve noticed we forget, when we love async, is that some people don’t love to read as a way to connect. I’ve noticed this in Egyptian students and adult learners equally. Even before the pandemic, we knew – they did not enjoy discussion forums. This made me sad at first, because I have loved discussion forums and the equity potential they have over sync dialogue of any kind… but yes, Zoom chat helps a bit with that, though its speed is not for everyone. I think, wherever we can, it’s important to offer different pathways, without maybe privileging some pathways over others? MYFest definitely privileged the sync but the people who love asynch still managed to get there – so many of the folks who had no experience with online pre-pandemic never learned to love async, imho.
Also – I love tiny intimate Zooming… it’s completely different from large groups and sending folks to breakouts – but the brekaouts do give that sense of intimacy imho, without teacher present, that really helps people get to know one another more.
Ha, ha, I’m not a fan of discussion forums either. I think for me asynch is really shorthand for project-based learning (as opposed to teacher-led learning). So maybe that is what I should start advocating for in order to be clear what I mean. My classes were all about the projects the students were working on: projects that started in their blogs and then moved to their websites. If people think asynch means the LMS and discussion boards, I could understand why they would say they do not like it. The asynch I have in mind is where learners are working on their own projects at their own pace (or in small groups doing a project together), and then sharing what they are doing with others in some interconnected space. A discussion board can kind of sort of be used for that purpose, although blogs and websites are way more congenial / flexible, as well as being persistent over time too (unlike discussion boards which disappear in the LMS never to be seen again after the class is over).