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.