I was a fidgety kid in school.
I always seemed to be taller than the other students in my class as I grew early. The same desks that they would sit in were often too small for me, and I remember my knees pushing at the bottom of the desk, and it always annoyed me, but not to the point that I would want a “big” desk that would look different from the others.
Not only did I struggle with sitting still because of a small desk, but I have always had trouble sitting still. As I write this, my legs are bouncing, and I often go back and forth between pen and paper, but not to write ideas, but to doodle and rip little pieces of paper. I have no idea why I do that, but I did it as a kid, and I continue as an adult learner.
With all of the struggles with remote learning, I have noticed that when I sit in on sessions, I often turn my camera off, pull out my guitar and strum and pick slowly while I take in information. My hands move back and forth between the guitar, writing notes on paper, and ideas on a Google doc. I turn the camera off for two reasons; I don’t want to distract anyone with my movement, and I also am not sure that playing guitar on a zoom call would look like I am paying attention and may be frowned upon during that time.
Years ago, being in a session, a stranger reprimanded me in front of the group because I was on my computer while they were talking. They were a bit embarrassed when I showed them the blog that I was writing about their session. The way I learn best sometimes does not feel like the “approved” way in a learning space.
The other day while I was presenting, the person who introduced me asked participants to turn their cameras on for maximum participation. It was not something I asked for, nor something I needed. One of the participants, a superintendent, spent the entire hour in front of their computer, walking vigorously on a treadmill. It was unbelievably distracting for me as a presenter, and honestly, I would have instead they had their camera turned off. That doesn’t mean I had ANY issue with them moving while I was speaking, especially as people are getting zoom fatigue, and in many cases, sitting more than ever. I am fidgety, but I am not sure I would walk on a treadmill while watching a session, but it worked for them, and I was okay with it.
As I think about this, my focus is on helping learners figure out a way that works best for their learning during the session, not necessarily what works best for me, or not my perception of what would work best for them.
But, we also can extend this beyond the “remote classroom” and into a face-to-face setting. Many educators have done a tremendous job helping their students figure out how they learn best for them with flexible learning spaces and flexible learning opportunities.
Below are a few ideas on how we could possibly check for learning in remote spaces.
I know with younger learners, this is a lot more challenging, but I know there are multiple ways we can check for learning and understanding that might not have their cameras on during that time. For example, if you had a learning space with both a couch and a high table, as a kid, I would have done anything to be able there, but I wouldn’t have done anything. Part of the process would have been to say, “Hey George, I think you might learn better at this high table so you can move around because you tend to fall asleep every time you sit on the couch.” My adult self knows that spaces I can actively move to help me to learn better, but I didn’t realize that really until my 30’s. The earlier we can help students figure out what works best for them, the better. I probably would have not only have been a better learner for myself but less disruptive to others.
There are so many complexities in learning right now, but I also see opportunity in the way that we look at learning and what works best for those we serve, which includes the adult learners as well.