RoP Online – Meeting 1

Posted by: Lynn Tran

Meeting 1 for our new online series

We launched RoP Online this week. Feeling excited and a bit overwhelmed that four facilitator teams are teaching four cohorts of Reflecting on Practice (RoP) Online with educators from across the country and cultural sector. This experience is a quick and massive pivot for everyone, including for us. 

Teaching online is different from teaching in-person. By now, we all know this. We’re likely also noticing that some strategies transfer easily online, while others require some ingenuity. What’s important is that our designs and moves stay anchored in how people learn. 
The RoP Online experience is different than many of the webinars, courses, and panel presentations that have been available online since March 2020. We know the first meeting was likely overwhelming, as participants were asked to simultaneously navigate on Canvas and participate interactively on different collaborative online platforms. We’ll be using those platforms throughout the remainder of the meetings, so it will get easier. 

We tried out some new moves and revised some in-person designs to make them doable online. Admittedly, as we experiment and stretch our own practice, the transitions weren’t always smooth and the tasks might not always be clear. Grounding our decisions (planned and in-the-moment) was knowing that people needed to recall relevant memories, express their thinking (talking, writing), and connect with one another. For this first meeting, there were 3 big chunks to the whole experience.

Think-Pair-Share on Jamboard

  • Jamboard is included in free Google account
  • When we teach in-person, the easiest and quickest way to get learners talking is doing a Think-Pair-Share (TPS) or Turn & Talk. But, how do we replicate online that experience of “whispering to the person next to you” when there’s no one physically next to you (or in my case, my kids who would rather I help them find their Lego pieces if I make eye contact with them).
  • This situation was an opportunity to (1) deconstruct those routines, and (2) be clearer on our purpose for that segment.
    • #1, the TPS is intended to give learners a chance to gather their thoughts and test out nascent ideas safely (with one person), before announcing anything to the group. Of course, we can go into breakout rooms to do the pair talk. We also know those breakout room transitions take up time and affect the flow of the experience. So, #2.
    • #2, the purpose for that segment in the lesson was to brainstorm initial ideas that would lead into the hands-on activity that was happening in breakout rooms. 
  • So, we opted for a Jamboard to gather ideas. There were two opportunities to Jam (before and after the hands-on task). The posts are anonymous, so people can add freely. We attempted to conduct whole-group conversations based on what was posted.
    • With many people posting simultaneously, there were a lot contributions to read and process quickly, and before people could talk. We (unintentionally) gave advantage to those who could skim read and process text quickly. Some posts had more details than others, which prompted requests for clarification and some talking.
    • Our first Jam took more time orienting people on how to use the platform, and the second Jam could be more conversational because people had multiple reference points from which to offer to the discussion (Jam 1, activity, Jam 2). 

Hands-on Activity in Breakout Rooms

  • We wanted to do something playful to spark the conversation on learning. For this activity, we wanted people to have materials in hand, so those things needed to be easily retrievable. The Cup & Card activity in the first session is watery fun. 
  • Participants were asked to gather materials from around their home to the first meeting: different sized containers, a tub of water, card stock from advertisements, and towels.
  • The experience would happen in breakout rooms, between the first and second Jamboards, to be the instigator that connected the two conversations. We anticipated that not everyone might have materials. To ensure everyone could still participate, each group included at least one person who had materials.
    • People physically moved into the kitchen so they wouldn’t make a mess at their desks, some gathered materials in the moment so they could play, too.
    • Those who didn’t have materials offered suggestions to test to those who did have materials. Sadly, some people splashed water on their devices.

Walkabout on Padlet

  • Padlet is free to participate as a contributor. To make Padlets, the first 5 (used to be 8) are free, after that, a subscription is required.
  • Just as we do in-person, time is allocated to do a Research Discussion so that we can relate research literature into teaching practice. In-person, we do a Walkabout (aka Chalk Talk, Gallery Walk) for the Five Foundational Ideas on Learning.
  • This routine is probably the easiest to transition, logistically, online. Padlet (using the Shelf format) easily enables setting up each topic into a column. Participants are placed into breakout rooms, and have 5 minutes on an idea. The facilitator calls time for them to move to the next idea. As they talk about each idea, they add notes to each column. There is also the opportunity to comment on someone’s post. In total, participants have 30 continuous minutes with the same small group of people to discuss and connect ideas on learning.
    • We spent 30-40 minutes in breakout rooms. Groups made a variety of connections across the ideas, bringing in their personal experiences to clarify how they related to the ideas. It was tricky to read and comment on other group’s notes while also digging into their own thinking on the ideas.
    • Similar to the experience in-person, groups would have liked more time on each idea and then there was little time remaining for a whole-group conversation across the groups.
    • Fortunately, this isn’t our one and only conversation on learning. It is intended to just start the conversation. 

Offline tasks

  • There were two offline tasks, (1) to continue the conversation on learning that would be picked up again in Meeting 2, and (2) to give people a chance to socialize and get to know each other more casually by Meeting 6. They serve different purposes, but both take time to do. We wondered how doable they are since they would take time. 
  • How People Learn infographic.
    • We typically read text for the Research Discussions during our meetings in-person because we can’t rely on people making time to do the reading beforehand (it’s a nice idea, but practically it doesn’t happen). For our online series, we decided to push some of the readings offline to give people more time to process the longer text for the first time. 
    • This task has 3 parts, a format that I developed for a similar course for university STEM faculty and have found it to be more interesting and engaging for the learners. It’s informed by two fundamental aspects of learning: people need to think and talk about ideas more than once AND experiences are more memorable with friends. It was inspired by the lackluster participation I would get in traditional discussion forums. Whether my learners were college students or university faculty, online discussion on a reading never really flourished in the forums. What I realized was, all I wanted them to do was think and talk about the ideas from the readings more than once; talking with friends and familiars might be more interesting and memorable.
    • Through this structure, I could get my learners to think and talk about the ideas 3 times (not just once). First, they share the reading with a friend, and have a conversation about it. Second, they reflected on the conversation with their friend. Third, they posted something (infographic, video log) about the conversation. And then when we convened, we talked about what they talked about. What I found was that we could get deeper into the conversation because when we convened, it wasn’t the first time people talked out loud about the ideas. Added bonus, faculty were talking with colleagues in their department about the ideas, so they were inadvertently “spreading the word” in a way that was more genuine and meaningful to them both. 
  • Seven Songs Salon.
    • Admittedly, this one is brand new and out there. Crossing my fingers that it will works. It’s borrowed from Priya Parker, conflict mediator and author of Art of Gathering
    • Including this task as an attempt to build connections, meaningfully, among members in each group. Our online meetings move so fast. Even though people are talking to each other, they have to stay on task. You can’t get to know people that way. When we meet in-person, there are lots of moments for small talk that just happens naturally, like when people wait for class to start, snacking during breaks, waiting in line for the restroom, etc. We might ask participants to sit with new people each week, or intentionally place people in different groups. Those small moments add up to help people connect with each other. None of that is available online. For a room full of strangers, what can we do? The ideas and creativity come from the members in the group. People need to feel welcomed to share, fail, and exchange.
    • The oddness here is that we’ve designated who will “casually” hang out with whom and what they’ll do when they hangout. Admittedly, we want to make sure everyone is included, and people can be willing to ping each other, on- and offline.

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