How To Hold Virtual Learning Space In These Times?

Posted by Fran Faraz on Mar 16, 2020
778 reads  
Hope all is well with you. I'm sure you're working on ceasing this moment of history when people are full of fear, and confusion to cultivate love and service.

At our college in Southern California, our classes are being moved over to online environment. A lot of my students are very unhappy that we don't get to have the discussion and intimacy that we've created together for the past 7 weeks. I want to continue on being that way with them online.

My material is already online for most part, so I don't have any problem with that, but I like to move myself in a loving way to online, so that we can have our conversations. I wanted to brainstorm with you, in how to create a caring virtual effect as in person.

Would be great to hear any insights you have on cultivating intimate dialogue, dynamic engagement, and transformative learning in online classrooms!

Posted by Fran Faraz | Tags: | permalink


Share A Comment

 Your Name: Email:


Smiles From 2 Members Login to Add a Smile


Comments (13)

  • Marius Luca wrote ...

    Thanks for reaching out, Fran. Indeed, we are holding the same questions, since I also moved my social and emotional learning classes online since the school closed two days ago. Although I found the first couple of lessons to be more structured and we made better use of our time, I also feel me and the students are missing out on the social and emotional connectivity. It's like the reality is only 2D instead of 3D. However, I know from laddership circles that, by holding space, anchors can make it possible for deep listening, connection and transformation to become possible. What I can share from my first interactions was that holding a minute of silence at the beginning and a minute of gratitude at the end help most participants tune in to their own internal environment as well as [...] See full comment.
    Thanks for reaching out, Fran. Indeed, we are holding the same questions, since I also moved my social and emotional learning classes online since the school closed two days ago. Although I found the first couple of lessons to be more structured and we made better use of our time, I also feel me and the students are missing out on the social and emotional connectivity. It's like the reality is only 2D instead of 3D. However, I know from laddership circles that, by holding space, anchors can make it possible for deep listening, connection and transformation to become possible.

    What I can share from my first interactions was that holding a minute of silence at the beginning and a minute of gratitude at the end help most participants tune in to their own internal environment as well as to the present moment reality of sharing space with other people online. Also, allowing for some minutes of sharing how we feel here and now also ease the load that participants might carry. I also found it helpful to setup some class agreements specifically for online interactions (most of the time they are the same as in-class agreements, but they might also differ in key areas). One last thing I've thought about trying was offering the availability to have one on one or small group conversations with students who feel the need to open up and share their concerns.

    Since the situation is constantly evolving/emerging, new and useful ideas might pop up. I'll be happy to share. Feel free to do the same if you find this helpful.    Hide full comment.

  • Audrey Lin wrote ...

    Thanks so much for this great question, Fran! A couple articles I came across this week, in case they are relevant as a reference:
    --Advice For Newly Remote Teachers
    --Preparing To Take School Online: 10 Tips.

    Also, a couple more (not related to online learning per se, but of general value):
    --Kindness Proves Contagious As Coronavirus Spreads
    --How To Keep The Greater Good In Mind During The Coronavirus Outbreak.  

  • Andy Smallman wrote ...

    My oldest daughter is a school counselor in Seattle. Her school, like all others in our region, has been shut down through at least April 24th. She's put together a resource list for parents. For what it's worth, I'm trying to help people learn how to create a warmer virtual environment -- the importance of light placement, background staging, etc. I don't really think of myself as an expert in this but I've seen so many people just plug in and go from wherever they normally place their computers. They are bathed in shadow or look a bit scary. A few alterations can go a long way to helping people, especially children, feel connected. I'm working with a well-being expert in the UK to reach out to people who might otherwise have been resistant to connect virtually, [...] See full comment.
    My oldest daughter is a school counselor in Seattle. Her school, like all others in our region, has been shut down through at least April 24th. She's put together a resource list for parents.

    For what it's worth, I'm trying to help people learn how to create a warmer virtual environment -- the importance of light placement, background staging, etc. I don't really think of myself as an expert in this but I've seen so many people just plug in and go from wherever they normally place their computers. They are bathed in shadow or look a bit scary. A few alterations can go a long way to helping people, especially children, feel connected.

    I'm working with a well-being expert in the UK to reach out to people who might otherwise have been resistant to connect virtually, including and especially people restricted to their homes.

    I'm also trying to brainstorm ways that small businesses can benefit from creative connection ideas. The best I've had so far is to see if some kind of food delivery can happen to people who are participating remotely in a virtual activity. For instance, my youngest daughter is a baker for a local company that makes French macaroon cookies. They are being hit hard, business is basically drying up. How could a local company like them benefit, thus benefiting all their employees?

    And how can we help people in retirement communities feel connected? I just got word from my 86 year-old mom that their community is restricting/encouraging residents to stay in their apartments. They've closed their dining room, the one chance many residents have each day to socialize.

    I want to help people not get lost in fear and worry.
      Hide full comment.

  • Vishesh Gupta wrote ...

    In general - a virtual circle could flow as: start with a minute of silence, there's a seed question, someone moderates, and people answer. As far as presence, I give a little extra space before speaking online, since it's harder to have the visual cues as to whether someone is done speaking.

    Another idea is to have your students, if they're comfortable, collect in small "pods" (with distance between each other) of 3-4 and dial in together. In that case, you can split up the discussion among them (using something like 1-2-4-all from liberating structures?) and then use the virtual platform as presence and just to share out at the end.

  • Bradley Stoll wrote ...

    Given that I'm in the same proverbial boat as Fran, I'm loving reading all of this wisdom. I'm going to ask students to continue with our minute of silence that we've done since day 1 of the school year. Although I'm supposed to spend most of the time "teaching" math, I plan to spend more time just checking in with them...see how they're feeling. I know if I were in their shoes I'd be anxious; I learn much better, do much better, with in-person teaching. I like Vishesh's idea of a mini group sign in...maybe I'll suggest it to my students. If their parents will allow it, maybe a few of them could spend some physical space together and "attend school together," albeit sometimes with a different teacher.

  • Jane Murray wrote ...

    I don't think I have much to add to all of these fantastic insights. Definitely the minute of silence at the beginning and the end seems to wrap the online space in something more intimate. My observation in the laddership circles is that the field created by somebody deeply listening on a virtual platform seems to add to the intimacy and lends clarity to people's thought and interactions. Strangely I find that this can be amplified by the lack of physical presence as we aren't distracted (so much) by the other non verbal information we usually have in someone's presence. I think there may be a magic number for interaction - maybe up to 10 people ( somebody suggested smaller pods and that could work well) but if it's more instruction, the number of participants doesn't matter so much I think. Finally, strict rules about not having other devices pinging notifications while the class is on would be really good - whenever I forget to switch my email off for example, I can be totally distracted mid sentence watching the notification appear on the screen, and then can't pick up my train of thought again....but that could just be age :-)))))

    Wishing you such good luck with it all in these extraordinary days to come.

  • Trishna Shah wrote ...

    [View Link]

    Great news to see Zoom made available to schools for free! Lovely to see this response from the tech sector during these uncertain times...

  • Fran Faraz wrote ...

    Thank you all so much for all the wisdom you've been giving me through your post. I'm taking all of this in and processing them. I've been writing to the students and asking them not to feel isolated. Social distance should not mean social isolation. They agree that this is a very teachable moment and we should cease the opportunity to build a resilient community. I am at ah with this generation.

    Thank you all so much. I'll share more once I'll have more details.
    Bug hugs,
    Fran

  • Janessa Wilder wrote ...

    I really appreciate the question and discussion. I found this newsletter from Global Oneness Project, which has so many wonderful educational resources available, really helpful. [View Link] +Oneness+Project+Newsletter&utm_campaign=3e34086678-Free+Resources&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_484790f1e5-3e34086678-196415837 Transitioning to Online Learning In the wake of the deepening global pandemic which is beginning to fill us with uncertainty, we are asking ourselves how can we best support our community during this unprecedented time. As a parent with two teenagers, I'm witnessing a wave of emotions, from shock to anxiety of the unknown. As more schools close and transition to online learning, more weight and responsibility falls on teachers as well as parents. As we adjust to these chang [...] See full comment.
    I really appreciate the question and discussion. I found this newsletter from Global Oneness Project, which has so many wonderful educational resources available, really helpful.
    [View Link] +Oneness+Project+Newsletter&utm_campaign=3e34086678-Free+Resources&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_484790f1e5-3e34086678-196415837
    Transitioning to Online Learning

    In the wake of the deepening global pandemic which is beginning to fill us with uncertainty, we are asking ourselves how can we best support our community during this unprecedented time. As a parent with two teenagers, I'm witnessing a wave of emotions, from shock to anxiety of the unknown. As more schools close and transition to online learning, more weight and responsibility falls on teachers as well as parents. As we adjust to these changes, supporting our community of educators and students is more important than ever. Through solidarity, connection, compassion, and understanding, we will find the strength to address the challenges that arise over the coming weeks and months.

    I recently returned to reflect on this quote from educator and author Parker Palmer. He wrote, “Storytelling has always been at the heart of being human because it serves some of our most basic needs: passing along our traditions, confessing failings, healing wounds, engendering hopes, strengthening our sense of community.” Like the power of community, stories of love, hope, and resilience can support us during this challenging time.


    We've put together a list of ways in which you can access and share our free resources—both on our website and through our partner platforms— with your students and colleagues. We hope these resources will be of service to your work.

    Create a Collection
    On our website, you can create a collection of our stories to publish and share with your students and colleagues. Watch this short video to learn more.

    Google Classroom
    Share our stories with your students through Google Classroom. Look for the Google Classroom button next to the titles of all of our stories and lesson plans.

    YouTube
    Did you know that all of our films are available on our YouTube channel with Spanish subtitles?

    15 Lesson Plans Exploring Our Common Humanity
    These lessons—companions to our short documentary films, photo essays, and essays—explore human morality in a changing world.


    Partner Platforms
    The following is a list of some of our partner platforms, which provide unique ways to interact with our stories and lesson plans.

    TED-Ed Students can watch some of our short documentary films, answer multiple-choice questions, and enter a conversation with their peers on TED-Ed. Lessons can also be customized. In this lesson, "A Syrian Refugee's Story," based on our film Welcome to Canada by Adam Loften, one student responds with this comment: "I care more about Syrian refugees now because I imagine being in their place."
    Edmodo Many of our lesson plans and stories are published on the Edmodo platform. One educator used this lesson, "Practicing Empathy," based on our short film Wright's Law by Zack Conkle and said: "I recently completed a character education lesson with my students and this will be a great follow up." Search for Global Oneness Project in Edmodo Spotlight. Access their new Distance Learning Toolkit.
    PBS Learning Media Access a collection of our resources on PBS Learning Media.
    Greater Good in Education From the Greater Good Science Center out of UC Berkeley, this new platform provides research-based strategies and practices for the social, emotional, and ethical development of students and the adults that work with them. Access our Earthrise mini-lessons based on the themes of fostering awe, global citizenship, and reverence for our planet.
    Share My Lesson Many of our lessons and stories are included on AFT's Share My Lesson, a free platform with an expansive library of resources across multiple subject areas. Sign up to participate in their annual virtual conference from March 24-26, 2020. Join me and Ariel Burger (apprentice to Elie Wiesel) on March 25, 2020 at 5pm/EDT for a webinar "Learning and Teaching from the Heart in Troubled Times." If you are interested, but can't attend, please do register to receive a link to the recording. I hope you can join us. Available for one-hour of PD credit. Hide full comment.

  • Avni wrote ...

    Hi Fran, so many great suggestions already! I'll just say smaller groups help, having a co coordinator is a big logistical support for those chatting if that's possible? Break out rooms where people decide who will speak once they get back in the larger space are also helpful. My EdTech program was completely online so happy to collaborate in other ways with any teachers.

  • Brinda Govindan wrote ...

    I have been using the "breakout room" feature on Zoom to have students discuss in small groups and they are really enjoying it b/c they get to talk to each other and then report back to the whole group. Thank you all for the wisdom and suggestions! I am also checking in with students at the beginning of each class just to see how they are doing, and I'm also emailing those who are unable to attend our "virtual" class to see how they are doing.

  • Fran Faraz wrote ...

    Hi all, Hope you're doing well. Thanks again for giving me your wisdom, as soon as I put my request out there. Things have changed a lot since last time we talked. I spent hours on zoom training about Distant learning and all the technological thins we had to learn to deliver our material. Some students have been very generous in participating some testing sessions to see how the technology works when we go into real everyday delivery of the class.

    This week, I'll put together more of my content and cease the opportunity to include some material and exercises that help students understand interconnections, compassion and service. The virus has created a very inequitable world of learning. At the same time an opportunity to make it right.

    I plan on using the 21 days of challenge as one of the activities and see what I get. I'm thinking to start by a moment of silent, followed by reading from the indigenous wisdom, and a quote of the day, or a short video, or poem/music. I think this will set the mode to be more humanistic and feeling each other more. What do you think?

    Virtual hugs!

  • Marius Luca wrote ...

    Hi Fran and all, It's so good to hear of your intentions and how you've integrated the recent on-going dialogue.

    I think it's great to try the 21 days of challenge, I thought about it myself. Some practices might require to be changed/adapted to the circumstances, but I'm sure students' imagination and creativity will be stimulated in this way.
    I'm also thinking of leaving some space where the students come up with suggestions on how we can best spend our time together. In this way, I hope, they will take ownership and feel empowered by their collective decision.

    We've also recently announced a mindfulness-based resilience workshop for the parents of our community, as many of them took on new and difficult roles since they and their children are at home all the time.

    Fran, you might be interested in this webinar. It's facilitated by Emory University has Elaine Miller-Karas from the Trauma Resource Institute as guest speaker. They will tackle most of the same issues we are discussing here.

    Hope you find this helpful. You're doing a wonderful thing for your students. Thank you for keeping this dialogue going!