Under pressure

Peaceful family swim

Up very early this morning. Couldn’t stop my mind returning to yesterday, running over and over my mistake. Beating myself up. So here I am back at my reflection space, trying to make sense of my experience.

The challenge was a fair one, 5 minutes to communicate priorities for the future in my discipline. Having spent quite some time thinking this through, having listened to experiences of colleagues in other institutions who are facing possible job cuts, knowing how over the years my discipline has been rent apart by divisions, I wanted this to be a positive, optimistic look to the future.

Every context is of course complex. I felt it was important to convey some detail about my context which I knew I would not have time to convey in 5 minutes. I used my Next Steps blog to capture that. I put together just a few slides and a short script to keep me on track.

I was last on the bill. I listened in wonder as my fellow panelists expertly presented their contribution. I felt happy that we were really on the same page. Placing the human at the centre of the learning, allowing time to grow, paying attention to the missing voices, making sustainable choices, building critical digital skills – all these themes resonated.

My time arrived. Only 5 minutes, share my screen – I chose to share my slides, not my full screen – CRASH. Despite seeing the screen sharing notice on my screen my slides were apparently not visible to the audience. I shared the full screen and set off again. The entire episode could only have taken a minute or less. I picked up and carried on. Conscious of the limited time, anxious about this schoolgirl error, the thought of it was eating away at my confidence.

I told myself it was OK but clearly my mind was unconvinced. Funny how these things come back to haunt you in the early hours of the morning.

So where’s the optimism? Where’s the learning moment?

Well I can remind myself of how my students felt having to submit their oral exam online this year. The “solution” they were given was not as robust as I wanted for them. I knew it could be problematic. Not least from a pedagogic perspective because they were being asked to make their own recording rather than experiencing the interactive conversation we had prepared for. Linguistically presentation is not the same as interaction. I helped them practice using flipgrid and soundcloud. They gamely got on with the task.

The “solution” must have been hard for them to bear. When some submitted their carefully made recordings they were not correctly orientated. Some did not get processed immediately and generated error messages. Those students, already under pressure, messaged me. Worried the technical issue may reduce their mark. I dealt with the panic and fear, reassured them that I had no problem assessing their language as spoken upside down, I did not need to see their face as I knew their voice, and that I would be able to access the file despite the error messages.

I wonder if, even after my reassurance, they awoke in the early of hours of the next day feeling stressed? I hope their marks show them that I was not influenced by such annoying glitches as they experienced.

My conclusion: institutional ed tech solutions – often procured at expense – fail us when they do not take account of student and staff experience. After over 30 years (I was an early adopter of technology in language teaching) of trying to address the importance of the learning over the tech, surely it is time we worked together more effectively. Yes, we will make mistakes but we must learn from them.

One response to “Under pressure

  1. Hi Teresa – what a lovely example of your reflective and caring practice. As someone who was in the room I can assure you that the slide thing was not your problem – I could see them when others couldn’t – just at one point they weren’t on full screen. I don’t think that was communicated well to you. There is learning from everything we do – particularly when tech is involved. Any “new nornal” in education will have to be aware of this and so we need to ensure as you so eloquently said in your presentation that we develop the confidence of our staff and students so they aren’t waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night.

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