Thoughts on breaking a digital barrier

If, a couple of years ago, anyone had suggested that I’d willingly remove the sticker from the lens of my web-cam and watch myself chatting on-line, I’d have said they were crackers. Ask any of my family and they’ll confirm that I loath having my photo taken. I am the phantom of our family album.

Image taken by Juhanson , published on Wikipedia.

I’ve been told it’s vanity. Even that blow at my pride doesn’t work.

I’ve an antennae for cameras aiming in my direction that has me ducking or turning away as the shutter is operating. So me, flattened onto a screen, for minutes at a time? That was a, NO, even before I realised that taking part in an on-line activity meant having to see your own face in a little box on the corner of the screen too. Watch myself talking? NO THANKS!

It’s one thing to stand in front of my students and deliver a class. I see their faces, not mine. I know I’ve brushed my hair and straightened my outfit before I start. Once the class is running I’m concentrating on the plan I’ve worked out, not what I look like.

My first on-line meeting was some teaching-training I’d volunteered for, without properly reading the details. ‘Where is it?’ I texted my line manager, the day before the session. ‘I need to book a train ticket.’ It was lucky I hadn’t phoned, my response to her answer might have shocked her.

I wanted to get the knowledge on offer, but was I ready to pay the price? I wasn’t sure. Right up to five minutes before the start-time I didn’t think I could do it. I brushed my hair and tidied the kitchen, but that was just-in-case.

When I took a deep breath and logged in I felt like a teenager in a new school. I was on screen. There was a moment of heightened self-consciousness as I stared into my own eyes, then the class began. We were introducing ourselves, and I was looking at the tutor, taking in information, making notes and concentrating.

Two hours later, when the class closed, I realised I’d forgotten about being on-screen, except occasionally. And that’s how it happens, I’ve discovered, as the on-line meeting format has replaced geographical ones over the last year. After the first few seconds, when I’m horribly self-conscious, interest takes over.

This has been a rewarding learning curve for me. Last week I delivered my first on-line creative writing session, Writing Haiku’.

Was it scary? You bet. I spent even longer preparing the session than usual. Was I self-conscious? Only at first. Once the session started I was too busy making sure my students were comfortable, adapting my plan and listening to their responses. I didn’t think about watching myself talking.

22 thoughts on “Thoughts on breaking a digital barrier

  1. Wow Cath!
    My first thought is “The Machine Stops” by E M Forster published in 1909.

    My second thought was “That’s fantastic – but will it ever replace 2 empty baked bean tins connected by a taut string?”

    Third thought? Stop being a Luddite, Mike.

    Thanks for another thought provoking post, Cath, ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for the list of thoughts, Mike, broadly, yes, I agree. But to start with your third thought, I think I’m a natural Luddite who still has fond remembrances of those baked bean tins, sigh. It’s a long time since I read, The Machine Stops, but I remember feeling that it provided grounds for holding onto a little Ludditist attitude…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, so much I can relate to. Opening spaces and facilitating groups, no problem. Your daring rite of passage – embracing your performance in the floating public realms is impressive Congratulations. You almost make it sound possible for introverts.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Interesting feedback on online learning. I teach grad school classes and require a weekly virtual meeting. I’m always surprised how many students have never done that and how many online teachers don’t require it. Some states, there are rumbles of requiring it for online classes. I think my students–like you–quickly get adjusted to it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’ve been hearing rumours about the move towards on-line for several years, and I was determinedly ducking it. If it hadn’t been for needing to have line meetings and training, and discovering for myself that there are advantages – top of that list is no driving! – I’m not sure I’d have made the leap. I’m glad I have now, it seems to open up all sorts of interesting doors.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good for you, Cath, but I join you in your trepidation. I have a cover over my lens screen, too, and wish that we weren’t all photographed so often — there are about 8 rooftop camera just on my 13-block walk from work to the train station. It’s too much snooping. Although for educational purposes, I think it’s an amazing tool and can bring learning to those who may not otherwise be able to access it. So you’ve lifted both the world and yourself with your new venture. :0)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, 8 cameras? That’s intimidating. I suppose generally, many of us don’t realise that we’re being caught on film in the streets. But does that make it better? I’m not sure. If it’s right that these cameras reduce crime, they must be a good thing.

      Educationally, I can see a lot of benefits. Not least was me not sharing my cold germs with my students!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just donโ€™t know how we keep such technology only for good without it also morphing into something like โ€œSpy v. Spyโ€ (Mad Magazine). ๐Ÿ•ต๏ธโ€โ™€๏ธ


  5. Aha! You’re just like me. I’ve been teaching online for a while now, but most of that was done with audio–the students looked at slides I controlled, not my face. This year, we had to start using a web cam so they can see us while we teach. WHAAAAT?! I did NOT like that! Yet after that first seminar, it actually wasn’t so bad! I just had to make sure the bookcase behind me was clear, and that I didn’t have peanut butter smears on my face. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad you survived it like me!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your experience sounds so like mine – I had to do some extra house-keeping that morning! But yes, ‘not so bad’ is my feeling. In fact, I survived it to the extent that I’ve been reflecting on the experience and trying to work out if there are more technical gizmos I can make use of.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ah, see, I jerked backwards into that tried-and-true teaching tool, that timeless classic, that fun-and-functional resource that is…puppetry.

        Yup. I used my old puppets to help college students learn about plagiarism, thesis statements, etc etc. And they LOVED it.

        Proof positive none of us are ever quite ready to grow up. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

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