When I was 15, my Dad brought his work computer home for the weekend in order to finish something off. This was a different world to the tiny laptops we have today – he needed to put the back seat of the car down to get it all in the boot.
I had a play with drawing on the screen, and produced a few basic pictures. I got my dad to print these out at work and took them in to show my art teacher. She was so impressed, she took them to the headteacher and demanded a computer for the art department, which she got.
Were my pictures any good? I doubt it. I expect they were pretty dreadful, and that it was the novelty which appealed.
This feeling that computers were just a gimmick when it came to learning stuck with me through to my early teaching days. The computers were something that came out as a treat at the end of term, or to appease a disruptive kid. Eventually we ended up teaching computer-based modules, but none of my colleagues really believed in them, like the emperor’s new clothes. The technology seemed to be there for the sake of it rather than actually supporting the learning.
These days, in a normal world, I spend most of my working life developing and delivering face-to-face training courses. I work hard to ensure active, participatory learning spaces and my methods inevitably mean people end up getting very close to each other physically. I enjoy the buzz of the training room, and have not felt the same engagement in the online courses I’ve delivered or attended.
Yet, in this strange new normal, I’m being forced to reassess my reluctance to deliver training online. I’ve 3 courses converted to online formats now, and I’m even managing a weekly zoom fitness class for the running group I coach.
And you know what, I’m actually enjoying it. Modern technology means it is definitely possible to create engaging interactive learning experiences and the participants are obviously learning the same things they would in a face-to-face course. People have been able to attend who might not normally be able to get to the courses and the weekly fitness class has been a welcome moment of routine and engagement for all of us during lockdown.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be fully persuaded away from the training room, but in the current climate I’m happy with the online course for now.