A New “Normal”
In Barbados the COVID-19 virus is here. With institutions closing their physical plants, tutors were asked to move their classes online. This put us contracted arts educators at a disadvantage since, if we do not work, we would not be able to claim for time served. We teach practical courses. We were not sure how online teaching matches the rigor that face-to-face training in creative movement. Most other movement courses around the globe were suspended until the all-clear was given. How do we assess the student’s development, give a final assessment, track student’s concentration, focus, acuity under these remote conditions?
With determination, we embraced the technology head-on. Students were consulted, and I went ahead. I wanted to offer the students a sense on continuity and kept to our regular schedule, important in this turbulent and uncertain moment. We settled on Google Hangouts for the time being, (Zoom Meeting is becoming an option for my classes of 14+. (So far, someone that inevitably cannot get on to the hangout and are forced to listen/watch in via Whatsapp.) Students had to be forgiving of my 20th century mind. All of them were born in the 2000s (Generation Z).
It took a minute (or 45 minutes) for this Generation Xer to find and press the video icon to start the first class.
However, the experience has been surprising so far:
- The students seem more attentive and engaged. I asked why. One said that, at home, they are under a watchful eye and therefore cannot mis-behave. Indeed, in my third class, one student was joined by his mother as we did Landship manoeuvres. Another said that the group dynamic is different online, no physical presence of the others to enable, they can concentrate on the phone, tablet, or laptop that they were using.
- The screen became the platform for learning. They were a “captured” participant, reading the power-point presentations and videos without interruption, taking turns to be seen as well as to speak.
- Offering video assignments became a good way to gauge the students’ knowledge and application of skills to a given task. Showing and sending their videos seem to boost their confidence, taking pride in their creative work. Appreciation, feedback and analysis of each other was another plus. Using the video, we could replay several times and pause to show various aspects.
- It required me as the tutor to be even more meticulous in my use of sources to support the course outline created and to find credible online sources. It also gives me to opportunity to add my voice in support or in deference to the work. This encourages the students to develop and express their critical thinking.
All these surprises make this effort to teach dance and movement from a Caribbean perspective even more exciting. I look forward to the knowledge, experience and insight my colleagues and I will bring as are result of rising to meet this moment.
Culture Clinic is a weekly column crafted by Dr. John Hunte.