29 November 2012

Ouija Rooms

When I teach and lecture I have quite strong feelings about the rooms I’m working in, so much so that I have an ELT conference workshop ready to go on classroom layout. Some rooms, often with unconventional walls and slightly stretched overall geometry, lend themselves well to workshops where groups huddle round tables, posters and projects, whilst others are more geared towards a lecture format where the lecturer is situated with a panoramic view of the class at the front of the room. In the former I tend to perch on a desk and wander the room offering guidance and answering enquiries, whereas in the latter I tend to want to dance and prowl across the stage.

So what happens to the experienced trainer and communicator when we take away the physicality of the room? The answer, it seems, is that I have a lot of guessing to do. I’ve been in the habit of taking my cues from the room for so long that the virtual conferences I've been having with clients are quite disorientating. For about an hour a week, I’m getting dressed up as a helicopter pilot from the 1980s (headset with boom mike) and joining people in an online “room”. The host of the meeting takes control of one of my monitors (I’m glad I’ve got two, as I can keep my notes visible on the other one) and a disembodied cursor navigates a projection of his screen whilst a variety of ethereal voices speak over the headset. I tend to forget the other people are there if I’m not careful – Alison had to tap me this morning so that I stopped working on the sample files and watching the pointer and started making the little social noises we make when we are in the same room as others, as my silence was not helpful.

I originally thought that using the webcam would help, but the last two experiences have either seen me fielding questions about tropical fish (visible over my shoulder when sat back from the computer) or sitting so close that my on-screen head goes through a hall-of-mirrors-eqsue distortion... and it’s not seeing people I need, it’s having a concept of the room. Unfortunately the closest analogy I can find is Frodo peering into the Mirror of Galadriel, if the mirror was running on Windows 7 with a Ouija Board interface and sporting the disclaimer Many things I can command the screen to reveal - things that were, and things that are, and things that yet may be. But that which is seen, even the Wise cannot always tell. Do you wish to look?. As a result of this confusion my notes now include things like "it’s not a game, remember to respond when people speak" and "don’t sing to aid thinking".


1 comment:

  1. lmao...Good one Mate! Why don't you get one of those speech recognition softwares, like Dragon or maybe something free...it'll help you take note as you speak :) Plus it'll be a fun way to take notes, and will do wonders for your "social noises"


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