This is a short post/journal entry about something that has been on my mind, and nagging at me since the beginning of distance learning.
I have noticed a shift in my teaching that occurs when I minimize student cameras while teaching in Zoom. That is, they can see me, and the screen I am sharing, but I cannot see them.
Paradoxically, I have noticed that my instruction, and ability to connect with them increases. I feel more comfortable, free, and open to share knowledge in clear and structured ways.
This realization has been strange, in that I depend heavily on my relationships with students during face-to-face instruction, however in the Zoom setting, seeing their faces while teaching particularly complex information seems to decrease my ability to connect via the content.
My working hypothesis is that, while face-to-face instructions offers a true, human connection, a Zoom window places emphasis on facial expression. Perhaps my empathetic side is overly drawn to student facial expressions, inhibiting me from pushing through complex concepts, while I am pulled into looks of frustration, confusion, etc?
When I do not see them (gallery minimized) I can push through this moment better, allowing time for students to negotiate the complexity before I jump in and "rescue" them from their perplexity, something I do naturally.
In the face-to-face setting, this perplexity exists in the context of a myriad of other variables that make the relationship more simple, meaningful, and real. With only a confused face I almost feel paralyzed at times.
Thus, I have been exposing the entire class during discussion/Q&A and minimizing their visibility during direct instruction. I'm not sure what I'm saying here, but I felt a need to put it into writing. I am very much looking forward to being with my students in the classroom once again.
Side note, this came back to bite me once when, in the middle of a lecture where I was sharing my screen and had their cameras minimized, the students surprised me with the below. I was not responding and kind student said "Um...Ramsey, can you see us?". Ha! awkwardly caught red-handed!