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Are we zoning out of Zooming In? Simple steps for Educators to combat this new issue


Already?!! Well, I guess that was bound to happen eventually--just didn't think it was going to happen this fast. Research is already out that students and those working from home are zoning out of all the Zooming and Google Meeting that is taking place all across the world, to meet the education and consumer needs during the COVID 19 pandemic. So this is what happened...cities shut down, schools and non-essential businesses closed. Given that we are in 2020, a pandemic couldn't stop us! Enter our blue and white knight in shining armor...aka Zoom! We thought all our questions and prayers were answered by simply converting to Zoom everything! If not Zoom, then Google Meet or Microsoft Teams. While these and other online meeting platforms have definitely been a God-sent, just like anything in life, too much of anything is not really a good thing. Expert professors and researchers have already begun looking into the science behind why we are so puttered out from Zooming in?? For me, I had been using Zoom for many years prior to COVID, so the uptick in utilization made complete sense. Its clean, easy to use, super easy to set up meetings, what more could one ask for? It seemed like this would be the perfect logical step to maintain communication, carry out meetings, conduct classes and even keep social gatherings going virtually. I'll admit, I have attended my fair share of virtual parties and get togethers...very...different to say the least...

So, what happened? Although Zoom and other video conferencing platforms are convenient and oftentimes easy to launch and get started, humans are not built for consistent use, multiple times a day for multiple hours a day, of these platforms. According to Jiang (2020), professors and researchers out of BBC Worklife and Clemson University, have taken a closer look as to why all the video conferencing is taking such a toll on us--and there are several reasons that we probably never really thought of...

For one, looking at the screen, in general, much less during a remote lesson or meeting, requires much more focus than face-to-face sessions. We have to process non-verbal cues, the awkward silence-both because of the random 1-2 second screen freezing that often occurs and just the awkward silence, at a much higher rate than in usual in-person conversations, classes and meetings. While everyone is working together mentally, we are not together physically, which is causing slight conflict in our brains in trying to figure out what's happening. We can usually handle awkward silence naturally in a face-to-face situation but when it is virtual, we are not sure if its the computer, the WiFi, the person on the other end not being focused and having the other on mute, or a healthy combination of all of the above!

The feeling as if you are on stage and performing is also an issue. While it is HIGHLY recommended, especially when teaching remotely, to keep all cameras on for engagement and participation purposes, this becomes an added pressure on everyone involved...unless you are one that loves being on and in the spotlight all the time--for that person, this wont be an issue, but for the vast majority, this complicates things even more. I experienced this first hand with my 9-year old son. Initially, I noticed he was very uncomfortable and somewhat awkward when on screen for his Zoom sessions. He later explained to me that this is all very weird to him and he prefers to interact with his friends and teachers in person and did not like the feeling that all eyes were on him. He has since become more relaxed now that we are in week 7 of all this but look how long it took him!

There is also no separation...of anything! Everything is happening in one area, even if you change rooms, school, work, kids, virtual sip and chats, life in general, is all in one space. The whole point of things being separate, such as going out to eat in restaurants and rooftops (my personal favorites) is that it is away from the mundane of home, but with video conferencing tools, it is all in one space--and its not cool. And while we can all put it in perspective and say that at least we are doing what we are told, and staying home and staying safe, it doesn't take away from the fact that all these things were not meant to be together and we are now forcing them to be.

So, what do we do? Especially for those of us in education who are relying on these platforms 100% of the time. Researchers have made some suggestions but of course I will put them in the perspective of the Educator and student. They suggest the student moving the screen maybe a little off to the side so they wont feel like they are ON and LIVE all the time. Limiting the amount of time we conduct our lessons. Educators cannot expect to continue teaching our 2 hour seminar workshops the same way, just online. This cant happen and I know that many of our folks in leadership, when in a pinch, asked Educators to just move everything online, there is definitely some more thought that has to be put into this. I also understand that for many, time was of the essence. Other suggestions include:

  • Allowing breaks in between class sessions-for those 2 hour seminar workshops, you as the Educator may have to pivot that into a course that is a couple weeks long to avoid Zoom Zoning out.

  • Assess if your office hours need to be in front of a camera. Can it perhaps be replaced with a phone call?

  • Take some time before the class session to see how your students are doing, engage in a little personal banter to lighten up the load.

  • Consider that many may be Zooming in from a mobile device--your presentations will need to be optimized on a smaller screen--think Need to know, not Nice to know.

Due to the disruption of our normal, everyone is just plain exhausted and while in theory the concept of virtual everything seemed so cool and very doable, with everything going on, it is quickly fading. Let's begin to kick thinking differently into high gear! As this semester comes to a close, expectations will be high as students wonder what will be their fate for the Fall semester. More Zooming? If Educators havent done so already, you need to get started today to decide how your next semester course design and delivery will look if campuses cannot open in the Fall

These are just a few tips! For more ideas on how you and/or your Educators can adjust Education to prevent the Zoom zoning out effect, feel free to contact me!

Check out the upcoming blogs, where I will be reviewing asynchronous vs. synchronous teaching and the differences between online vs. remote teaching!

Until next time...

References:

Jiang, M (22 April 2020). The reason Zoom calls drain your energy. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200421-why-zoom-video-chats-are-so-exhausting


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