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The ‘big pause’

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The pause button. This lock down. The world has stopped. Or better, it has paused. A pause allows thinking time. It’s time to re-evaluate many things, including teaching and learning.

This blog: my space to pause. It’s finally time to start my own blog. A space to think about learning and teaching, to stop, reflect and ask questions.

This blog: a space for readers to pause, for 2 minutes. It takes 2 minutes for the average person to read 500 words. I am going to challenge myself to write blog posts of no more than 500 words.

When the ‘big pause’ was announced

I will never forget Mon 16th March 2020: I went to work and while we had a staff meeting, the PM announced the lock down. For a small art and design institution, the switch to e-learning was going to be very tough. I asked myself: what should my role be now? What can I do to support my colleagues right now? I decided to create a series of bite-size professional development videos to address pressing questions about the ‘fast e-learning switch’. I collected questions staff wanted me to address through a shared Google Doc. This was going to be very intense.

Blogging to pause

It’s week 7 of the lock-down in the UK and I feel tired today. Something to do with limited time outside, and the intensity of my work in the past few weeks, with two small boys at home. My video series has been really successful, I have had amazing feedback. Many videos have been watched over 1000 times and they have been translated into Arabic as well. Totally unexpected reach, thank you Twitter. I want to pause and look back to the past few weeks and unpick some of the themes and questions which I have been pondering on.

In the ‘big pause’ everything was going to become digital. Our work. Schooling. Even our social lives. Weddings. Funerals. Everything. I pondered over what tech I should use to make my videos. What medium was going to be reassuring and humane at this time? What could transmit a sense of care? I decided to adopt a low-tech approach: hand draw a mind-map with my children felt tips, then make a screencast of me talking through the ideas. That way I could model one way of reaching out to students: keep it simple, use what you know, use low tech, make it asynchronous initially, smile.

The pause button, a secret weapon

In video no 1, I suggest viewers to pause and ‘make’ notes in order to interact with the ideas. Not just take notes, writing down what I said, but make notes, actively responding to the ideas, thinking about how to use them in one’s own teaching practice. That is in itself a powerful teaching and learning activity. Pause when teaching. Provide breathing and thinking space for students, especially in live lessons. Pausing helps the brain to connect.

Time to pause now, 2 minutes are over.