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Cameras and Mics

Good morning, everyone. Last Thursday I noticed that in my first class very few people turned on their cameras or interacted with me, even after asking several times.

I felt alone holding the space for everyone. By the end of the class I was tired and could not think of doing another three hours of teaching this way. It felt like pulling teeth. So I pivoted and asked everyone in the next two classes what they preferred: To have a class where we completely use the chat to interact or use our on cameras and mics.

A strong majority preferred to chat. I thought, why not? Let’s do it that way. I taught the rest of the day purely through the chat function on Zoom. As I did, I realized that I could not cover all of the material and had to rely on everyone to read what I was sharing on the screen and ask questions. I trusted the process, but I also felt that there was little warmth in our communication.

At the end of class I asked for a reflection regarding the experience. Interestingly, a very large majority said that the experience was less than satisfactory. They missed the same thing I did. There were a couple of students who preferred it, however. 

A day or so later I found a Twitter thread about faculty complaining about faculty who demand that students turn on their cameras. They said how unnecessary this was. Their responses were harsh toward faculty who demanded cameras on.

I thought about their comments, and although they were arguing on behalf of students, they did not take in the whole learning community. They also did not take into account the need we have to co-regulate, to be human and in relationship with one another.

If classes are seen as knowledge dumps, where a teacher just spills information into a student, I suppose that cameras off and chatting works well. But when a class is not that, and instead, is an experience that is co-created by everyone, then, being able to communicate non-verbally through facial expression and voice becomes incredibly important. 

This is something that happens in my face-to-face classes naturally. There’s no way to mute the camera or mic in class. I don’t need to say anything about turning cameras on, people just show up in their bodies. Online, we have a different scenario. We have the option to disembody ourselves. The consequences of this kind of presence is what makes Zoom or any virtual exchange so challenging. There’s a bit of disassociation in the process.

As you can see, I’m not a fan of purely virtual education and for that matter having the cameras off. My current mode of teaching is solely one that comes as a result of the health crisis we are facing. I look forward to the day we can walk back into our physical spaces safely. But until then, we make do with this space and figure out how to make it work in a satisfying way.

After my experience on Thursday, I realized that I will not require anyone to turn their cameras on, but I want everyone to know that when you don’t, you affect me in a way that you may not understand. Most of the time I can cope with the cameras off, but there are days that I, too, need to be reassured. I’m a real person, just like you. We each carry universes within.

I understand that there may be days where you need the anonymity, and I will understand when you step back. Know that we are in this together. Make your choices responsibly, knowing that they are not merely individual ones. They affect everyone in the community. We hold each other.

Feel free to comment and add to the conversation.

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Quick Writing Prompt

I read the following Tweet yesterday. The writer is an incarcerated individual who has a cellphone. They post from their prison cell.


Write short paragraph, in the same style, describing what gets you through your dark times.

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Working with Module 2

These are my notes breaking down an approach to Module 2.

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Readings/Writing (Module 2)

1 From An Orbit Around the Sun

  • “The Promise”
  • “He Follows”
  • “I Became a Construction Worker”

All three readings from our book are stories that relate to immigration. Each is written from a first person perspective that provides an intimate view of what it means to be an immigrant in the United States.

Write a half page response for each of the readings in your notebook.

2 The next text I want you to engage with is a documentary on gangs in El Salvador. The film provides a context for “The Promise” and “He Follows.” It also is an example of using the power of story to convey a complex message.

When you write about this text, explore what you felt as you watched, what you learned, and what questions you were left with.

3 The next text is a story from the radio show “Only a Game.” When I heard the story, lots of bells and whistles went off in my mind. I definitely thought about the power of movement and mental health. I also felt moved by the story of Sherman and Zeke and how co-regulation doesn’t just happen between humans and humans. Take listen.

Here’s the post with the story in text form. Notice how the audio file changes the experience of the words and notice how narrative is used to convey a powerful message.

Take time to respond in your notebook. Write about what comes to mind. Consider exploring the idea of co-regulation and companion animals. I know my pup, Ozzie is someone who has shaped my life in powerful ways.

4 The next film takes on a different theme. Some of you may have seen it already on Netflix.

Watch and take notes. You may not be able to see it all in one sitting. Take your time. Watch it with someone else so that you can have conversation.

Once again, write about what you sensed in your own body. What did you learn from the film? Is there a connection between the theme of mass incarceration in the United States and the story of immigration you read in the stories and watched in the Vice film? Aim for a half page or full page response.

5 The last text for this module comes from poet Audre Lorde. “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” is an essay that I find deeply moving and relevant to the work we are doing together.

What connections do you see between Lorde’s essay and any of the other readings? Explore without fear. In your response to this reading, write about your own experience with silence and what you are learning in terms of using your voice.

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Monday 2:25

Monday 2:25 PM

Message for First Week

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section.

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Welcome (Fall 2020)