Lights! Camera! Action! Intermission!

For the past number of years, Chicago Public Schools has collaborated with Google to present a summer tech bootcamp called Googlepalooza (named after the big summer concert festival that is now housed in Chicago, Lollapalooza) where teachers are able to attend a variety of sessions to learn various tech skills and tricks to help prepare for the new school year. While Lollapalooza didn’t happen this year because of COVID, Googlepalooza did. Of course 2020’s Googlepalooza was virtual and while in past years there were maybe 1000 people who attended in person, this year, more than 10,000 staff and teachers attended the week-long program.

I was able to make it to a couple of sessions, including Britton P’s Fix Your Wig and Find Your Light: Tips and Tricks for Great Virtual Presenting. This session was a last minute choice for me and strangely enough has resonated the most throughout the virtual start of this 2020-21 school year. I had never reflected before on the importance of proper lighting or the right camera angle or good audio quality or how decent my internet connection was or the impact of framing and what I choose to show to my classes.

A couple of Britt’s Key Take Aways:

  • Where is your light?
  • When did you last clean your web cam?
  • Avoid unflattering angles
  • Avoid visual clutter…do you really want your students looking in your open closets?
  • Bounce light off your walls
  • Face your light rather than having it behind you
  • Keep your camera device at eye level

Frankly, I started to realize that teachers play all of the roles in a daily stage play/tv show/movie that is our individual classes. We are the camera, light, and sound crew; writers; editors; producers; directors; makeup artists; stage managers; costume designers and seamstresses; set designers and builders; assistants; security personnel; caterers; and, of course, the lead actors, all rolled into one person. Teaching virtually emphasizes this in a way that I wasn’t aware of before–and after 4 months of playing all of these roles remotely, for 6 different performances each day, I’m a bit tuckered out!

Britton wrapped up her presentation talking about Space and that you have to make your virtual classroom space your own. She suggested that you need to bring yourself and a happy energy into this whole process, to have fun with it. That by engaging students in this way, you can build community. I think one of the reasons that this school year is off to a surprisingly decent start, despite all of the COVID drama, is because I actually applied many of her lessons to my own virtual teaching practice. I am learning, my students have been learning, and we are showing just how resilient we can be.

One last take-away: “You can’t give from an empty cup.”

I think Britton was suggesting with this reminder that we pace ourselves, but since that has been a little hard to do with the nature of this virtual teaching endeavor, I am thoroughly embracing the idea of refilling my nearly empty cup during this Winter Break (which started Friday evening).

One of my favorite former colleagues posted this meme recently:

This year has definitely not been dull.  And I am certainly not where I expected to be 30 years ago when I was finishing up my teaching degree! But this fall has been pretty remarkable and while there have been plenty of examples of activities crashing and burning, there are also these awesome examples of my students and myself experiencing ‘Opa!’ moments with that fire, when something magical happens.

Wishing all a very restful, rejuvenating, cup-refilling, Winter Intermission!

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