Teaching in the Times of COVID-19 Part Two: Tips for Adapting to Online Teaching

I have been sitting at my computer on and off for several days immobilized. Everyone is home, so we are searching for a new routine, a new sense of balance and ways to fend off the quiet panic we feel. As Spring Equinox passed yesterday, almost unnoticed, it was hard to see it a symbol of light and life, and new beginnings.

And yet, with social distancing, I already see creative changes in my children that give me hope. My 13-year-old has been teaching himself new songs on piano and guitar, baked dessert for everyone, and entertained the other children (we are a self-isolation pod with our next door neighbours) for hours – all self-initiated. While it is a time of worry and fear, I am thinking about ways to take this opportunity to nurture creativity and develop new ways of learning.

I have been sitting at my computer on and off for two days immobilized. Everyone is home, so we are searching for a new routine, a new sense of balance and ways to fend off the quiet panic we feel. As Spring Equinox passed yesterday, almost unnoticed, it was hard to see it a symbol of light and life, and new beginnings.

And yet, with social distancing, I already see creative changes in my children that give me hope. My 13-year-old has been teaching himself new songs on piano and guitar, baked dessert for everyone, and entertained the other children (we are a self-isolation pod with our next door neighbours) for hours – all self-initiated. While it is a time of worry and fear, I am thinking about ways to take this opportunity to nurture creativity and develop new ways of learning.

Kelsey’s previous post provided a great overview of resources for teaching in the times of COVID-19. As I drink coffee with my husband (https://adamhenderson.ca/) who is preparing to teach his classes online for Vancouver Film School and UBC’s BFA Theatre program, we ponder what more might be helpful to instructors of theatre and performance classrooms who are suddenly tasked with transferring face-to-face classes to online experiences. Here are our best thoughts:

1. Use this time as an opportunity to teach useful career skills.

  • how to record effective self-tapes (for auditions or otherwise)
  • how to record a voice demo
  • how to set up a home recording booth or video area
  • how to write a blog post
  • how to create a short promotional video
  • how to create a slick online slide presentation
  • how to effectively facilitate a group chat

2. Consider creating imaginative online activities.

Brainstorm with your classes. Here are some fun ideas:

  • Create collaborative work (writing, filming, podcasting, music). Have one person start a project and pass it on for others to add to. It does not have to be high tech! Here’s my friend and I learning harmonies to a song at a distance:

3. Make use of the many livestream broadcasts going on.

These include play readings, concerts, film festivals, dance classes etc. I don’t want to overload readers with examples, but a quick google search with produce many hits. While livestreams don’t replace face-to-face experiences, they may help achieve the elements of unpredictabiity, surprise, and perhaps even communion that are unique to liveness.

4. Make use of new and previously existing online databases

Many resources have now been made available for free. Here are a few theatre-related resources that might come in handy:

  • Journal Databases like JSTOR (https://www.jstor.org/) have expanded their public access sections which might be useful to acting schools without institutional subscriptions.

 5. Allow yourself to do what is reasonable and achievable to finish up courses           in progress.

We all want to deliver good value to our students, but it is not reasonable to adapt an entire course to a slick online format. Here’s a thoughtful resource by Rebecca Barrett-Fox (don’t be put off by the title): “Please do a bad job of putting your class online.”

We’ll get through this together with, I hope, with kindness and generosity. Now for another learning opportunity, here are a variety of 20 second selections of Shakespeare for hand washing:

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