Source: Google

The concern

In my recent experience with remote learning, issues began to arise that, while affecting all participants in the educational process, were not stated and consciously perceived. In this new condition, students’ participation in the class was only oral, due to the cameras being usually off.

The students’ active participation (which I consider very important and useful both for the students and the teachers) was most of the time significantly absent and very often arose as an issue. The fact that remote learning began in the middle of the semester allowed me to point out the differences and compare it to in person learning.

The observation

Particularly, in these new conditions, I was so concerned about this issue that it was deeply affecting me especially when the participation was explicitly requested by the teacher. In some cases, students remained silent throughout the whole lesson and only spoke when the teachers  -tired of their monologue and full of doubts about whether someone really was on the other side of the screen- asked anxiously: “Are you there?”. You could detect their insecurity and anxiety in the question. I was feeling uncomfortable considering that this was making the process difficult and psychologically exhausting for them  but also because I was suspecting that the students had a lot of things to say but for some reason remained silent.

Through observation and discussions I tried to find the reasons behind all the above. I started thinking about the Voice. In these lessons the voice had acquired a new role that was never mentioned, perhaps because it was never perceived while everyone was influenced by it.

The thought/suspicion

This new role emerged because in this special context, a division of students’ presence/substance into three parts started to become visible: first, their voice, second, their image and third,- Something which the new conditions of online meetings made me realize did not coincide with the second one (the image) -, the live presence. Students, being left with their -distorted- voice as their sole tool, started feeling oddly more exposed. Instead of being a simple part of one’s self, the voice was now meant to fully represent the individual and, therefore, it was playing a central role in the perception of one’s presence.

The new dimension that emerges from the observation of online lessons is therefore the redefinition of the voice as a distinct part of a three-part being and as the only tool of representation and expression within this special context. I will try to analyze this fragmented education experience focusing on the correlation between the voice and image and the live presence when one of them is absent or distorted.



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