Karen Commons | April 17, 2020
Like the rest of you, we’ve had to adapt to doing things in new ways over the last few weeks.
While some of our trainers are used to running remote workshops for clients overseas, we mostly run face-to-face workshops for people in New Zealand. But physical distancing means we’re now running every workshop remotely, using Zoom. It’s a change for some of us at Write — and many of our participants are new to Zoom too.
So I’m thrilled to find that Zoom workshops are just as fun and collaborative as having everyone together in one room. As one of Write’s trainers, I like this new way of connecting with people, no matter where they are. New technology brings new possibilities, and we’re loving it. So are our participants.
I’d describe myself as a bit of a technophobe. My children would call it something worse. So the prospect of delivering a polished workshop using totally foreign bells and whistles made my heart race every time I thought about it.
But it worked! I loved the fact that I could just wander from my kitchen to my training room a few minutes before start time. The bells and whistles did their thing. And I even found more of them once we were under way.
I found I could visit people in their Zoom ‘breakout rooms’, and I could remix the people inside the rooms. People said they liked being swept away to their private rooms. And I found them all much more chatty when they came back to our classroom — aka my 13-inch-screen laptop. One pair even came back and said they’d had a huge disagreement — then proceeded to tell us about it. Learning goes very well when it’s entertaining!
I spent the week before the first workshop getting my head around Zoom. At first, it seemed like one step forward and two back. I decided I’d learn just one or two new things a day. And I’d mainly do mornings, as my brain seemed more accommodating then.
I emailed colleagues, friends, and family with requests to play guinea pig. They all obliged, bless them. Mostly the playing went well. But when I was practising breakout rooms with my children and we didn’t have enough people, they quickly invented duplicates of themselves on their phones — supposedly to help me. That was a dire moment for me, and I went to bed that night with the worst headache of the week.
Now, after 2 days of successful training, I can truly say I’m excited by this new way of running a workshop. I love the opportunities for people to talk freely about concepts. I love the screen-sharing function, where people can showcase their own work. This means the teaching and learning is shared — fulfilling the wonderful Māori concept of ako, where everyone in a classroom learns from each other.
I’m excited too by all the possibilities Zoom will give us to work with people who can’t normally get to a workshop. Maybe others will like going from the kitchen to the training room too. And I reckon the planet will thank us as well, as more online learning means less travelling all round.
We’re now running all our usual workshops remotely over Zoom. To create the best experience for you, we can split one-day workshops into two half-day sessions. Or talk to us about other creative options.