I suppose it is impolitic for me to admit to anything in my new career being “my first,” but perhaps you can think of this as a reminder that we are all learners, even the most expert of our disciplines. If we were not ourselves excited by learning – from our experiences, from our peers, from the world around us – why would we be educators?
So, my first webinar is coming up at the end of the month, assisted, sponsored, and hosted by the wonderful staff at the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement. Once we’d agreed on a date and time, I realized: I have no idea what I’m doing. And I’ve got an impossibly high model, as my first webinar experience was through the EdX program. Once I’d realized I needed more realistic models, I started poking around on line (where else?), first by looking for suggestions from “the pros.” What I found was dominated by the “25 steps to the perfect webinar” and other how-to-win-friends-and-get-them-to-buy-your-stuff kind of web sites.
In other words, not very useful.
So I fell back on the second strategy – asking people who’ve done them and who have attended them. Many of whom talked about frustrating things (useful!) but offered few hints of what worked well. Is the take home message that when things go well, the medium is not memorable? Interesting thought, and something to keep in my hip pocket. I also watched some webinars in my field (NCSCE has several posted for streaming), which gave me ideas about how to make the experience interactive.
In the end, however, it really came down to envisioning myself doing this. Starting with the waking up at 3 am knowing how to rework a set of slides to make it appealing on line.
Why am I sharing reflections about this? Because, in a nutshell, I think it sums up how we go about preparing a new course or a new class. We are, after all, all of us at least marginally more knowledgeable than the students in the room or the peers in the hall. We have at our finger tips (or know where to find) the content we need. But the step from that knowledge to conveying it meaningfully to the audience requires more than the content expertise or practice with the discipline. It requires opening ourselves up to ideas from experts in tangential fields (even those “perfect webinar in 25 minutes” folks) and talking to people who have taught within the discipline.
And probably, for those classes that really go beautifully, we need to be open to the insight that comes out of the blue, at 3 am or during our commute. In my case, I’m going to share the outcome of my imagination on March 29 at 2 pm Eastern. The price is right – it is free!