The question we may ask ourselves as drama teachers could be, “Is technology our friend or foe?”
During these disruptive times, we are no longer seeing our students face to face but holding lessons via various apps such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Skype. This immediately places us at a disadvantage for we can lose the personal touch. In addition, not all students will have unlimited wifi, access to a computer or smartphone and even if they do, connectivity might not be the best thus creating glitches and time delays. Reminding the student to uncheck the mute button and allow video means they can speak and see you. Some students may find it entertaining to mute parts of the lesson!
Seeing my students on an individual or duo basis in normal times allows me to engage with my students without hesitation. I have encountered occasional time lags when their screen may freeze. I may be giving some advice on a character, but then find I am talking to myself! One student encountered terrible wifi connectivity which meant that the screen frequently froze which disrupted the flow of the lesson.
Once hidden behind a computer, you can no longer see what notes your student may be making on their text work. During a lesson, I had been asking for specific notes to be made. When I discussed these notes at the following lesson, I realised that none had been made. Now I ask my students to write notes down and read them back to me.
Being in their own surroundings can also bring a series of disruptions. Different noises such as their dog barking or someone walking into the room interrupting the lesson causes a distraction. I find pupils’ attention spans can be lessened and instead of looking at you, they are attracted to something happening outside. Pencils and papers fall to the floor or they fiddle with the keyboard to alter settings and in some cases, send a chat message!
Drama has an important role to play in personal development with skills and qualities for life. Stimulating the imagination can prove vexing in a technological world as the computer screen is not a replacement for the “live” experience of face to face teaching. It can become difficult to create the required atmosphere.
I would not rule out this method of teaching students, but it comes with a different set of difficulties that we as teachers need to address. Whilst set text work and character analysis can be explored with relative ease, the performance may be hindered.
Technology may have advanced but it does not always provide a teacher-friendly situation.
Online Teaching – Is Technology our Friend or Foe? – Sarah Truelove