I asked the principal at the end of the session to please send me any feedback about how the meeting went and any feedback he had from staff. The principal sent me an email the following day to say the staff thought that things had gone well but that he just had a few pointers for me about facilitating. One of the pointers (his idea) was that I should have asked all staff members to close their laptops while I talked.
Now, this idea had never even occurred to me as I quite naturally use my laptop nearly every part of my working day and expect to see others doing the same. Sometimes I am answering emails, and sometimes blogging or tweeting about whatever I am listening to. Sometimes I am researching the background or sites related to the presentation topic and sometimes I am just checking my work schedule.
But the principal went on to say that some of his staff were not on task, they were checking emails and doing other tasks and not paying attention to what I was saying. I have to say that the tasks that they were given were all completed despite his allegations. I was quite happy with the outcome of the session but he was not happy with his staff. I suspect that he felt I did not have control over my audience. I, on the other hand, was outcome focused and was quite happy that teachers were multitasking in their busy day.
My response to the principal at the time was that he had raised an interesting point and I felt it was a good conversation starter. We never did have that conversation but I often wish I had the opportunity to open it up further.
Recently I attended another meeting where we were asked to close our laptop lids and put away all our devices while we listened to the speaker as he facilitated for two hours. The speaker spent a lot of time talking and leading the session over several hours which involved some interaction with other members of the audience, and moving around but when some of us went back to our devices after a while, we were directed to close them again
Now while I understand how this strategy is useful for short periods of time, but cannot understand how a presenter can realistically expect that learners would not be able to use their devices over prolonged periods of time. It smacks of the "sage on the stage" unidirectional type of pedagogy that I had hoped would be on its way out. It does not give any agency to its participants, nor does it allow participants to interact with online content which would have strengthened knowledge about what he was talking.
The argument that devices are distracting is one I have discussed before. Are they a distraction from learning or are they now an integral part of the learning? Do they allow participants to interact and process content in may different ways or is multitasking just a myth? Can new knowledge be created while a presenter/facilitator speaks? These are all questions that are relevant for todays teachers and learners. Multiple means of representation, action, expression and engagement are all part of the universal design for learning principles. I think we need to bring these principles into our everyday work and "way of being".
We might need to let go of the obsession for being in charge. What do you think?