BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 21 AUG 2020


Back in the room

This week I was back in the classroom, five months after my last live gig. In that time:

The transformation to Live Virtual Learning (LVL) has been amazing and has gifted a productivity boost that would otherwise have taken years. On a personal note, I am getting five eggs daily from six brown hens I got just three weeks ago because I am now here to look after them. Pullets eggs for now but getting bigger every day; productivity is on an upward trajectory everywhere, Friday Frittata will never be the same again.

Monday morning I rediscovered there is nothing like being in the room, it’s like riding a bike and I still need to sleep for two hours when I get home. Live Virtual Learning is here to stay but Blended Learning- in other words, a chunk in the classroom- will be back very soon.

Jim Leishman was a poet and football manager, now Provost of Fife. At a tech company event near Edinburgh I shared a platform with him when he was in his pomp. His keynote message was “be in the room” which, in sporting parlance, means be present and give it your all. Humans need to be eyeballing one another to effectively be in the room, using all our senses. The smell of the coffee and pens and colleagues coconut hand sanitiser; the taste of caramel shortcake and finishing first in that team task; getting a round of applause or a laugh, in other words the noise and bustle of real life happening in real time with three dimensional people, not the cat on the keyboard; the sight of everything in your view- and purview- creating the picture you ping to your brain every nanosecond.

This week the brief was- by Friday- to have a winning online pitch, but it was created in a real room. Today’s dress rehearsal will, obviously, be in the Zoom Room but the Monday and Wednesday sessions are in the classroom and were much nearer normal than I dared hope for. Apart from the obvious kinetic energy created, here are three key areas “in the room” works best for:

  • Flexibility: LVL offers an opportunity for a cracking pace and short, sharp breakout groups that can be changed in a jiffy. The classroom gives the facilitator more information that allows for direction changes, switching groups around and a sense when more (or less) time is needed on a topic.
  • Action Learning Small Groups: Small groups getting time to develop an idea (essential in pitch development) works better in the room; breakouts in LVL are more effective if they are short, sharp and focussed. Getting a sense of how groups are progressing, nudging them along and the “buzz” in the room all contribute to an effective learning event.
  • Banter: LVL offers an insight into the personal lives of people you interact with and it’s an area that should be developed from a Business Development angle (is that YOUR sausage dog?), but banter as a group is more difficult when everyone is trapped inside their own box. It may be that there is simply more time, but I think it is more than that: on LVL the banter is kind of “after you” and that makes it more staccato. There is more humour and chat and “behaviours” from the group, more personal human contact and more of what makes life worth living when ten people are in a classroom.

Saturday, 8.20am, both masked-up, Claire cuts my hair for the fist time in five months. I like the new appointment system better than the long wait on a leatherette bench. 

It really is game on. Now, for a fee of five eggs, is anyone out there able to come and feed the chickens from time to time?



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