Author: Louise Speakman – Lecturer in Midwifery
I joined UCLan the day the UK entered lockdown. This was the same day that a new cohort of student midwives commenced their midwifery programme of study; and we quickly (and affectionally), established ourselves as the covid-cohort and covid-lecturer. As the world adjusted to this unprecedented reality, one phrase I often heard was: ‘we are in the same ocean, but not in the same boat’. The unique and changeable challenges people (learners) faced were complex, intricate, endure and cannot be under-estimated.
TLC – Teacher Learner Connectivity
Becoming a new educator, I envisioned helping learners develop in the way I knew best, empowering them and being ‘with’ them. As a midwife, being ‘with woman’ (or ‘with person’), is to develop a connection with her/ him / them, by providing person-centered care. Connections were based on tangible, physical connections and presence. However, in lockdown, I suddenly found myself not able to be ‘with learner’ in the tangible and real way I knew and had anticipated.
These early days were spent in my daughter’s old bedroom-come-office, with a nappy changing-station as a desk! In this new, isolated environment, questions and doubts arose; how and if I would be able to form real connections with learners (and my colleagues), and if I could be effective in helping others to learn via a computer screen. OF COURSE, was the conclusion!
The opportunities to enable connections with learners (and colleagues) via a virtual classroom are limitless. From realizing the functionality of Microsoft Teams and live lectures on video calls, to asking learners for quick and real-time feedback on how they were feeling, using emojis and gifs in the chat box. From creating ‘mood’ word-clouds using Vevox and Kahoot!, to making short introductory videos using Flipgrid and doing virtual ‘show and tells’ in live meetings to share objects that signify something important to / about them, and to groupwork over the web.
TLC: Tender Loving Care
Focusing on interpersonal skills, there are many characteristics of a midwife that I have realized are transferrable to the role of an educator, and significantly contribute to the final product: learning. These dispositions can support the dynamic needs of learners, empowering them through the diverse challenges, with a focus on person-centered learning, which increases engagement.
Empathy, compassion, resilience, critical reflection and self-awareness, role-modelling, listening, leadership and emotional self-control, are some of these interpersonal skills. This mindful approach enables greater building of trust, understanding of motivations, values and beliefs, respect and empowering and instilling self-belief. Although negatives can present in the form of bias, exclusion, blurred professional boundaries or educator-burnout, being critically reflective and self-aware can lessen these risks.
Despite the strange new world that I found myself in, digital technologies dissolved the barriers, enabling and empowering me to teach, engage and connect with others. Furthermore, I now realize that almost any subject can be dynamically taught over a computer screen from a bedroom! With my daughters Baby-Annabel doll (with the fetal skull landmarks drawn on its head), and a 3D, freestanding, ‘cardboard’ maternal pelvis (with femurs and tibias made from wooden BBQ skewers), stuck into a large potatoes as the feet; even the mechanisms of birth can be taught online!
(All images created by the author).