• JP Leighton

Time for Open Discussion

As we gear up for the start of classes in about 2 weeks, there are many changes that are taking places in the midst of this COVID 19 pandemic. One of these changes is a slow but systematic effort it seems to curtail open discussion in a number of academic spaces. Although I do not completely agree with the direction that the University of Alberta has taken to suspend almost all face to face classes, this decision seems to be partly based on the direction of the chief medical officer from the province. However, the information we receive from the Province and the City of Edmonton is contradictory at times.


What I do know is that the best learning takes place when instructors and students can create relationships and engage in open face to face discussion. This is more difficult to do over Zoom and other of these types of technologies because let's be honest the technology is far from ideal. For example, the lag between speakers is profoundly irritating and it is not easy to fully appreciate facial expressions when the video lags or stalls. I have also observed that during this pandemic the opportunity for discussion, dialogue and open debate has been increasingly curtailed at our institution. I have observed this within my own Faculty of Education. Zoom meetings are held where chat options are disabled and little time is left for questions at the end. This is a dangerous trend because administrators are making a number of changes that impact not only instructors but also students. As professors and students we must speak up against the use of these tactics. For those who are interested in using your voices, the article below is about 2 years old but an excellent read on how people's voices are often silenced in the name of obedience and civility, and how being mindful of this tactic is essential to continue to speak.

https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2018/11/16/when-calls-civility-are-attempts-silence-messenger-opinion


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