Hello. My name is Lee Campbell and I work as a lecturer in Fine Art at Loughborough University. My teaching, practice and research interests relate to Performance, participation and audience. Recently I was awarded a Loughborough University Teaching Innovation Award, to embark on a period of research in order to explore the potential of Skype in the learning environment. I argue through combining theory and practice that:
The body in terms of participation underpins my practice as a performance artist and I am really interested in seeing how the body operates in terms of social communication when it is restricted to being ‘online’- Skype enables me to explore this.
Please post up your comments, observations and questions about using Skype using the twitter hashtag #technoparticipation
and or/to Textwall via SMS using the prefix abc and then your message to the number on screen. Texwall is a free service depending on your service provider deal.
I am keen to hear from teachers and learners who have experience of using or witnessing Skype being used as a virtual platform in the classroom. I am interested to know if the experience helped you think more about concepts relating to audience, participation and engagement, embodiment and disembodiment, virtuality and physicality, as well as of course learning and teaching.
I would be interested to hear your views on a comment posted up on my Textwall in a previous version of this paper at Nottingham Trent University suggesting that ‘the Skype experience interrupts a certain flow to reality’ and ‘isn’t It human nature to prioritise physicality?’
As a teacher and a performance artist, there are clear links between how I spark the engagement and participation of an audience during one of my performances and how I attempt to do the same with students in the context of my classroom.
My teaching practice uses my knowledge and expertise of generating Performance work with an emphasis on participation from within my discipline. I am interested in the pedagogic value of Performance. In both my teaching and Performance practice there is a strong emphasis on the ‘body as a tool’ whereby I invite audience members during my performances and students in my teaching sessions to engage in an activity that is very bodily, that utilises the physicality and materiality of the body. I instruct audience members and students to push their bodies to extremes. In the words of Cynthia Morrison Bell:
I have recently been integrating performative techniques and different forms of digital technology, most heavily Skype into my lectures and seminars at Loughborough University in order to provoke participation by students.
I am currently drawing together different practices around my institution (Loughborough University) from across its Schools. By setting up a dialogue between teaching and research in my practice so that both work in tandem with one another and inform each other, I aim to produce a stimulating and creative learning environment by which both students and teacher are engaged in a collaborative learning process using performative strategies in conjunction with different forms of technology to achieve outcomes and Skype is so far proving to be effective in generating such an environment. I am committed to helping students engage with multiple technologies to improve their digital literacy and using the learning environment as a space in which to not only reflect upon practice but to produce it.
The aims of my Skype project are to:
The aims of my Skype project are to:
My experience of using technology in the classroom stems from my previous work in English as a Foreign Language teaching whereby I have used Skype to conduct online tutorials with students from all over the world.
I started using Skype in my lectures and seminars in February 2015 and invited different speakers from different parts of the world to share aspects of their professional practice with the student audience via their presence on Skype. Speakers would engage in a conversation with me and then engage in a question and answer session with students. Speakers also had the opportunity of using Skype as a premise for producing practice; recently I invited a group of MA students at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London to generate an audience participatory activity as part of their Skype presentation. This opportunity enabled them and the students to heavily reflect upon together ideas surrounding participation in relation to the concepts ‘embodied’ and ‘disembodied’, ‘presence’ and ‘absence’, and ‘virtual’ and ‘physical’ not just in theory but in practice and that practice would be right inside the lecture room for them to experience first hand.
Both students and presenters have very well received the inclusion so far of a Skype-presence in my teaching. Collating the comments written in various testimonials by students and presenters taking part highlighted Skype as facilitating the following
In May 2015, Senior Lecturer in Performance at Sheffield Hallam University Dani Abulhawa presented aspects of her research and practice to a group of first year undergraduate students in Performance Design and Practice at Central Saint Martins and then in June to a group of PhD research candidates at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
I later invited Dani to share her observations of using Skype on these two occasions as part of a performative lecture I gave recently at Nottingham Trent University disseminating my Skype project. Presenting via Skype as part of this event, her observations of both experiences concentrated mainly of the problems of not being able to see the audience except me standing in front of my laptop. She commented that did she did not know how the audience read or registered what she said and she found it unsettling that she couldn’t read what was going on in the room; she couldn’t get any feedback from the audience in terms of bodily nuance, people’s frowns or smiles, or nodding with the speaker. She didn’t know if she needed to clarify something or go over a point she had made again.
Dani highlighted in her comments how the environment in which she teaches (Performance) is very much about her being physically present and that what she finds really interesting about presenting via Skype relates to how it, for her, seems to mirror debates that were going on years ago in the context of Performance Studies about the difference between screen acting and theatre.
She suggested that:
One major concern that has arisen throughout the various Skype-infused teaching sessions, has related to spatial dynamics between myself, the speakers via Skype and the audience and I have tried out various configurations to explore the relationship between these three groups of participants. In early sessions, the Skype speakers would only be able to see me and not the learner audience. To signal that that audience was indeed present, I would turn round my screen for a brief moment so that the Skype speakers could see that there was indeed an audience present or if due to technological constraints, then the learner audience would be asked to make a noise to signal their presence.
In my recent lecture at NTU, the Skype presenter even asked the learner audience to confirm their presence by walking past the camera on my laptop.
Having presented a paper to the learner audience which they could not see, during the following question and answer session, if any member of the audience wished to ask the Skype presenter a question then they would take my place at the presenter area and the audience member would engage in a conversation with the speaker where each other could virtually see one another which I hoped would ease communication between audience and speaker rather than the speaker just asking and answering questions to an audience they could not see: communicating with an invisible presence.
I was certainly not anticipating the question asked by this audience member in my recent Nottingham lecture.
His request to the Skype speakers for a guided tour around their geographical locale of speaking was granted, an interesting provocation to suggestions that presenting via Skype renders place of speaking inconsequential.
We took a leisurely stroll through Skype presenters Tom and Dani’s living quarters and a brief interlude with Dani’s cat!
Dunphy is unable to attend an important family occasion so has a virtual presence speaking from his hospital room.
The whole episode presents an interesting interplay between what it means to have a virtual and physical presence in terms of communication.
Marital disagreements still occur.
You can still sneak up on people and surprise them.
Your virtual body can extend to that of apparatus.
Which comes in very useful in this scene in which you can be used to hunt out napkins from a high place
On the one hand, you can be given a hug.
And on the other, told to shut up.
But you have your uses. In this scene you are trying to tell the female character that the boy is in love with her before he leaves but technology being what it is, although Dunphy is shouting, his Skype voice her end is mute and she can’t hear him.
Is the possibility of a future digital-oriented classroom full of robots really that unimaginable?