View of the feet of people hiking

Taking lectures and meetings outside

As we move towards the end of the academic year, I’m getting a little time to catch up on things that I have in my Stack of Interesting Things. Today, I watched a webinar recorded by Cornell Civic Ecology Lab where Brittany Thompson discusses storytelling in teaching and learning.

Brittany starts her talk by telling her research story. It was interesting to see the way others share their stories in response to hers. The chat questions encourage her to reflect in more depth on her research as part of the presentation. I agree with Annie the facilitator that this was putting Brittany “out there”, in a vulnerable position, both in asking for constructive criticism on her story and in sending everyone off to tell stories to each other in breakout rooms. But it worked and people enjoyed sharing their stories; I know I wanted to be in the breakout room rather than being left in the main room 🙂 . Some good resources too; I had heard about StoryCorps before, but Story Maps and StoryCenter were new for me. I lost myself in Story Maps, travelling to the Isle of Mull through Allen Carroll’s Story Map. Definitely tools to investigate further and play with.

What resonated with me strongly today was Brittany’s comment about waiting until the end of the day to escape from sitting in the classroom. There was a stark contrast between the image in her slide of blue sky and treetops and the sense of captivity as she described her experiences of school.

Screenshot of slide showing treetops
Screenshot taken from Cornell Civic Ecology Lab presentation by Brittany Thompson

I chuckled when she switched to the snowy photo of Cornell, another nice contrast between her first photo of Jamaican treetops.

Brittany Thompson in the snow in Cornell
Screenshot taken from Cornell Civic Ecology Lab presentation by Brittany Thompson

Brittany’s reflections on the importance of getting outdoors links with conversations I had this week with colleagues about moving our lectures and meetings outdoors. Two of us have experimented with this a little already, but we all agree it would be good to look at this in more depth and see what we can do. A good place to start is the Outdoor Journeys framework: Questioning, Researching, Sharing. For meetings, there is the step-by-step guidance [pun intented!] from FeetFirst for walking meetings. The only thing I haven’t figured out is how to take minutes on the move. Time to break out the digital recorder!


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