Creating safe spaces online: reflections from the symposium

A huge thank you to everyone who supported and attended the Contemplative Pedagogy Symposium this year. It was certainly very different and in some ways less then ideal! But the connection was powerful, refreshing and restorative. That people could join us from all over the world resulted in greater diversity than we have had before at our face to face events.

We did not record any of the sessions because we wanted to create a safe and contained learning space. However, I still wanted to find time to share some of our learning with those of you who could not attend.

This year we had two students on the organising team – Lily-Rose Fitzmaurice and Lanaire Aderemi both students at the University of Warwick. This is not something we have had before but in planning this year we felt that not having students involved was incongruent with the approach of contemplative pedagogy which we try to embed. They generously ran one of the workshops on the first day of the conference and produced a recording of their session after the event so that I could share it with you.

Their session, entitled ‘Setting the table, sitting with selves’, was about creating safe and creative learning spaces online. The video is full of very useful stuff, including reflections about themselves, their teaching and learning. I would really recommend watching the whole thing.

However, I also know the pressure we are under so I thought I’d highlight some key parts.

Setting the table

I absolutely loved the ‘Setting the Table’ introductory exercise (from 02:27-04:00 in the video). Using the idea of sharing food it was a good way to get people to interact through an accessible task that draws everyone into the space. It worked brilliantly at the symposium.

Student voices on safe spaces

The next section of the workshop which stood out to me as particularly relevant to our teaching this year was the video that Lily-Rose compiled featuring students talking about what a safe space means to them entitled ‘Safe spaces in higher education online: student voices’. I’d say this is essential viewing. It made me reflect on the complexity of these issues and how safe online learning looks different for different students (from 13:55-19:50 in the video).

Since first publishing this blog the video of this has now been made available as a stand alone. If you wish to use this in your teaching or training you are welcome to do so provided it is appropriately attributed.

Creating haikus that capture safety

In the last section that I want to highlight Lanaire guides us through the use of a haiku writing task to explore our own sense of safety and share it with others. This would be useful for someone wanting to introduce a simple poetry task in their teaching. The guidance and rationale are excellent (24:38-26:18 in the video).

Moving forward

Since the symposium I have been in touch with many of you on the mailing list to ask for your help. People are coming forward with great ideas about how to develop the network and there is a feeling that there is a real need for this at this time. From the feedback I received following the contemplative discussions I hosted back in the spring as well as the symposium, I know that finding ways to meaningfully connect are important for people right now. I find that discussing things with other educators to be restorative, helping to develop my sense of professional identity and appreciate the contributions we all make.

To develop things further I need people who would be willing to support additional activities as I cannot do more than I already am. I have had some people step forward to help out and it would be great to have some more. Please email me (barrattc@essex.ac.uk) if you’d be interested in getting involved. If this is not you at the present time please know that simply reading the blog, making the occasional comment, attending events and the odd supportive tweet are incredibly helpful and appreciated too.

Over the next few months keep an eye out here for future events and ways to connect.

Thanks for reading and all the work you are doing

Caroline

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