Slack vs, WhatsApp & Email
Slack was a very useful tool and I really liked it a lot. I found it very convenient in that I was able to download it as an application on the phone, where I could get notifications whenever there was an update. I liked how it was a direct link to the professor, and that I was not required to use the traditional email, which I truly hate. It helped me a lot because I was able to freely ask questions, engage in conversations with my classmates, and see everything everyone was saying, which was often helpful information, or answers to questions I was intending to ask. I liked how conversations on slack were very informal and relaxed, and how it was a safe space for people to engage in conversations about common topics which brought us together, outside of the class setting, such as the conversations about the world cup matches.
In all of my other classes, since I first entered university, I had never had a platform dedicated to one class. It had always either been a WhatsApp group, or the traditional email. Never had I used anything similar to Slack, so after the completion of this course, and my experience with the use of the platform, I am very impressed with it and how helpful it can be for students and professors. It is convenient and focused whereas, WhatsApp groups and emails are filled with other conversations and groups so, it is not uncommon that often, conversations get lost in a bombardment of other conversations, and important information is missed. Through Slack, I also found the ability to form different conversations based on topic very helpful because it organized the information being shared and made it easy to scroll through sent messages based on needed information, rather than having to read through long chains of messages to understand what is going on. This is usually the case with WhatsApp groups, where one would need to scroll through so many sent messages to be able to locate important information, or understand what was missed. It is highly inconvenient and a waste of time, so Slack, on the other hand, is very efficient, time friendly, and convenient. I would definitely recommend it to all other professors because I believe that as much as it is convenient and helpful for students, it is also convenient and time efficient for professors and better helps them keep track of their students’ needs and requests.
In this class, unlike any other, I really appreciated the professor’s openness to the use of zoom. Because she was able to look beyond the set rules, the regulations, and policies, which I personally believe are irrational, and stubborn, she redirected her attention to students’ needs and was able to identify ways in which students, whom were not able to attend physically, could still participate and benefit from the knowledge shared in class. I thought that was a very courageous and helpful decision because it truly demonstrated the ability of at least some professionals within the institution to be human and look past the order and unfair structure of the way the university is encouraged to operate. It truly frustrates me that the university often lacks in understanding that students are humans too. It is not uncommon for them to have personal issues or occurrences that might not enable them to participate physically, and that it is not a case of laziness or an unwillingness to put in the needed work. They tend to disregard the fact that just like any normal human being, students too have a limit and are likely to become burned out. Rarely, does the institution make any efforts to acknowledge the students’ wellbeing through reforms to the policy. Had they truly paid attention to the needs of students, they would have encouraged the use of hybrid learning, or at least the offering of zoom participation in the case of inability to participate physically. If it makes things easier and gives the student a chance to refrain from missing a chance to participate, then why not just make it an option? Professors who set grades for attendance, and still penalize those who give genuine excuses for not being able to participate, without at least the option to participate digitally, are unfair and cruel, in my opinion, because by doing that, it is awfully dehumanizing, demanding, and stressful, especially when the person is truly going through a tough time. it leads to the student resenting the education system, and it fails to accomplish the true purpose of an educational institution which is to foster learning and growth and birth minds that are of high intelligence and an ability to proser in the real world.
So, for your ability to be considerate of your students and provide the option to attend digitally, I truly thank you Dr. Maha Bali. It was one of the most humane things a professor has done in a very long time, and it helped a lot in removing some of the stress of university as a whole from our shoulders. Because it was an option, it eliminated the sense of guilt and shame which came with the inability to attend physically. I would definitely recommend for every professor to implement it as an option in their teaching and delivery methods, because truly, it goes a long way in helping develop students’ willingness to learn, their motivation and drive, and humanizes them which touches them in a way which develops their loyalty and appreciation for the course as a whole. The only downside of Zoom was that sometimes, while participating online, I was not able to hear what was being said in class clearly. Other than that, everything was very good.
Class tech, furniture, and setup
The class in which we were taking this course for the duration of the semester was one I really enjoyed. I liked the 360 screens which were all over the class as they allowed each and every person to be able to see what was displayed. To me, it was very helpful because I have bad eyesight, so having a variety of screens to choose from was such a relief. I also enjoyed how the professor, especially towards the beginning of the semester, always displayed different content on each screen and gave us the choice to sit near the one we felt most interested in, for a class discussion and activity. This way, each student was able to contribute almost equally, everyone had some kind of input, and it was highly engaging and fun. Especially in this course, and with the help of the class activities which were enabled by the different screens available, I learned that I very much enjoy class activities and group discussions, as long as they are not graded academic projects with a report. I learned that I enjoy listening to other people’s opinions and learning about the different ways people perceive, think, and operate in the world. I would definitely like to use the 360 boards more often in more of my classes because it changes the dynamic of the class from the normal boring, traditional, and routine educational setting to one that defies routine, tests student knowledge by engaging them, adds creativity, and encourages participation.
Aside from the 360 boards, the way the seating of the class was arranged was very helpful in elevating the learning experience till the end of the semester. In a way, I felt it provided a safe space for expressing ideas, and voicing opinions and perspectives. This is mainly due to the fact that I was openly able to see each and every one of my classmates, and this helped me feel reassured as I was able to observe each and everyone’s reaction and focus while I was expressing myself during conversations and discussions. In return, I also enjoyed observing people while they spoke, and I liked seeing everyone’s genuine reaction to ideas because I felt it said a lot about their perceptions, even more than anything they could have said in words. I liked seeing how Yasser expressed himself, how his body language was while he was talking about different topics, and how his way of interaction differed in comparisons to someone who Is not visually impaired. I was truly fascinating, and I would recommend this seating arrangement in any class, to be honest, because it is way more efficient than being seated in rows and columns, where some have their backs to others, and all are facing the front. The traditional seating, I feel, limits students, elicits feelings of anxiety, reinforces structure and order which limits creativity, and forces students’ focus in a specific direction therefore, limiting their attention to details, and necessary elements which help in improving the learning journey.
Soliya was my least favorite activity for this course. I didn’t like the long sessions, and felt they were unnecessary and a waste of time. While I ended the sessions with a new friend from Italy, I felt the rest of the members in my group were very unengaged and disconnected and it was hard to engage in easy conversations with them. Some of them very limited in their use of the English language and so, struggled to form proper sentenced and conversations. I didn’t like how the moderators where not engaging in conversations with us, but rather observing and moderating, making me feel judged and stressed. Because the moderators were so structured and formal, I felt the Soliya sessions failed at creating a safe space for people to fully express themselves and truly get to know each other. I didn’t like the time in which the sessions took place because it was in the middle of the day where I felt ruined the flow the entire day and didn’t allow me to make other plans comfortably. The only benefit of Soliya, in my opinion, was that it exposed me to a range of different opinions and points of views from people of different backgrounds than my own, and it helped me learn about cultures and lifestyles I hadn’t encountered before. Also, it helped eliminate some unconscious biases I held, and made me aware of the importance of acknowledging and identifying unconscious bias on a day-to-day bases, and especially when interacting with people dissimilar to the normal you have known your whole life. To be honest, Soliya didn’t really help me in developing much, and there wasn’t anything I could say I truly learned after my experience, which I would consider useful moving forward. If I had the choice, I wouldn’t participate again in the Soliya sessions, neither would I recommend it, because I feel there might be other ways one could gain the knowledge intended to be passes on through the Soliya experience.
With the use of google slides, I was able to develop a lot of my skills throughout the semester. In this course, I learned a lot about google slides, which I hadn’t been aware of prior to it. I was never aware of how to construct a game using google slides, and I learned how to do that with the help of my classmates. It was very fascinating, and as I was working on my game, I felt like a little child who had just started walking, because it was fun putting something together of this technological complexity, which I considered my own. Being with very little technological skills and ability, this was a major milestone for me, so I felt very proud of myself and enjoyed the process very much. I learned that Google Slides is not only for working on traditional presentations, but also to engage in group activities, share ideas, and create interactive games. This was new knowledge and I’m so glad that I learned it because it has expanded my skills in the use of the platform, and now I know that I am able to utilize it for various purposes, rather than just one. I can’t wait to share this information and added skills with other people, because I enjoy helping others and passing on things I’ve learned or acquired. There isn’t anything in particular I didn’t enjoy about using this tool. I will definitely use Google slides for many of my assignments and work moving forwards because it is highly enjoyable, and allows me to express my creativity, and my love for design.
https://me.pcmag.com/en/old-collaboration/10093/slack-review https://soliya.net https://eshop.macsales.com/blog/70777-zoom-meeting-better-picture-sound-screen-sharing/ https://ahaslides.com/blog/interactive-google-slides-presentation-ahaslides/
wow, thank you for this very thorough reflection ya Zeina!