“Is Learning on Zoom the Same as In Person? Not to Your Brain?

My blog this morning is my comments on this article, Is Learning on Zoom the Same as In Person? Not to Your Brain”  by Stephen Noonoo. A link to the podcast is given at the end of my post. 

I think this is one of the most useful articles I read during this pandemic. For those of us who made a change from in-person classes to online classes in response to COVID-19, this article is very informative. I think in-person classes are best for younger kids and older kids have the ability to adapt. Children adapt more easily than us adults because they grew up with technology and don’t have to unlearn anything.  We, adults, have to rid of our attachment to the old ways of doing things and REALLY have to change. What children do need to work on is regulating their self-control with devices, but that is a different topic.

My husband and I are both teachers. Our jobs didn’t stop because of the pandemic.  We moved our teaching online and tried to continue without disrupting our lives too much.  I guess I am thankful that both of our children are teens now and have been using electronic devices for their communication with their friends, school, and homework.   I am not the kind of parent who restricts our children from using devices.  Rather, I encourage them to use it wisely as long as they exercise self-control, not letting the device “control” them. They manage to get good grades at school, contribute to household chores, are respectful at the dinner table when all of us gather for meals, and listen to our online worship service on Sunday mornings with my husband and me.  They are not addicted to their devices and can leave them when it’s needed.   

We don’t have many options in the middle of a pandemic but to utilize what tools are available to use to continue learning.  Just to reiterate these two things:  1) we are living with a global pandemic.  There is no known reliable vaccine out yet.  2) In order to contain the spread of this virus, we have to stay vigilant about how we interact with others.  We have to continue wearing masks when we gather with people outside of our family.   And most of all, in order to continue learning, especially for our school-aged children, we have to rely on technology.  Therefore, if we can remedy some of the problems with learning using Zoom, we can overcome the barrier to learning online and make our lives much more efficient.

Response to Interview

EdSurge: Can you briefly explain what Zoom fatigue is and why it’s a thing?

Wiederhold:Sure. So it’s when you feel tired, anxious or worried after you overuse video conferencing. Part of the reason is there’s a slight lag. No matter how good your internet is, no matter how fast it is, it seems we have this millisecond—maybe a few milliseconds—delay. So the communication isn’t in real time, even though it seems like it is. Our brains subconsciously pick up on the fact that things aren’t quite right. And the fact that things are out of sync and we’re accustomed to them being in sync when it’s face-to-face communication, our brains try to look for ways to overcome that lack of synchrony. After a few calls a day, it starts to become exhausting.

My Response: I think the remedy to the situation is by (1) using your cell phone with the video conference instead of using the audio on your computer.  This way, at least the voice on the other hand will come out as “real-time” as possible; there is no lag on our telephone.  (2) By using the telephone as your subsequent communication mean after the Zoom conference.  (Given that you have an ongoing relationship or meeting with the other party.)  I think sometimes seeing the person’s face once is enough.   All the other interactions can be carried out by telephone subsequentially.

EdSurge: I hear the term synchronous learning in education a lot to refer to Zoom calls where the teacher is on with a class of students and they’re learning live. But synchronous might not be so synchronous after all?

Wiederhold: That’s correct. So face to face, we have synchronous communication. We also have other things that help us feel good when we’re face to face in conversations. We have releases of dopamine. We have the hormone oxytocin being secreted. Those are feel-good hormones. Then we have all the body language and the cues. You see a person just barely move their eyes, do a micro-expression, things like that. We can pick this up very easily in person, but we don’t always pick up those little nuances when we’re on a Zoom call. And if we do pick them up, they’re out of sync. You see a person smiling after they smiled.

My response: I am very grateful for this piece of information and how Dr. Wiederhold made us aware of this fact.  So now we know the shortcoming of this technology that it cannot completely replace human interactions.  So, all we have to do is to make allowance for it and be more understanding of the situation.  Just know that this type of learning is only temporary until we meet again or know that we have to supplement it with another in-person meeting sometime in the future but just not now. 

EdSurge: There is also an element of multitasking as we’re constantly looking around the screen, searching people’s faces.

Wiederhold: When clients that tell me they’re getting Zoom fatigue, I tell them first and foremost don’t multitask. If you’re on a call, be on a call—don’t be looking at your phone, don’t be looking at your email. Also, if, if you’re on a work call and somebody asks you a question and you haven’t been paying attention, it becomes a little bit embarrassing. The chat function can be distracting to some people, but it can also be a nice place to send document links.Yes, this is very important tip to know and to execute. I suggest that we should set the “view” on our screen that fits our situation.  If you are the type of person who is easily distracted, don’t set your view to “gallery view” where everyone in the conference’s faces show.   Instead, just set it to the speaker’s view where only the person is speaking appears.  This way, you will only see the person’s face when that person is speaking. It reduces the distraction for you and help you feel more personable to the speaker. I also tell people to maybe turn off their big [monitors]. I found this worked for me too. I was doing a lot of calls and some people, when they’re larger than life and looking right at you, it’s just an automatic response to go, ‘Oh my God. There’s this giant floating head on my screen.’ If I leave my laptop on, then it doesn’t seem as disconcerting to have the person on your screen. They’re not as close as they are on a 50-inch screen.

My Response: This is a great tip which I didn’t realize until it is mentioned here.  Also, I think if we place the computer a little further away from them, it will make them less intimidating. So, the person on the other end of the computer can see more of them/us. 

EdSurge: From what I remember, you wrote it triggers this part of our brain that almost sees it as a threat to have a giant head in front of us.

Wiederhold: Correct. It’s what we call the fight-or-flight response. Again, this is subconscious. When we have prolonged eye contact with that large appearance, our bodies get flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone. And we automatically think there’s danger, even though consciously, rationally we know there’s no danger. But just for that split second, our bodies rev up, and they’re going to either fight or flight.

My Response: This is a  good point.  So, now we will remember to reduce the size of the view on our computer if we don’t want it to arouse our fight-or-flight response.    

EdSurge: That could be really big for teachers who need to hold their students’ attention and create an authority presence.

Wiederhold:Exactly. And there’s other things, like when you’re doing a call with your camera on, you want to really have your neck, shoulders and head all in the frame. You don’t want to be seated too low. So you want to kind of frame just the upper part of you in that frame. Teachers may need to move their seats higher or adjust their computer. They will want to look at lighting, make sure that you’re not in a dark room. You don’t want the lighting coming from behind you. You’d rather have it in front of you. You want to speak louder than you normally would. So that kind of tends to make people think you have more self confidence or authority, and you’re projecting better. Plus it makes you better understood and more audible.

My Response: As we teach on Zoom, I think it’s very important to have our voice heard.  Not only do I amplify my voice when I am teaching, but I will also wear my AirPods to eliminate background noise. I think it makes my voice more clear as I project to speak.   If you could, invest in a good head-set so you can cut out the humming sound in your room and other noises in the room too. 

EdSurge: When you talked about learned behaviors before, does that mean that this is something that will appear strange or unnatural to educators? Is this something that they need to practice?

Wiederbold: With time, most of these things will become easier. It’s just like public speaking. I have a lot of patients that have a fear of public speaking, even on a Zoom call. It’s not so easy to speak if there’s five, 10, 20 people on the call, but it becomes easier over time as you practice. One of the skills I teach all of my patients that come in, whether it’s a 5-year old child with autism or whether it’s an elite performer, is how to do diaphragmatic breathing. So teaching them just to slow down their physiology, by doing that nice, slow, controlled breathing, and then having that carry over and make them appear calmer. Once their brains start feeling calmer and their body’s following, or their bodies feel calmer and their brains follow, they exude that calm to the rest of the people on the call. So teachers can learn that and start to feel more comfortable.

My Response: This is wonderful to know and get affirmation from the professional community about diaphragmatic breathing.  We teach that in our yoga courses at CSEBRI.  Meditation is known to reduce stress.  We even post our first mediation course on our Youtube channel so people can access this useful tool during the pandemic as needed. For Yoga, I think learning on Zoom is much better than learning in person with masks on.   

I had given a yoga class in-person.  It was a group of about 15 people whom I met for the first time.   I couldn’t see their faces as I looked over to see.  It was also very hard and hot (literally as hot in temperature) to do yoga with a mask on.    I would choose learning on Zoom where I can see people’s faces than learning in-person with masks on where I couldn’t see people’s faces (both from a teacher’s and a student’s view.). I just like to see people’s faces.

Is Learning on Zoom the Same as In Person? Not to Your Brain | EdSurge News


“At this point the Zoom call has almost come to define learning and working in the age of COVID-19. But a few months ago, people began realizing that …” (click to continue)