Online revolution

The biggest opportunity I see opening up to us is devising a means of teaching the Technique online. I’ve already proved to myself there’s huge scope, just from email dialogue. I can’t imagine how well that could be enhanced, using Skype or its successors. If we can forget about hands on, there’s no obvious need to ever meet a student, in person. Would that be good or bad?

Well, if we can’t teach without using our hands, the main benefit from the online revolution is getting our message out there, generating good feedback, so as to attract students to our actual, offline doors. Then, it’s down to us and them whether they stick around. The main difficulty in this second scenario, having linked up in cyberspace, with its implicit promise of fast results, is when our prospective students find themselves having to sign up for the long haul, involving repeated ‘real time’ lessons, often at some distance – a serious logistical difficulty, for a lot of people – with progress at anything but ‘warp speed’!

I think the online appointment is the way we will be visiting a lot of experts in their field, including doctors, teachers, bank managers, psychotherapists and so on, in the near future, just as we already ‘visit’ our friends and relations this way. Only if we define our work as being as exclusively dependant on touch, as, say, physiotherapy, would the idea of taking more of ourselves online than a description of what we do, how others have benefited, links to articles and videos, and our contact details, be a non runner.

I always thought the main challenge facing the Technique was for it to come up with an easily followed – though not necessarily easy to do – DIY model. Of all the books written about Alexander work, so far, none even remotely compares with The Use of the Self, in this respect; and anyone setting out to use that as a DIY guide is, in my view, being brave to the point of foolhardiness. Nevertheless, I take my hat off to anyone in the Alexander world busily creating new DIY paths; and there are a few.

However, I no longer believe the DIY model could work in more than a limited fashion, as objective feedback is too essential a component. I’m sure this could be provided in an interactive, online environment, where individuals liaise directly with actual teachers. I’m equally sure this field of the future is a more than viable alternative to the traditional hands on lesson.

What I am contemplating, which is hardly revolutionary, would primarily involve both teacher and student being able to talk to each other, and for the teacher to be able to see their student, ideally from more than one angle. Also, the student should be able (at their teacher’s request) to see themselves, on live or recorded video. I imagine this is perfectly possible, using current technology, even if that technology is not yet in everyone’s living room. The key element would be visual, because, from my understanding, only that would enable adequate objective feedback to take place. I would envisage feedback taking place through a cycling process between:

Visual – the teacher watching their student
Auditory – the teacher talking to their student, and vice versa
Kinesthetic – the student perceiving their own musculature
Cognitive – the student perceiving their own thinking

For example, the teacher might watch their student (visual) and prompt them to move. The teacher would continue watching (visual) and, at some point, convey (auditory) spoken feedback. The teacher might ask their student to describe (auditory) their (kinesthetic) experience of moving; or they might enquire how their student was thinking (cognitive) as they responded. The teacher might then explain (auditory) how what the student perceived (kinesthetic) differed from what they – the teacher – saw (visual); and how what the student thought (cognitive) they were doing was not necessarily what they did. And so on and so forth.

As and when appropriate, to aid their understanding, a student could be asked to watch themselves on video, with a suitably adjusted cycle of feedback. The feedback element, with the teacher being able to see, and listen to, the responses of their student, and their student being able to recognise the discrepancies between what they think, what they feel and what they do, would be key.

There seems little to be gained by the student being able to see the teacher, other than for social purposes, as his or her every move provides an unspoken demonstration which it would be almost impossible for them not to react to. The danger is that they will try and copy what they see; or they will adopt their use to suit their perception of what the situation requires – something we all do in the presence of others, automatically. Either or both of these can happen, consciously or unconsciously.

2 thoughts on “Online revolution

  1. Dear Nicholas,
    I read this post with great interest, and I have no strong reaction against or for such a teaching model. The one question that occupied me towards the end was whether the training of teachers would need to change, to incorporate more emphasis on the visual/observational, and the verbal, aspects, rather than hands on.
    Another point: in your last paragraph, you suggest that little would be gained by the student being able to see the teacher. I agree with this, in the context of on-line lessons – although the reaction of the student to the teacher is in itself a piece of useful information which could contribute to the student’s learning.
    On the whole, though, I myself don’t like to be bound to a screen for too long during the day and would worry what it might do to my own use; I also wonder whether the concept of being viewed on a smallish square screen might affect the student’s thinking and use.
    I am thinking aloud now: it would be interesting to pursue the idea of e-teaching/learning, and see what could be gained. At the same time, it might be interesting to see what might be lost (in addition to the hands-on aspect): the physical presence of the teacher is a learning resource (a stimulus) that would be absent; the relationship in space (geographical space) between teacher and student would be distorted; the projection of the voices in that space (how they are projected and where they are aimed at), would be lost; it might be more difficult to allow silences in an e-teaching context. Hm – there might be more, but I am running out of steam! On-line teaching is definitely an idea that deserves looking at!
    Best wishes,
    Magdalena

  2. Hello Magdalena,

    Thanks for your observations – you’re absolutely right: the training of teachers would have to put a great deal more emphasis on what they see and hear, and their choice of words, and also the manner in which they speak.

    It’s hard not to envisage current circumstances remaining unchanged, with small screens and decidedly cramped and limited working conditions; but I think it won’t be too long before it is fairly commonplace to have a large flat screen in a fairly central position in the home that it is not necessary to sit in front of to interact with someone through their similarly sized and situated screen on the other side of the earth.

    Although there are a lot of potential downsides to working this way, as you’ve described, I think the pluses are many, too. First and foremost is the obvious one of convenience, with a student not having to leave their home; but perhaps equally important is the absence of any pressure on them to conform to either the implied configuration hidden behind the teacher’s hands, or in their teacher’s physical presence. I believe the greatest danger when learning the Technique is the irresistible urge students have to mould themselves according to what they perceive kinesthetically, via hands on, and visually, through seeing first hand what they assume is ‘good use’. You may have read an earlier blog entry – http://blog.dodman.org/archives/32 – where I refer to this as ‘Alexander tailoring’.

    I’ve had some very interesting email dialogues with people who have made useful progress simply through the ebb and flow of questions and answers allied to guided, personal exploration. I can’t help but think this sort of progress could be increased exponentially in real time, especially with the addition of video.

    It’s still early days, though!

    Nicholas

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