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Remote learning. I was sceptical

I’ve been having piano lessons for about a year. It started as a way to help me relax and, as I have issues with concentration and understanding what people are telling me, was my attempt to find something enjoyable to keep my brain interested and open to learning something new.

I’d catch the local ferry, yes a ferry as the tutors house is across the bay, and then walk up a steep hill to his house. I was rewarded by the amazing shiny black grand piano, where I would clatter my clumsy fingers across brightly contrasting keys. Way too extravagant for a complete novice, but it made the experience more exciting.

A few months ago, I decided that I really should have a piano of my own. I went out and found a second-hand upright piano, with just the right amount of elegance and attractive inlaid wood carpentry. The look was somehow the most important thing for it to fit into my front room. And at just £50 I was very happy with my new musical purchase. It has issues; it has the wrong casters and it seems to go out of tune every week, but I love it.

I also have a lovely Spanish classical guitar, bought as a Christmas present by a very close friend of mine. It’s been carelessly gathering dust for a few years and I decided to brush it off and see if I could get my stubby fingers to pick out a tune. Luckily, my piano teacher is also an excellent guitarist. Brilliant it turns out. So, I’ve been having weekly piano lessons followed by a guitar lesson. Lessons are relaxed and we take impromptu breaks with a bit of chatter and nonsense in between some serious learning activity.

Everything was going swimmingly. Then, suddenly, the world changed. 

I knew my tutor provided private lessons at the local school but didn’t think about the fact he was therefore mixing with loads of children. And now that a couple of students have tested positive for COVID-19, he’s in isolation. 

It looked like my music lessons would have to stop.  

Then, a text arrived from my tutor. He suggested we could continue with our lesson using video chat. I was sceptical, but I agreed to give it a go.

At first, my scepticism was reinforced by a few technical issues. He is an accomplished musician; not a technical guru. He couldn’t understand why his microphone wasn’t working. Then once he’d realised, he’d pressed the microphone mute button on his laptop keyboard, he told me he couldn’t see me. That, it turned out, was me. I’d clicked on voice chat and not video. Clicking on the video icon solved that in seconds. And suddenly we were in business.

My lesson was the first he’d attempted using remote learning technology.

I wondered if my specific learning issues would clash with the new technology driven experience. Interestingly, I discovered I prefer learning remotely.

I found that I was much more comfortable without someone in the room with me. My particular challenges mean I can struggle with people I don’t know very well being in my personal space.

Then I realised, I was happy to ask him to slow down and show me again. Strangely, having someone on a screen, rather than in your presence, made it easier to ask them to adjust their speed, repeat a demonstration and provide the help I needed.  

Learning remotely also introduced a level of interaction that was unexpected. My tutor was able to record and play back my efforts, zoom in to see how I was placing my fingers on the guitar and zoom in at his end to show me what strings he was using. This was a level of interaction that I had not expected.

And he was able to send me links to web pages with visual help. Access to this additional information was invaluable. And he could do this without distracting me; I couldn’t see that he was searching on google or opening folders on his laptop. His actions, that I would normally have found distracting, were simply not an issue. Information and assistance just appeared, as if by magic!

In all, I learned more than I normally do in a single lesson. It turned out, my tutor was a natural at remote learning facilitation and the distance freed him up to search for and find useful information that he knew would help me, whilst I practised, without distracting me.

So, in summary, my first guitar lesson delivered remotely was a success, with many advantages over my traditional lessons:

  • I didn’t have to travel; nor did the tutor.
  • Access to additional information was seamless.
  • He could send me supporting information after the lesson ended that will support me as I prepare for my next lesson. 

And going forward, I know I can:

  • Set up mini lessons if I need extra help.

My initial scepticism has vanished. Remote learning has been a positive experience. Which, given it was for a something so practical was a lovely surprise.

I shall definitely look for other opportunities to learn remotely.

March 19 2020Craig Worcester

Craig Worcester

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