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  • Writer's pictureSumbella

Cultural Awareness in Virtual Facilitation

[#facilitation + #culturalawareness / #inclusion] When you look at this photo, what do you see behind me? A computer screen? When I look at it, I see 10 teachers who joined me for a virtual workshop. Even though I didn’t see a single one of them, yet I felt very connected and in touch with each of them as they wrote to me in the chat box and used audio to share thoughts.

I reflected on why this type of connection and learning was possible despite the fact I didn’t actually see anyone, and here are my thoughts:

💡In the Middle East North Africa (#MENA) context, a majority of the population here are #muslim.

💡…A majority of #teachers (and those working in education in general) are women.

💡…And so I work with lots of #Muslimwomen who wear the #hijab - they cover their hair when in the presence of non family members.

The home space is one where women who wear hijab typically remove it, thus it is preferable for many to remain off video.

With this in mind, if you try to enforce videos on for a virtual session, it can sometimes be awkward for any participants who wear hijab to take a call from home.

This doesn’t mean you should never expect them to turn videos on at all:

✨It just means it’s something to be conscious and considerate of.

✨It means it’s good to give advance notice and flexibility should you need videos to be switched on.

✨It’s also important not to assume people are not following or engaged just because they don’t have a video on.

I once was in a session where the facilitator suddenly demanded that we turn our videos on. My friends who wear hijab were not ready for this and wouldn’t turn them on. They were then criticised for being unprofessional. It was a very uncomfortable moment, one that could have easily been prevented by extending even just a dash of #empathy and #consideration.

So here are some of my rules of thumb for facilitation in the MENA region:

1️⃣I always assume videos will be off but I encourage and welcome those who want to turn on by praising when I see it: e.g. it’s so nice to see you there!

2️⃣I make sure I have plenty of activities requiring easy to type answers in the chat box throughout

3️⃣I make sure I read names out and can see the participant list

4️⃣I consider the outcomes and make a call on whether I really need to see the teachers or not. If I do, I tell them in advance we’ll need videos on.

💭#overtoyou: Is this something you’ve had any experience with? Is there anything you do to help prepare or adjust for a “videos off” session with your learners or participants? I invite you to share and would love to know.

P.S. in this session, we covered #literacy and #CambridgeReadingAdventures, the levelled reading scheme by Cambridge University Press Education. Thank you again to the super team at Crescent School Abu Dhabi for all the contributions and the things you shared throughout. #grateful 💛🙏🏼

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