I’m a great one for using my hands when I’m trying to communicate, and I find that the more self-conscious I get about this trait the poorer my communication gets. I was aware of this, but hadn’t given it too much thought until I recognised that one of the negative effects of the past 18 months is the extent to which the many hours of Zoom calls has changed the way I interact. It’s the impact of being able to see myself on the screen while I’m talking, this makes me acutely aware of how I look and that, in turn, makes me conscious of my customary use of (often expansive) gestures which I use to back up my verbal communication. I’ve become much more static when I’m communicating and I think that I’ve become a poorer communicator because of it, and I don’t think I’m alone….
This sudden awareness of the change was provoked when my colleague, Graham Cook, sent me an article recently. The article is by Annie Murphy Paul and focusses on one chapter of her latest book “The Extended Mind” which considers research by Martha Alibali, one of the world’s leading researchers on gesture and learning. Reading this was a bit of an “A-ha” moment for me in that it really helped me to understand that my (and others’) gestures are not just arm-waving, but have a very deliberate and positive role in communicating. Some of the effects we may see are:
For me, as a facilitator and designer of learning, these are hugely important bits of data. I’m still thinking about what they mean about how we use virtual learning channels like Zoom, but I already know that the bank of static faces I see on my screen are really not conducive to effective learning. It also tells me that the very active, multi-channel learning I experience in an experiential learning setting is massively more powerful than keeping learners confined to desks and limiting their movement. (People …are more than 50 percent more likely to remember a point we make when a gesture accompanies it; students who incorporate gestures into their study habits remember almost 40 percent more of the material than students who don’t. Annie Murphy Paul)
As long as we’re still wholly or partially dependent on virtual classrooms there are things I need to consider for integration into my practice as a facilitator:
In relation to that last bullet point RSVP Design has some tools that are perfect in encouraging gesture and movement: Images of Organisations ,Colourblind, Colourblind Plus and Simbols are very effective in this area.
The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain by Annie Murphy Paul was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on June 8 2021