Hybrid Learning is a Dinner Party

What is the perfect metaphor for Hybrid Learning? I came up with this one: Hybrid learning is a Dinner Party. Read on to see if you agree.

Firstly – the timeline.

Advance planning will ultimately make a remote and hybrid learning easier to pull off. Making learning outcome lists and giving yourself plenty of time to prepare each task will minimise chaos. Pre-preparing food before the event is also a useful tip.

Like a professional party planner, don’t be afraid to outsource so that some of the food (content) can be catered. It doesn’t have to be everything – you might serve a store bought entree and jazz the dinner up with some expert curated snacks and add your touch with your favourite home-made recipes.

Keeping it simple for yourself is crucial. You want to be able to enjoy yourself and mingle at the feast, so ensure that you share the workload.

Before the event

Give your attendees a clear address so that they know where to find you. Create your guest list and make sure that you have enough food for everyone. Remember that some people have very strict dietary restrictions and allergies, so prepare some ‘everyone nibbles’ to keep everyone partaking in bite-sized tasty bits. You can focus on more individualised main courses. (This is like providing a sampler menu of simple tasks for all students to pick and choose from and use your face to face video conferencing or zoom time to serve the main dish).

Invitations (and expectations) are clear

Have you ever been invited to a barbecue only to arrive and find out it is actually a high tea? (I have – and ripped jeans and jandals was not a good fit). If you are inviting someone to a formal dinner or a more casual tapas vibe, let them know ahead of time. If it is pot luck make sure that this is clear on the invitation too so that your guests can arrive well-prepared.

Check on dietary restrictions

Have you ever been served something that you can’t eat? I have (I was vegetarian and I was given spinach flavoured but beef filled tortellini). It is really awkward. Or one time I served a friend a pizza with home-grown chillies on it only to find that they really can’t handle heat. It’s ok to double check before you serve, just to make sure that everyone is getting something that is going to be easily digestible, appropriately portioned and not too hot (difficult). It is also a good idea to check that people are getting what they actually ordered (matching the content to the need).

Double check that you have all of the ingredients

What happens if the guests eat everything too quickly? Keep a back up stock of ‘chips’ or snacks in the pantry. If someone is wolfing down their main course next to someone else who is delicately nibbling around the edges, it can’t be a bad thing to have something else at-the-ready (maybe some of the outsourced goodies) to keep them happily eating.

Make sure you have a good corkscrew

Ok this part of the metaphor is potentially off – would we ever serve students wine? No, but it is handy to make sure that you have the tools that you need ready. Video conferencing? Check your mic and audio. Collaborating? Check your share settings. Drawing? Make sure you have your whiteboard app and stylus ready. Just like a corkscrew is vital for opening a bottle with a cork, the right tools need to be tested, live and ready to go to work.

Prepare the space

If guests know where the food will be served then your space design has probably succeeded. But what about where to hang their coats? Where to mix and mingle? Where to find the dessert? Like place settings and clear door signs, the dinner party will work better if all of the elements are clearly labelled. (Think file labeling in your LMS – today’s work, vegetarian only, Flipped task, etc).

Plan the conversation

It would be unfair to seat your best friend at the far end of the table between your deaf great aunt and some other ‘oh no I have to sit beside this person’ person. Look for commonalities to group your guests accordingly. This could be based on the type of food they are enjoying, the course they are enjoying, the utensils they are using or the conversations you would like them to have an opportunity to have together. You are the host and an expert at seeing connections. And just like a dinner party – you (the host) can’t talk to everyone all at once easily, so feel free to move about and mingle as you need to. Why not even stage your dinner at different times? The dinner table might not be big enough for everyone to be seated, but you can plan the evening so that everyone will get a turn to sit with you.

Change the lighting

If you are using video conferencing tools, consider changing the lighting so that it is appropriately light and bright. Next to a window or with an additional lamp is a useful trick to make everyone feel like they can see you. This bit of the dinner party metaphor might be more candle-centric.

Make it fun

Dinner parties with strangers usually liven up with some icebreaker activities. Add some silly banter to your repertoire to keep your guests entertained while they enjoy the feast. Personalise the experience, make your guests feel welcome and have fun. Take breaks too – a big feast could be a bit much all in one go. Allowing time for chatting and social connections will make eating more enjoyable.

Ask how the food is

Finally, ask them how they are doing. All this effort, all dressed up, the invitations, such lovely food – check that the dinner guests are ok with regular check ins. And if someone is not enjoying themselves or not feeling like being chatty Kathy at the table? Send them home with a doggy bag to enjoy in their own time later. And the friends who couldn’t make it at all? They can get takeaways.

Your dinner party can be enjoyed anywhere/anytime, at the formal table or in the lounge on knees with a bit of expert ‘dinner party’ planning.

Bon Appetit!

And here is the infographic I made to explain it more succinctly in my role as educational facilitator for Momentum Learning.

What about you? Does the dinner party metaphor work for you?

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing teachers right now?

Metaphor or simile for you?

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