F2F Teaching is Like Surfing

I’m a sucker for a good analogy.  I happen to catch writer Scott Z. Burns on Charlie Rose’s program and he was talking about the difference between writing for movies (which are typically finalized before audiences see them) versus writing for the stage (where writers revise based on previews and can continue to tinker with the play long after performances have started).  My rough summary:

Doing a movie is like skiing.  You move but the mountain stays still.  Writing for the stage, though, is like surfing; your audience is constantly providing feedback to which you can adjust. You move in response to how the waves move.

I immediately thought of teaching face-to-face classes, where a good presentation or exercise often requires adjusting on the fly.  That discussion question you thought was provocative falls flat.  A student brings up something you hadn’t anticipated and it triggers an excellent discussion–at the expense of what you thought you’d be examining that day.  And doing this often feels like I imagine balancing on surfboard would; nothing is solid or secure, close and constant monitoring is required, and quick adjustments are crucial.

Planning my first-ever online course, I’m reminded of how often I’ve relied on those off-the-cuff adjustments to keep face-to-face classes lively and engaging.  With an asynchronous online course, though, I expect to lose this level of immediacy and spontaneity (while gaining some other features).  It’s more skiing than surfing.


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