Today I remembered that we can learn from the most unexpected sources, if we are open to the experience.
Looking for relief from the oppressive news of the day, I clicked on a link from NPR titled Meet Gaelynn Lea, The 2016 Tiny Desk Contest Winner. Usually I would pass by reading an article about the winner of a contest, but this uplifting story seemed to be what I needed today.
Then Ms. Lea said this:
"Because when you have a disability, especially one like mine where it's pretty visible — I didn't want that to necessarily be the first impression. Not because I'm ashamed of it, in any way, but just because I wanted it to be about the music."
Be about the music. That's what I learned. We (all of us!) need to think about what's really important in our modern workplace learning environments, and focus on true learning in the virtual classroom. Gaelynn Lea wants the focus to be on her music; we should want the focus to be on learning. People are an important part of the learning equation; just like musicians are an important part music. But the musician isn't the message - the music is the message.
As Jane Bozarth just reminded me this morning, the virtual classroom can be a great leveler. And it's true. Age, race, disabilities, and other visual/physical characteristics don't have to be important any more.
This is the great advantage of the virtual classroom experience - it can be as much about the learning as it is about the the people.
(As an aside, this is one of the reasons I've resisted live video streaming of the facilitator and learners. I want to connect with the conversation and the content *I* am not what is most important! For more on this, see my post To Webcam or Not to Webcam.)
Designing any virtual learning, whether it is a blended learning experience or a standalone virtual training, should lead with what the outcomes of the experience should be. And that doesn't mean replicating the traditional classroom experience.
While writing this I just had another realization - isn't this a core tenant behind social learning? Sharing of ideas while building trust and credibility, without pesky prejudices and preconceived ideas blocking the way?
Today, I challenge you to "Be about the music."
And.. I humbly suggest you read the article and listen to Gaelynn Lea's musci. Her story is interesting. Her music and voice are hauntingly beautiful.