“It was satisfying once we ‘got it!’”

“It was satisfying once we ‘got it!’” That was the comment in the Zoom chat at the end of a session I observed on Monday. The meeting was twelve ninth grade students in a follow up orientation session, practicing Harkness skills over Zoom. In this meeting, the facilitator (from the Browne Center at the University of New Hampshire) offered a brainteaser to the group. To solve it they had to move in order through every participant and when they hit a roadblock they had to start from the beginning. The progression of emotions seemed to be puzzlement, frustration, laughter, patience, and collaboration as they slowly figured out and then executed the solution. The facilitator asked students to write their overall feeling in the chat when the session concluded. This comment – “It was satisfying once we ‘got it!’” – really jumped out at me. What makes a Zoom discussion satisfying? Solving puzzles and brainteasers is fun, and we expect it to be challenging and to make errors as we go. Can my class look at their text in the same way – like a puzzle? Not to suggest there is one “solution” to the text, but can we bring curiosity to untangling the text? Can I bring curiosity to listening to how someone can have such a completely different understanding or point of interest than I do? Can we find satisfaction in both the process and the result? I found these to be helpful to ponder as I turned to my own classes held over Zoom. I am thinking about ways to present some little puzzles, nuggets of text, small discrete problems to my class so that we can feel that satisfaction of group accomplishment and build on it for the more nebulous discussions that are more our norm.

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