Indiana Jones & the Temple of Zoom. Learning Technologists as ‘Digital Archaeologists’ & Online Classrooms as ‘Digital Temples’.

The University of Kent host monthly Digitally Enhanced Learning Webinars organised by Dr. Phil Anthony. The purpose of the webinars is to provide “…an opportunity to share examples amongst our colleagues when using digital technologies for teaching” (University of Kent, 2020).

The theme for March 2021 was pedagogy and practice when teaching online. For the SDAU project, we used Zoom to deliver the interactive sessions. I submitted a talk entitled ‘Indiana Jones & the Temple of Zoom. A Transnational Online Pivot Adventure‘. The talk explored Technology Enhanced Transnational Learning (TETL). Using metaphors as way to understand what we do as Learning Technologists seemed to be a creative approach. Can an online classrooom be understood as a digital temple? Could a Learning technologist be a Digital Archaeologist? If this is the case, perhaps we would take digital field notes such as those discussed by Rapport (1991) or Remsen (1977). In the temple of doom itself in the film, the main character Indiana Jones faced a range of different challenges including spiders, bugs and traps. As Learning Technologists we also face a range of challenges that we must overcome. This seems like a universal metaphor.

Zoom, Doom & Gloom to Zoom, Boom & Bloom!

The fundamental question is the extent to which using metapors canhelp us? It is possible to observe that metaphors in learning technology were becoming widely used, for example the EdTech Metaphor Generator. One of the most compelling examples of using metaphors in learning technology was the article entitled VLEs: A Metaphorical History from Sharks to Limpets by Tom Farrelly, Eamon Costello and Enda Donlon. If the VLE was “dead“, then perhaps using metaphors can bring it back to life (The Ed Techie, 2007). Thinking about the VLE as a “digital car park” challenges us the use our imagination in different ways (Farrelly, Costello & Donlon, 2020).It is important to acknowledge that “Metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature” (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980: p3).

The Microsoft Teams Live Experience

What was interesting about the webinars was that Microsoft Teams Live was used due to the high numbers of attendees. There are some key differences between a normal Microsoft Teams meeting and a webinar for example uisng the Q&A feature and automatic muting. Lots of the presenters, including me, had not used Microsoft Teams Live before, so it was very helpful to participate in the test session before the live event.

Could ‘Zoom Capital’ be a thing?

One of the points I was keen to make is the importance of capturing the voices of Learning Technologists particularly in research contexts. This formed the basis of a techno-autobiographic or techno-autoethnographic approach in order to capture the reflections of a Learning Technologist. In a previous collaborative blog post, I had explored this approach with an academic here. Can we improve the future by exploring the past? Back to the future?

(Wheeler, 2021)

Imagination is crucial in Education. Metaphors can be part of the imaginative process.

Attending a webinar exploring the use of Zoom delivered by Autumn Caines, an Instructional Designer from University of Michigan (@Autumm) was really compelling and informed many of the ideas I shared during the talk. She talked about the importance of exploring power and digital hierarchies in Zoom, for example being a host ir a co-host and how it is possible to view different versions of meeting participants. Her article exploring the “Zoom Gaze” can be found here (Caines, 2020).

Perhaps the role of both the imagination and metaphor can be a platform to think and re-think what we do as Learning Technologists, particularly in transnational distance learning and online pivot contexts. It can be argued that there are two critical points about imagination. Firstly, that imagination is “…a powerful, meaningful prize of a capacity” and secondly that imagination can be lost (Morris, 2021). Finding creative opportunities as Learning Technologists becomes important. Check out the #CreativeHE group and the blog post about the February 2021 meetup.

Check out the hashtag #DigiEduWebinars to find out what people are saying about the webinars on Twitter. It is possible to submit an idea for a talk here. A video recording of the presentation is available here.


Caines, A (2020) The Zoom Gaze Video conferencing offers an illusory sense of unilateral control over conversations (Online) Available at: [Accessed 3 March 2021]

Caines, A (2021) The Zoom Gaze w/Autumn Caines [Zoom] (Online)

#CreativeHE (n.d.) Creative HE Community (Online) Available at: [Accessed 5 March 2021]

Fhaidy (2018) Animation – Indiana Jones Cartoon Clip Art PNG in FAVPNG (Online) Available at: [Accessed 5 March 2021]

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1984. [film] Directed by Steven Spielberg. Available through Amazon Prime [Accessed 16 December 2020]

Indy in the classroom (2021) Indiana Jones Fonts (Online) Available at: [Accessed 5 March 2021]

Leschallas, W & McDonald, P (2020) Techno-autobiography & the Transnational Online Pivot: Exploring a Lecturer’s Experience of Teaching Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 12th Dec. Available at: [Accessed 3 March 2021]

Morris, S (2021) humanizing Digital Pedagogy: the Role of Imagination in Distance Teaching. Digital Pedagogy Blog [blog] Available at: [Accessed 3 March 2021]

McDonald, P (2021) The Creative Empire Strikes Back. Exploring Creative Approaches to Building and Fostering Community with #CreativeHE. Digital Transformation Blog [blog] Available at: [Accessed 3 March 2021]

McDonald, P (2021) Indiana Jones & the Temple of Zoom. A Transational Online Pivot Adventure, University of Kent Digitally Enhanced Webinars. Online. 5 March 2021.

Rapport, N. (1991). Writing Fieldnotes: The Conventionalities of Note-Taking and Taking Note in the Field. Anthropology Today, 7(1), (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 2 February 2021] 

Remsen, J, V. Jr (1977) On taking field notes [pdf] (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 2 February 2021]

The Ed Techie (2007) The VLE/LMS is Dead. Educational Technology Blog. [blog] Available at: [Accessed 3 March 2021]


Back to the Future. A Learning Technologist’s Reflection on a Victorian Lesson on Zoom

What can a Learning Technologist learn from the Victorian Lesson?

Recently, I have been listening to the podcast version of 25 Years of Ed Tech by Martin Weller. It reminded me that perhpas the past is a good place to explore the future.

It is Thursday 11th February 1897. We are practising our handwriting, writing our names and the date.

In February 2021, I attended a Victorian lesson from the Pit Village School at Beamish Museum streamed live on Zoom and delivered by a teacher in authentic Victorian clothes. In this blog post I reflect on the Victorian lesson experience. To what extent have our approaches to pedagogy and technology-enhanced learning (TEL) changed since then?

The Revival of the Sandbox

Live Victorian Lesson on Zoom at The Pit Village School at Beamish Museum

The teacher talked us through the learning objects or ‘technology’ in the Victorian classroom. In addition to the abacus and the blackboard, one of the objects that really stood out was the mini sandboxes for each student. The teacher explained that students would practise making shapes in the sand and when they made a mistake they could start again by shaking the box. This is a powerful approach. This struck me as being familiar in virtue of the fact that in learning technology, we often make use of a sandpit or sandbox approach. For example, when we train staff, we create a copy of the tool and call it the sandbox platform in which staff can be trained and feel free to make mistakes without being concerned about having an impact in a live site. This seems to be a valuable approach that exists in both Victorian and present pedagogical realities. Perhaps there are no mistakes, only learning!

The teacher showed a board with a range of writing frames and sentence builders with an image to reinforce the content for example exploring the use of the definite and indefinite articles “hat, a hat and the hat”. Perhaps this could be an early example of dual coding potentially paving the way for multimodal instruction from the “monomodal world” modes (Kress, Jewitt, Ogborn & Tsatsarelis, 2001: p8). Studies have been carried out to explore the impact of embedding visual content in the pedagogic process (Clark & Lyons, 2004 in Caviglioli, 2019: p13). Multimodal learning can be argued to be teaching with “the multiplicity of modes (Kress, Jewitt, Ogborn & Tsatsarelis, 2001: p8).

Manners maketh…the Pedagogy?

Manners maketh…the Pedagogy?

The teacher identified some of the famous sayings that could be heard in the Victorian classroom such as ‘Children should be seen and not heard’. It seemed that there was an overarching teacher-centered approach. Conversely, nowadays it could be argued that there has been a significant pedagogical shift to embracing student-centeredness. Furthermore, educational institutions have celebrating increasing their opportunities to celebrate student voice. Students are both seen and heard.

Chalk & Talk, Sage on the Stage

Chalk & Talk and Sage on the Stage

The approach to teaching was explicitly ‘chalk and talk’ and ‘sage on the stage’. The teacher explained that the teacher would stay at the front of the class and students would come to the front to show the teacher their work and the teacher would rarely walk around the classroom. The classroom itself seemed to be in a linear and traditional with desks facing the front. The teacher informed the lesson participants that the days at school would be long with not a great deal pedagogical variety. Students also attended Saturday and Sunday schools too. In contrast, modern classrooms are often designed in circles and a dynamic structure.

The teacher discussed how poor children may not have gone to school, how factory work after school would be common, how some students were required to pay the teacher, and how there was not a great deal of homework due to the need for students to work and the lack of daylight.

The teacher brought to our attention the use of slate that students would use to write on using chalk. It was interesting to reflect on how the slate is similar to the tablets we use today. I recall visiting Beamish Museum with English for Academic Purposes (EAP) students and reflecting on how an iPad is similar to the slate tablets. The blackboard was a key feature in the Victorian classroom. The teacher used a stick or pointer to draw the students’ attention to content on the board. Learning by repetition and or by rote was commonplace. We took part in a live poem reding where the teacher recited a poem and we all copied. The teacher tested one student to see if they could remember the whole poem. Copying from the board was expected. Perhaps the blackboard was like a form of collaborative Google document. It was interesting when we participated in a timetables activity that the teacher asked us to keep off the chat function in Zoom. The teacher also led a money task exploring shillings, farthings. The teacher talked us through how students could use ink and that could be an ‘Ink Monitor’ who mixed the ink powder with water and distributed the ink to the individual desks. Modern learning environments appear to be curated in dynamic circles. According to the teacher who led the session, there were 70 students in the Victorian classroom. Nowadays, perhaps there is a trend towards smaller class sizes. However, the lecture format does emulate Victorian pedagogic features such as a large number of students facing forward with a static Lecturer delivering content. If it is not broken, don’t fix it?

The teacher explained that students were instructed to write in a right-handed capacity only and that if a student did not do this then they would have their hand tied behind their back. There seemed to be a need to make every student the same. This reminded me of the famous blue eyes and brown eyes experiment. In 2019, I delivered a TED style talk exploring this experiment where I placed printed out images of blue and brown eyes under the seats of the audience and emulated the experiment live followed by a reflection.

To some extent, perhaps the Victorian classroom was still a “political place” (hooks, 1994: p4). The teacher discussed how the curriculum was constructed of “God, Queen & Country” (Teacher, Victorian Lesson at Beamish, Thursday 11th February 2021). In the Victoria classroom, there was a picture of Queen Victoria on the wall and an image of Grace Darling who rescued survivors from a shipwreck in 1838 (Grace, 2020). Perhaps “The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy” (hooks, 1994: p12). The experience was a ‘radical’ experience bringing up issues of equality, pedagogy, and social justice.

Pedagogic Neostalgia

Pedagogic Neostalgia?

A few weeks after the lesson, digital certificates were emailed to lesson participants. This could remind us of open badges. It was possible to download the certificate and personalise the content.

A Certificate of Attendance for the Victorian Lesson

Attending a live Victorian lesson on Zoom was a radical experience bringing up issues of equality, pedagogy, and social justice. It was almost an experience of ‘pedagogic neostalgia’. Neostalgia can be defined as “the combined emotions of nostalgia and newness at the same time. Often feels like rediscovery and has more of a positive connotation than nostalgia” (DangerousMuteLunatic, 2013)Perhaps attending a Victorian lesson and reflecting on the experience was a useful activity in terms of exploring how it has led to the modern experience and to help us speculate in the “Brave New Digital Classroom” of the future (Blake, 2013).

It is possible to book the Victorian lesson experience here.


Beamish Museum (2021) Victorian Lesson at The Pit Village School on Zoom [live performance] Performed by Beamish Museum. (Beamish Museum, Country Durham,  11th February

Beamish Museum (2021) Live Victorian Lesson (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 14 February 2021]

Blake, R J (2013). Brave New Digital Classroom: Technology and Foreign Language Learning. United States: Georgetown University Press.

Caviglioli, O (2019) Dual Coding with Teachers (Woodbridge: John Catt Educational Ltd)

DangerousMuteLunatic, 2013 ‘Neostalgia’, Urban Dictionary (Online) Available at: [Accessed 5 February 2021]

Grace (2020) Grace Darling Website (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 14 February 2021]

hooks, b (1994) Teaching to Transgress Education as a Practice of Freedom (Abingdon: Routledge)

Kress, G, Jewitt, C, Ogborn, J, Tsatsarelis, C (2001) Multimodal Teaching and Learning The Rhetorics of the Science Classroom (London & New York: Bloomsbury Academic)

Mark Heckroth, 2018. Brown eyes and blue eyes Racism experiment Children Session – Jane Elliott Available at: [Accessed 14 February 2021]

McDonald, P, (2019) CollecTED, ‘Education: A Memory of the Future’, TED style event, The Collective, London, June 2019

Weller, M (2000) 25 Years of EdTech (Online) [pdf] Edmonton: AU Press. Available at: [Accessed: 14 February 2021]

Qiānlǐ zhī xíng, shǐyú zú xià. Laozi: Delivering online teaching in China

In the next in our series of blog posts on delivery of online teaching to Shandong Agriculture University (SDAU) Pip takes over and shares highs and lows from the first week of interactive teaching.

And remember each 10,000 mile journey begins with just 1 step (千里之行,始於足下 Qiānlǐ zhī xíng, shǐyú zú xià. Laozi.


I started working at RAU in May 2020 and immediately started on the online teaching project at SDAU in June 2020. Early in June it was acknowledged that students would not be able to return to campus and so all pre-recorded content was passed over to the SDAU team, they would take responsibility for delivering it to students. When teaching officially began on 15th June our biggest concern was the interactive sessions.

Interactive sessions using Zoom

We had changed from using WeChat to using Zoom a short time before teaching was planned to go ahead. It was time to ‘deep dive’ into exploring how to use Zoom as a platform on which interactive sessions would take place. Zoom had become used widely as a platform for remote and online learning and working throughout the pandemic. I had heard a great deal about new phrases such as ’Zoom bombing’ (O’Flaherty, 2020). Additionally, there was a great deal of discussion of ‘Zoom fatigue’ (Fosslien & Duffy, 2020). Whilst I had some experience of using Zoom before for example as a platform for delivering presentations using the chat and sharing screen features but I was not a Zoom expert and did not have experience being a ‘host’ so I felt that I needed to rapidly upskill if I was to support our lecturing staff using Zoom.

To support use of Zoom I offered ‘Zoom Drop In’ sessions to our lecturers who wanted to try out some the features before teaching went live. I was committed to exploring what ‘Zoom Literacy’ would be. When you have to teach someone else something, it is a good way of making sure you know how to use to first. I created approximately one hundred meetings so experienced my own version of ‘Pre-Zoom fatigue’. What we discovered during the first week was that it was not possible for the same host with the same account to host simultaneous meetings which prevented some of the interactive sessions from taking place on time or altogether. The error message ’The host has another meeting in progress’ became very familiar. This meant that we rapidly developed a workaround to solve the problems. For example, Chantal and Husna, the other RAU Learning Technologists created meetings. When it became clear that there were just too many parallel sessions required our IT Service Desk created some additional accounts for me to use. As a result, the timetabling process became very complex. Some of the interactive capabilities were restricted as the lecturers were not ‘hosts’. As a result, one of the Lecturers, Deepak Pathak and I decided to test out polling and break rooms in an exploratory longer case study interactive session. The two hour session involved exploring Starbucks. Deepak shared screens to reinforce the correct answers for example showing a Google Map of the location of RAU.

It was positive when the lecturing staff emailed me after their session to reflect on how it went. This helped identify ways to improve what we do for subsequent iterations of online teaching. I dropped into the majority of interactive sessions to see how teachers were using Zoom to engage students for example one of our lecturers, Nicola Cannon used a quiz format effectively.

Later on in the week I set up an online community of practice on Gateway, RAU’s Moodle VLE as part of a forum to share best practice.

“We all belong to communities of practice” (Wenger, 1998, p6)

An additional idea I had was to create a ‘sandbox’ approach on Zoom where all the Lecturers could share ideas of how to create interactive sessions without worrying about making a mistake during a live session.

I shared a Zoom webinar led by Eden Project Communities which was a ‘testpad’ for Zoom practices with Lecturers. I attended and it was great to see one of RAU’s Lecturers participate too. The session involved taking part in a breakout room as a student which was helpful to understand what the Zoom experience is like from the perspective of the student. One of the most helpful activities was a collaborative whiteboard led by host Samantha Evans where we explored games, collaborative activities, Zoom and other tools.

At this point in time we are currently starting the third and final week of teaching. My reflections are concerned with moving towards an evaluation of the project, I’ve recently created a problem-solution spreadsheet where I identified areas of development and potential strategies to overcome the problems.


Throughout the three weeks of teaching, it was intended that assessments would take place every Friday. Accordingly, I tried to develop a workflow for assessment which involved the Lecturers creating the tests with the answers and articulating what invigilation might look like with Bonnie Wang and Lola Huo from SDAU. Early on in the process we found out that 30% of the marks were for attendance. We explored how Zoom can provide attendance monitoring reports and discovered that this was possible. Another challenge we experienced was that during week two of teaching, the Department of Education of Shandong informed SDAU that examinations need to be postponed. As a result, we responded by identifying alternative dates and ways of carrying out assessment.

The SDAU project journey began with one step. We learned a great deal in a short space of time and developed ways to overcome challnges rapidly. I’m looking forward to the next steps. In future, we would like to work with JISC to explore how their transnational expertise can help us improve what we do. We attended a webinar led by UCISA on the topic of Improving online access in China and had a positive meeting with Dr. Esther Wilkinson, Baoyu Wang and Anne Prior from JISC about how we can work together in a constructive capacity. JISC have recently launched a pilot to explore what quality online education looks like for Chinese students (JISC, 2020).

A huge thank you to Marieke Guy, Xianmin Chang, Steve Finch, Bonnie Wang and Lola Huo for their hard work and support to make the project happen.

In the next post we’ll look the final week of teaching delivery and lessons learnt.

By Falling We Learn to Go Safely, Chī yī qiàn, zhǎng yī zhì,吃一堑,长一智