I Feel Famous Already
Air Date: April 19, 2021
April 19, 2021
12:46 Erika Kozole, Student collaborator and Co-coordinator Laurier Brantford Women’s Centre
- Girl (On the Rise) – International Women’s Day Song 2021
Thank you to Serena Austin, One Market Research Assistant, Melissa Weaver for graphics, and Nicole Morgan for campus promotion. Music by Scott Holmes. We are grateful for the financial support from the Senior Executive Office.
Bruce Gillespie 0:02
Welcome to One Market, keeping the Laurier Brantford community connected. I’m Bruce Gillespie. On this episode, we reflect on a year of remote teaching and learning with a faculty member who teaches material that’s pretty heavy and challenging at the best of times. Then, we talked to a student who helped write and record a song celebrating International Women’s Day with some of her Laurier Brantford peers over Zoom, no less. And finally, we talked to one of the winners of this year’s ACERS Showcase celebrating undergraduate research at Laurier. All that and more coming up on this episode of One Market. Our first guest is Sonia Meerai, a contract faculty member in the Faculty of Social Work. As we reach the end of this semester, Sonia joined me to look back at our year of remote teaching and learning.
Hi, Sonia, and thanks for joining us today on One Market.
Sonia Meerai 0:57
Thanks for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
Bruce Gillespie 1:01
We’re excited to have you here. Partly because I and Tara have already heard some of your stories about what teaching has been like during the pandemic and having to teach remotely. And if I’m not mistaken, you teach stats courses, which to my mind seem challenging to teach at the best of time. So, I can’t imagine having to do it remotely. So, what’s your remote teaching year been like?
Sonia Meerai 1:23
Yeah, so I teach in the BSW program at Laurier Brantford. And I’m giggling as I say this, because I teach Quantitative Research Methods and Analysis, probably the most exciting course for Social Work students. That’s me being so sarcastic. And I also teach Violence in Families and Critical Issues in Social Work Practice. But, I find the research methods course the most challenging to teach in person, and so adapting it for remote learning was quite interesting.
Bruce Gillespie 2:04
So, how much notice did you have that you would have to be teaching the quantitative methods course remotely? Did you have, like, a whole summer to prep it? Did you have a couple of weeks? Like, how much time did you have to sort of ponder this?
Sonia Meerai 2:15
Yeah, that’s a good question. So, I have been teaching this course for about four years now. And so, the content I have, I would say it’s kind of solidified. But, in terms of adapting it, yes, I had the summer to kind of think that through.
Bruce Gillespie 2:34
Well, that’s good, at least. I mean, I don’t think, based on my own experience, I don’t think having a summer to prepare necessarily makes you feel prepared when you actually get to September and do it. But, it’s nice to have some time to think about it at least.
Sonia Meerai 2:46
Yeah. And that’s all I did, actually. Because I felt like, wow, teaching during a crisis, a pandemic, that would be really hard to kind of anticipate everything because it’s so uncertain. And so, a lot of my prep work was just being super present and thinking through things rather than trying to become an expert, I would say, in whatever this thing that we did, the last year has been. And so, it actually helped a lot in terms of being able to be super present with the students, with the content, rather than kind of perfecting this kind of online learning process during a pandemic.
Bruce Gillespie 2:50
I’ve said it before, and I continue to believe it, I think that’s the right approach to take, I think, trying to convince students or ourselves that we are experts in remote learning, four, six, 12 months into the process is just not feasible. I mean, we’re not. I think it will be clear that we’re not, and so I think it makes more sense to present yourself as, I’m a person who’s trying really hard, it will probably work some days better than others. And that’s okay, we’ll all get through this together. I think that’s the only way to approach this personally.
Sonia Meerai 4:04
Yeah, for sure, because it was so difficult just being able to be connected with the material itself. And so, then being connected with students as well in a format where it doesn’t really thrive on that. There’s, like, this emphasis on, in many ways, a disconnection. The connection’s pretty much forced. And so, because I’m very relational, it was quite the challenge. And so, rather than try to, yeah, be that person that knows how to use the, I don’t know, the poll function on Zoom. I still don’t know how to use that. And I always made the joke with students, “And I’m not planning on learning how to use that right now,” because I don’t think it’s needed in a pandemic. So, yeah, I was just super present with students. And it did take a lot of energy, it does take a lot of energy to do that. But, for me, and I think for students, it was supportive in that way to actually feel connected that wasn’t as superficial.
Bruce Gillespie 5:18
So, when you look back at the past year of remote teaching, what are some of the some of the moments that stand out for you? Good or bad, I guess.
Sonia Meerai 5:25
Yeah, I think the good bits are being able to talk about Netflix shows with students after class on Zoom. So, being able to do these things that we would do in person. So, being able to have that social time was very nice. And in terms of the content, what worked really well, I think, was just, again, having things ready for students, but not expecting students to have a lot of material read, and kind of like this idea of, like, consuming so much information before coming on to a session in Zoom. But, rather, we go through it together and have conversation and dialogue around it. So, that was very helpful. What didn’t work really well, I think for myself, I love using humor. And I found it difficult to, at first, I guess, to kind of get the energetic kind of response that I wanted, that I would get in the classroom. So, it was more around me kind of having to adjust that, you know, silence on Zoom doesn’t necessarily mean that people don’t care. I had to get used to the emoji responses. That was hard for me.
Bruce Gillespie 6:54
That’s a good point. I’ve often talked with colleagues about, because I remember being surprised by this when I first started teaching. About how much of classroom based teaching is really a performance. I mean, you have an audience, you’re gauging your own performance by the energy and what they’re putting in, or how confused they look, or how the discussion is going. You sort of adjust your performance to get to where you want based on what’s happening. And you’re right, that’s so much harder on Zoom, especially if you’re in a class where people don’t feel like turning their cameras on or the WiFi is not great, or the sound isn’t great. It’s a whole different kind of, like, I think Zoom teaching is still a performance, but it feels like a much different kind of performance than I’m used to. Because, like you said, you’re missing a lot of that feedback that you’re used to getting and really that informs what you do next.
Sonia Meerai 7:39
Yeah, I felt like I was on a TV show. I think that’s the difference. Whereas in the classroom, that relational bit that conversation that would occur. Not just with words, but with body language, with just being in the presence of other people being able to communicate in different ways without using words. And then, on Zoom, I really felt like I was in, like, a 12 part series for Netflix.
Bruce Gillespie 8:11
Was it one of those thrillers, or?
Sonia Meerai 8:13
I don’t know, like, if we look at the methods course, maybe a thriller of uncertainty.
Bruce Gillespie 8:19
Right. One of those Nordic mysteries that doesn’t quite make sense.
Sonia Meerai 8:22
And then, teaching Violence in Families, also not very helpful on Zoom because of the content and the, you know, just the depth of the content being challenging at times already in person. So, having that material on Zoom was even more so difficult. So, I felt like, yeah, the series really shifted also based on the actual course that I was teaching.
Bruce Gillespie 8:57
That totally makes sense. And I think to your point about feeling like you’re on TV, I only, I’m embarrassed to say how late in the year I realized this. You can actually turn your sort of self-view off of yourself in Zoom.
Sonia Meerai 9:08
Bruce Gillespie 9:09
Yes. Apparently if you right click over your own picture, you can sort of turn your self-view off. Which I,
Sonia Meerai 9:14
Oh my gosh.
Bruce Gillespie 9:16
Yeah, it’s been life changing because I’m like, I no longer feel like I’m watching myself on TV. Like, I’ve never looked at myself so much in my life. And I’m, like, so tired of it.
Sonia Meerai 9:26
I just learned something so valuable today.
Bruce Gillespie 9:29
And maybe other people will as well, again.
Sonia Meerai 9:31
I hope all of you take note out there because that is the worst function of Zoom, is having to see yourself over and over again while you’re talking. And sometimes I would get caught up because I would, I’m like, “Oh my goodness, there’s a strand of hair out of place.” Oh wow, “I didn’t, I thought I brushed my hair, but I didn’t really brush it for it to be, you know, ready for the camera or the video.” Oh my goodness, life changing.
Bruce Gillespie 10:00
This is how we get through it. We share what we learn with everyone else and hopefully it makes everybody’s life a little bit better.
Sonia Meerai 10:07
That just did.
Bruce Gillespie 10:08
So, I know that you’re working on your PhD as well as teaching, how has that been going for you, again, in this year of sort of studying remotely?
Sonia Meerai 10:15
Yeah. First of all, who does that? What did I sign up for? I love teaching. Teaching is something that I enjoy because I’m also learning with the students. And so, being a PhD student while teaching is so amazing because we have something to talk about in terms of outside of that teacher-instructor, or that instructor-student dynamic. You know, being able to say to students, “I did not finish all of my readings either, so it’s okay.” Or, “I’m also working on an assignment.” So, that’s been very, I think, supportive for students and myself, again, just being able to navigate being a student and remembering how challenging it can be. Especially when you have to work and have other responsibilities outside of school.
Bruce Gillespie 11:20
Yeah, it must really make things more, put that context in exactly. Like, you know, reminding us what students are actually going through versus what you may remember from 10 or 15 years ago.
Sonia Meerai 11:30
That’s right. It reminds me of, oh, yes, you know, it actually, it’s not that easy to read 10 articles, you know, times how many courses a student is taking. I forgot about that until I re-entered into, you know, being a PhD student. And having that remembering also supports me in navigating academic life with students as well.
Bruce Gillespie 12:01
I’m sure they appreciate that. I mean, I’m sure that comes through in the way you teach.
Sonia Meerai 12:05
I hope so. I mean, let’s be real. Did I submit my assignment on time? No, I didn’t. And I share that with them because I think sometimes we kind of set, I don’t know, sometimes there are these expectations that can be unrealistic. And so, being able to embody the flexibility and being adaptable, I think is important in the relationship building.
Bruce Gillespie 12:33
Well put. Sonia, good luck with all of your work. And thank you for joining us today.
Sonia Meerai 12:38
Thanks for having me. This was, I feel famous already, thank you.
Bruce Gillespie 12:43
Our next guest is Erika Kozole, a third-year Youth and Children’s Studies student who recently worked with some of her peers to write and record a song for International Women’s Day. The song is called Girl (On the Rise), and we’ve included a link on our website where you can listen to it. But, before you do that, here’s Erika on how she got involved with the project.
Erika Kozole 13:03
I’m a co-coordinator for the Women’s Center who put the on the event. And we heard about it back in November, we were given the opportunity to create the song. And from there it just kind of took off where we just started planning the event, getting people involved. Yeah, and then the event happened and it was really incredible. Honestly, I’m not an artistic kind of person. And it was really cool to see how a song comes together. And just a whole bunch of self-identified women coming together and, like, talking about issues that we faced in our daily lives. And, like, putting it in that kind of piece was really cool, and yeah.
Bruce Gillespie 13:50
And it was part of the International Women’s Day celebrations, right?
Erika Kozole 13:52
Yeah, so that was our way of kind of having an event and doing something really special, but virtually.
Bruce Gillespie 13:59
So, for those of us who haven’t written songs before, let alone written them with strangers in a virtual remote kind of way. Walk us through the process, like how does this even happen?
Erika Kozole 14:09
So, it just started off with Alysha, the facilitator, she was just amazing. And she started off by just singing a couple of her songs, and having us draw free flow and just, like, kind of feel the music and put it onto paper, just to get us in the mindset. And then, after we all kind of showed our drawings and that’s how we kind of, like, started bonding. And then we kind of sat down, and because we were all kind of there as self identified women, we started to brainstorm ideas. And like, just talk about our experiences, and how we feel, and what we wanted the song to come across as. And it just kind of worked from there from that, like, common denominator that we all are women. And that was really incredible. And then, it was just kind of everyone spitballing ideas, whether it was in the chat or out loud, and just strumming and kind of creating it together. It took about two hours of just us bringing out ideas and throwing ideas in the garbage because we just didn’t like them.
Bruce Gillespie 15:20
It’s amazing to me to think that a bunch of strangers with, again, different backgrounds and experience in terms of songwriting could actually come up with anything in two hours. This to me seems miraculous. So, I just, I love the idea of it. How many people that you have involved?
Erika Kozole 15:34
So, there was about 15 people there. They were all over the place, some of them were Laurier students, and some of them were just friends that really wanted to come and experience this, along with, like, Women’s Center coordinators that were there to facilitate the event. Yeah, it was just like a mishmash of people that just came out and kind of bonded and wrote a song about how we felt, yeah.
Bruce Gillespie 16:04
So, tell us a little bit about the song itself.
Erika Kozole 16:06
The song itself, it’s just very empowering. And, I don’t know, every time I listen to it, I just become really proud because it’s something so unique. I think every section of the song kind of means something a bit different to everyone. And like, the contributions were like, I’m not gonna sing it. I’m not a vocalist. But, there’s a part that says, “sing, sing with me, women in my community.” And that was like, my contribution that kind of stuck. And it was really impactful. We did a screening a couple weeks later, just with some friends, and someone was like, “Honestly, like, that part hits me the most.” And that was such a cool feeling. Because I was like, “That was a part I wrote, like, that’s like, the one that I chose, and everyone liked it.” And now, you’re telling me someone that wasn’t there was like, “that’s the part that hit me the most.” So, I think, just like, how different everyone’s views are when interpreting and, like, listening to the song, and how it just hits people and having that connection. Definitely, it was fun.
Bruce Gillespie 17:27
It’s such a wonderful experience. Again, I just thought of such a great idea when I heard about it. And I like the idea that you were able to bring in, like, a professional singer, songwriter, producer to help sort of facilitate this workshop as opposed to just people with no experience trying to put this together. You had someone who knew exactly what she was doing to lead this, which must have been really fun to work with her too.
Erika Kozole 17:47
Yeah, it definitely was. Alysha was incredible. She knew what she was doing. She knew how to facilitate the group and, like, kind of get us all bonding. And it was one of those things where she just knew what to do and where to take things. Where, like, everyone was just kind of spitballing ideas and she would be able to be like, “That works.” And we would start playing it, or she would start playing it. Not me, I’m not musically talented. But, it was just such a unique experience because she would just, we would get an idea, she would start playing it on the guitar. And we would be like, “You know what, that doesn’t really work. Let’s trash that.” Or, like, “Let’s try it this way.” And there would be, like, someone that would be, like, “Let’s tweak it that way.” And it was just, like, a really cool experience to have that.
Bruce Gillespie 18:40
It sounds amazing. Again, how many of us get that kind of experience, right? To sort of collaborate together on a song. Again, like you said, if you’re not musical to begin with, I think like many of us are not, that’s not something we’d ever consider doing. Like, maybe we’d collaborate on, you know, an essay, a document a presentation, but a song is just so, such a unique kind of experience. And what a wonderful thing to take away from this very strange year. Like, you can always look back and say, “Hey, that was the year I wrote a song.”
Erika Kozole 19:07
Over Zoom. That’s also what is crazy about it was that it was over Zoom. Like, it wasn’t like we’re in person. Or, like we had met. It was like, we met on Zoom. I didn’t know, I don’t know what half these people look like because their face cameras weren’t on. But like, we still have that connection and that, like, really impactfulness from writing a song together, which was really amazing.
Bruce Gillespie 19:30
I mean, if you can write a song with strangers over Zoom, is there anything we cannot do over Zoom? Right? Like, this is the, if you could write a song, you can do it all
Erika Kozole 19:39
We did it and we proved that we could. So, I’d like everyone to just know that you can write a song over Zoom with strangers. And it turned out really good.
Bruce Gillespie 19:49
Erika, thank you so much for telling us about this today.
Erika Kozole 19:52
Not a problem. Thanks for having me.
Bruce Gillespie 19:56
Our final guest is Tess Kibzey a first-year User Experience Design student who won second place in the video category at this year’s ACERS Showcase, celebrating undergraduate research at Laurier. Her project was designing a prototype for an app that will help people shop more safely during the pandemic. I started by asking her how she came up with the idea in the first place.
Tess Kibzey 20:18
I’m a UX student. So, one of my courses that I took last term was about making a design solution for something that has to do with the pandemic. And so, my topic that I was given was coordinating staggered visits to places to limit overcrowding and pollution, which is a pretty heavy topic. So, it took a lot of brainstorming, and just a lot of thinking about how I could approach the design problem and what I can do to kind of fix it, or provide a solution for it. The idea of ShopSafe came when I was looking at my interviews that I conducted. So, I interviewed my parents, as well as a few friends to kind of see what they felt about how the pandemic was being handled, and also things like what they thought would work if someone were to implement a solution. So, a few people told me things like, “Oh, well, maybe if I could track how many people are in a store that would make me feel safer.” Or, “Maybe I if I could track how many COVID cases were at a certain shop.” So, I kind of brought all those ideas into one thing. And then, the idea of ShopSafe came when I decided that being able to track different numbers of people in stores and also trying to get to stores in an eco-friendly kind of way would definitely help people in a pandemic world scene, as it kind of looks like we’re not going to be out of this anytime soon.
So, I decided to create an app, so it was more accessible to people seeing as everyone has a phone these days. And I kind of just added a few elements in where you could search up a place, you can look at the amount of COVID cases, or the amount of people in the store, or what their max capacity was. And then, you can make an educated decision on where you want to go. So, if for example, let’s say you wanted to go to Freshco, but you check the thing, or you check the app, and it’s super busy at that time of day, so you decide to check it later. So, it kind of just helps you make sure that you’re staying safe while going outside seeing as having contact with other people is tricky these days. And so, I just came up with the idea to kind of help people navigate the pandemic a little easier.
Bruce Gillespie 22:51
And I think it’s such a great idea because I remember, particularly in those early months of the pandemic, that was a really big question I think for most of us. That I would like to go to the drugstore, I would like to create the grocery store, but I don’t want to end up there at the same time that everyone else in my town is also there.
Tess Kibzey 23:05
Bruce Gillespie 23:05
So, I remember sort of doing a lot of, like, asking friends and family, like, you know, “When you went to the drugstore at 10 o’clock in the morning, was it super busy? Was it less busy at six?” Sort of, trying to crowdsource, you know, from people who’d been to these places how busy they were and when, and how frustrating it was because there’s really no great way to sort of guess or predict this, right?
Tess Kibzey 23:08
Bruce Gillespie 23:12
So, when I was looking through the video about your app, I thought this is a really smart idea. If there’s a way you actually could get a real time sort of look at how many people are in one place, you could decide, “Yes, this is a good time for me to go.” Or, “No, I’m not willing to take this risk. I’ll go a couple hours later.”
Tess Kibzey 23:40
Yeah, exactly. That was kind of the aim of what I was doing with ShopSafe is just making sure it’s easier for people to check those stores. And like you said, like, you don’t know necessarily, unless you’re asking other people, whether the store is busy at that time of day because it changes throughout the day. So, being able to track that on an app where it’s just a few clicks. And you can see if where you want to go is busy or not, it really helps people and keeps people safe.
Bruce Gillespie 24:10
One of the things I really enjoyed about your video that was posted as part of ACERS was the really clear, but also a very visual way. You walked us through the prototyping process, because I think many of us have probably not thought about, or maybe we’ve thought about creating an app and we’ve gone no further than that. Like, “I wish there was an app that did this,” but never actually thought more. And your video, it does a really great job of visualizing what that process looks like from initial idea to how you get it actually onto a phone, what the process looks like. Can you tell us a little bit about the process for people who haven’t been involved in it before?
Tess Kibzey 24:42
Yeah, so with a design process like creating an app, there’s a lot of different, I guess you could call them. What would you call them? I would say there’s a lot of different design problems throughout, and different strategies that you can use throughout the design process to come up with a solution. So, one of those things is called a user persona. So, in my video, I’m talking about this businessman named Phil. And he was actually my persona that I used when I was coming up with the idea for ShopSafe. So, with a persona, you kind of come up with a user or a person that would be using your app, or using your service, or whatever you’re trying to develop. And you come up with their pain points. So, things that they find challenging or frustrating, as well as their gain points, so things that they strive off of, or things that they love or look forward to. And you kind of build up this type of user category that you are targeting when you’re coming up with your design solution.
So, the persona was a big part of that. That’s why I decided to go with the narrative aspect of my video. And use Phil as the center of my story, I guess you could say. And then, there’s also things like journey maps, where you’re kind of using that same persona or a different one, if you’ve come up with more than one, and kind of following them through what the journey would be for them. So, for example, if I were starting with Phil, as a businessman who wants to go grocery shopping while keeping his family safe, then I would start with him at the first stage, which is his problems. So, he wants to do this, or he wants to go grocery shopping safely. And then, I move through the journey of how he would get to the safe solution, which would be ShopSafe in this situation. So, there’s things like that that you do during the design process. There’s a lot of interviews involved. A lot of inquiries in terms of how people use an app, what buttons, they press where they like it to be on a screen. And you kind of just go through a lot of those questions with your interviewers. Or interviewees, I should say. And it’s just a lot of trial and error as well, because you try and set up a low fidelity prototype, which is like a sketch of what my app became. And you go through and you see, okay, so this person said that they didn’t like where the home button was. So, maybe I should try and fix that or change that next time. So, it’s a lot of trial and error, and just seeing what works best.
Bruce Gillespie 27:27
I’d say, and it was great to sort of be able to walk through that process with you narratively in your videos. I think people really enjoy watching it. I also learned something, which is totally not new for me. But, I’d never heard the phrase gain points before. I think we’ve all heard of pain points, like those part of the process that make you insane.
Tess Kibzey 27:43
Bruce Gillespie 27:43
I’ve never heard of gain points. It’s like, oh, there’s a positive side of this. I never thought of it. So, that’s why I learned something. So, thank you for that.
Tess Kibzey 27:50
Bruce Gillespie 27:51
I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about what it’s like to be involved in the ACERS process? Because I know there’s some training that happens along the way. Can you tell us about some of that?
Tess Kibzey 27:59
Yeah, for sure. So, I first learned about the ACERS through the email given by the university. And I decided to submit my project for it since I did so much work on it, I thought I should see if it could get recognized a little bit. So, I had to submit an approval from my prof for the project to be submitted. So, that was the first stage. And then, once you do that, and you’re technically nominated, they have a bunch of workshops available. So, based on what type of submission you were doing, you would attend that workshop and get some information about it. So the three categories for the ACERS were posters, podcasts and videos. And I determined that a video would probably be the best way to present my project. So, I signed up for the video workshop. And it was about an hour, an hour and a half. And it had a bunch of information about how to create a really good video, there was someone from an actual video company. I’m forgetting the name right now, but he works with a company and he does all of the promotional videos and editing and all of that kind of stuff. And he basically just walked us through how to properly get audio, how to record properly if you’re doing a voiceover how to add that onto your video without any crazy, weird editing things happening to it and just make a smooth video.
He was really helpful with showing things that were super easy or little shortcuts that you could go through to kind of, I guess make your video better. And so, we all had to attend that workshop. It was a mandatory one, but I found it very helpful. And then, from there, they gave you a list of requirements for your video. So, the video had to be at least, I believe it was at least four minutes long. And there’s a few requirements about you needed to describe your project, you needed to have some sort of visual component. And you could either do a voiceover or you could be in the video. So, for mine, I chose to do a voiceover instead, just to stick to that narrative aspect. And basically just follow the requirements. And you can ask them any questions as you go through, they give you the email to send along any questions or concerns. And it’s just a really awesome process. Once you submit, they have a showcase, of course, at the end, and they tell you a few days ahead of time if you were a finalist. And then, you come on, and then they just explained the categories to everybody, and then went through each category listing the first, second and third place winners. And then, each person got to do a little description of their project. So, when my name was called, I was able to explain my project again in a concise form, to help people understand what my video is about. But, overall, it was a really great process. And I really enjoyed submitting for the ACERS. And I would probably do it again, if I have the opportunity.
Bruce Gillespie 31:18
That’s so great to hear. And especially what a great experience you’d have as a first-year student. I just think that’s a really remarkable sort of research experience to get in your first year of university. So, congratulations again. And thank you so much for telling us about it today.
Tess Kibzey 31:32
Thank you so much for having me.
Bruce Gillespie 31:37
And that’s a wrap. Thanks for joining us for the penultimate episode of One Market. We hope it’s helped you feel a little more connected to the Laurier Brantford community. And we’ll be back with our final episode in two weeks. If you liked what you heard, tell your friends and colleagues. You can subscribe on Apple, Google, Stitcher or wherever you find your podcasts. Worried about missing an episode? Sign up for our newsletter. You can find a link on Twitter and Facebook @onemarketlb. One Market was created and produced by Bruce Gillespie and Tarah Brookfield. Music by Scott Holmes, graphics by Melissa Weaver. Our research assistant and in turn is Serena Austin. Thanks for listening. Keep in touch!
Transcribed by https://otter.ai