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Bodiless heads?

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

The class is over, an inspiring discussion, that was also quite exhausting comes to an end. A group of people wave their hands, I save the document and then, I close the laptop and have left the classroom. My ears relax from wearing headphones and I long to just go outside.

Online teaching and e-learning are not ideal - we all agreed to that on our very first virtual Tea2B, when we talked about technology and our ways to deal with online learning. What is it, however, that is missing? Technological classrooms do offer a whole range of technological solutions. We can raise hands, talk, present, vote, speak, watch movies, share texts, read texts online through our screens. In fact, there is even more that can be done online in times of cyber-parties, cyber-sex, cyber-rallies or cyber-dating. Perhaps, in some cases the "e", the "cyber" or the "virtual" doesn't even signify something that is missing, but actually open possibilities and access where before, there was none.

Looking at my reflection in the laptop screen,

I however want to stay with that question. What is it, that is missing? I think, that for me, the answer is "the body". And as with so many other things, I believe that this question for "the missing body" raised through the effects of this health crisis, allows to question a divide that has since the Cartesian rupture long marked and shaped the Western culture of learning. The divide between body and head and in fact, the separation of heads from their bodies and the location of learning as something solely taking place in "the head".

My learning experience at the school and in university is marked by a hurting back and the fight to remain focused even after listening motionless for over an hour. It is marked by staring at a screen for hours. And in fact, often I end up feeling like a head without a body.

I believe, that learning has a lot to do with movement and in fact, reflecting does move things. But at the same time, moving can allow us to learn. The walking to the classroom, the boat trip to San Servolo, the sense of being in a room with other bodies, all these things are neglected but crucial parts of learning.

Under Corona, it was the first time that I had the chance to attend a lecture, while at the same time going for a walk. Under Corona I also had the chance to stand up, walk around, stretch during lecture and also to listen to a lecture while in bed. It was a whole different experience, sometimes strange, somtimes great.

I hope that after this crisis we will learn to find ways to get the head back on our bodies. To appreciate the proximity of other bodies, value and respect our embodied experiences and also, to listen to our bodies needs and thus, perhaps deepen our understanding, and relearn what it means to speak of learning and education as a journey, that actually moves us.

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