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Elena Xeni, a Community Story from Cyprus

por EPALE Moderator
Idioma: EN
Document available also in: PL EL

Elena Xeni

I lectured in language and literature teaching and learning as a Teaching Fellow of Language Education at the Department of Education, University of Cyprus (2004-2016). From 2007-2013, I was appointed as an Adjunct Teaching Staff (Assistant Professor) in Literacy and Language Arts, on the Bachelor Programme in Sciences of Education (BPSE Programme), University of Luxembourg. My teaching and research interests focus on language and children’s literature teaching and learning good practices, inside and outside school contexts, trainers’ training, development of materials, technology enhanced learning, childhood studies and children’s literature translation process research (ChLTPR). Currently, I collaborate extensively with CARDET – Centre for the Advancement of Research and Development in Educational Technology, acting as Researcher/ Project Manager for EU funded projects and initiatives. I also act as an important contact for school initiatives focusing on storytelling, creative writing, reading promotion and critical literacy.

I use the EPALE platform on a weekly basis to update myself on adult education news and trends. Last year, I was brave enough to post my professional news, ‘spreading the word’ about my projects reaching the end of their funded life-cycle. And I have been enjoying doing that ever since!

Let’s Take a Break! – Ideas for Taking a Break during a Webinar/an Online Class

I must admit that I am not at all the ‘break’ type of person. I am not in the habit of taking a break from screen tasks, other responsibilities or duties on very or less busy days! So with no offence caused, I am often called a ‘workaholic’. Yes, I know I am wrong for not taking breaks, and throughout my working life I have been reading a lot about the importance of taking long or short breaks from my screen in particular, and from work in general. But it has only been a good practise in theory for me and not in reality…
It wasn’t until the days of lockdown that this ‘take a break’ idea became a good habit in my everyday life, and as a good teaching and learning practice in the context of online education, and more specifically, webinars/ online classes.

From the early lockdown days, family and friends’ children as well as parents and grandparents would constantly complain about how they and their children would sit for long hours in front of a computer, attending webinars in the context of online/ distance education and working remotely.

It was then that I started paying attention to the structure of the webinars I attended myself and listening to other peoples’ experience.

At times, there was indeed no break, no consideration of a pause and when someone would ask for a break, at most, the organiser would reassure everyone that the webinar would not take long. On other occasions, organisers/ instructors would plan for breaks and encourage participants to take breaks, and at times, even structured breaks (e.g. follow the instructions, listen to my voice and relax, etc.). There were times that even an hour-long webinar without a break would tire me out. However, in all the cases of webinars with breaks, I felt less tired and more engaged, not only during the webinar but also at the end, and beyond, looking forward to the next one!

For the first time, I could see the added value of taking a break!

And it was then that I decided to keep a diary listing good practices in taking breaks when in webinars and online classes. I noted down any break, giving it a title and describing it as well as expressing how it made me feel. I placed a star next to the break ideas that made me feel relaxed, less stressed and tired, engaged and well-motivated. Good practices that emerged from my diary are shared below:

  1. Take a 5 min break from your screen and stand up following the instructor’s/ webinar organiser’s instructions for stretching.
  2. Take a 5 min mindfulness break with eyes open and deep breathing either accompanied by music or in silence. 
  3. Take a 5-10 minute reflection break in groups. Get together in groups in escape rooms of the hosting platform, discuss or brainstorm with the set group an issue/ task or reflect on the session’s topic.
  4. Take a 5-10 minute break for water, tea, coffee or to go to the toilet.
  5. Take a 5 minute break to look out of the window.
  6. Take a 15-20 minute lunch/ dinner-break.
  7. Take a 10 minute do-whatever-you-want-break and use this time as you wish.

With respect to attendees and participants sitting for long hours in front of a screen, these ‘take a break ideas’ benefited me (and others, I am sure) in many ways. Overall, it felt like:

  • they respected my human needs (e.g. drinks, food and visiting the WC)
  • they payed attention to my health (e.g. standing up and stretching, take a few minutes away from my screen)
  • they focused on my mental health (getting less tired, relaxation, less-stressful moments, mindfulness, etc.)
  • they respected my concentration span as an adult (webinar with breaks)
  • they motivated me to keep attending webinars
  • they convinced me to spread the word and share good practices.

The ‘taking a break experience’ shared in this story was an important practice throughout my lockdown experience (and beyond). It has taught me a lesson, in this sense. Taking breaks during a webinar/online class may help to organise and deliver successful webinars, making this educational and professional context better understood and experienced in ways that will be beneficial to participants and learners.

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  • Imagen de Maria Parmakli
    Ευχαριστούμε πολύ, Έλενα για την εμπειρία που μοιράστηκες μαζί μας, καθώς και για τις καλές πρακτικές που αναδύθηκαν από το αναστοχαστικό σου ημερολόγιο, σχετικά με συμμετοχές σου σε διαδικτυακά σεμινάρια και συζητήσεις!
  • Imagen de Demos Michael
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us Elena. 
  • Imagen de Kadi Kass
    Thank You, Elena!  
    What a great way of sharing your good practices from previous webinars!
    As a comment to the good practices of having break you pointed out in your column:
    1. I have done standing up and stretching break quite often myself, I guess this is a really important move after sitting in front of the computer for a while. It has a huge impact on our physical health as sitting is considered as a new smoking... Besides, doing stretching or having exercises all together is much more fun, so it has an extra positive effect on all while doing it together, and one can see the others doing it from a web camera.
    2. As a mindfulness break I would suggest an app called Synctuition which provides both guidance for clearing mind and controlled breathing and wonderful choice to spend time with listening relaxing (nature) sounds.
    3. Chatting in escape/breakout rooms surely gives a possibility for more lively discussion and personal contact, it is the closest we can get via online to the real classroom situation. By the way, my training participants usually mention it in the end, as they enjoyed the part when they were divided into the smaller groups.
    4. During the coffee break of a conventional meeting you would chat with a colleague while drinking tea, coffee or glass of water, therefore, I would also recommend the organiser/host of the online event could encourage the participants to interact freely during the break while having their drink. So grab your coffee and have some refreshment, stand up for a minute instead of sitting, and chat with others while enjoying your cup of coffee.
    To the fifth one, I would like to add based (so it would be like 8th?) in my experience - do not just go to the window to enjoy the view, but do actually go outdoors for five minutes, take a little walk in neighbourhood, breathe some fresh air in order to clear your thoughts.
    6. Lunch or dinner break is crucial in case of longer online events. I think 15-20 minutes long lunch break is way too short. In most cases, I would give people more time to enjoy their meals and moments by themselves, so they will return more enthusiastically to their online session afterwards.
    7. Having to do-whatever-you-like break, trainers could still suggest some wellness-providing ideas such as talk to your kids, cuddle your pets, call or kiss your husband/wife etc. as we forget those things while participating on webinars. 
    I believe it will create a good athmosphere :)

    Take care and take a break! 

    Kadi from Estonia