This spring, Deanna and I co-designed and facilitated a hybrid spinning tops workshop with our collaborators at Right to Play in Rwanda through the Tech & Play project. This workshop was for educators in Rwanda who have an interest in playful ways to engage with making, tinkering, and technology. We took away from the experience some meaningful moments around how to engage intentionally with our project partners around remote workshop facilitation and design, which we wanted to capture as we continue to evolve our thinking about tinkering across in-person, online, and hybrid contexts.
Workshop Prep and Set up
Before our workshop, we facilitated spinning tops for our Right to Play colleagues who were then able to become in-person facilitators of the workshop in Rwanda while Deanna and I joined remotely. We were projected on the screen circled in red (left), and we were able to see the room on laptop and phone camera (right). There were about 35 participants in the room.
Gathering a variety of materials for making tops is important. Since local educators had participated in a spinning tops workshop with us beforehand, they already had a good sense around what local materials would be easily accessible for this experience. We saw a wide variety of options, including spoons, cardboard, and even balloons!
We took numerous screenshots of participants experimenting with their tops throughout the workshop. Ellen walked around the room with her phone, allowing us to see what everyone was working on at each table. If we noticed something interesting, Ellen would put us on the speaker, and we could comment or ask questions to the participants via her phone. Meanwhile, Ernie was posting videos and pics of people testing their tops via WhatsApp during the workshop. It felt very much as though we were co-facilitating the workshop.
Then, we arranged the screenshots with notes in chronological order on the Miro board. This way we were able to document the highlights of the workshop and we think it was very useful for communicating the workshop to members who weren't there.
Exploring the variables was an important aspect of this activity. The variety of tops we saw throughout the workshop evidenced this. People were spinning their tops, observing what was going on, and making small adjustments such as adding weights to their tops, changing the size, shaping the body, and so on. There was a lot of testing going on, and it was reflected in the documentation as well.
It was only a one-hour session, but this hybrid spinning tops workshop gave us some insights into how we can facilitate in the hybrid contexts. First of all, it was so important to hold a pre-workshop for the local educators, who were then able to facilitate the workshop in person on site in Rwanda. While Deanna and I were leading the workshop from afar, having Ellen and Ernie as local facilitators who were already familiar with the activity was very helpful.
Since this was our first experience trying this new format, I wanted to write down what we might try next time in terms of technical setup.
- Online facilitators should be able to see the entire room at all times → While it was helpful to have close-up views on mobile phones, it would be good to keep the macro view to see the entire room
- Everyone can always be heard: On-site participants should be able to hear online facilitators, and online facilitators can hear on-site participants → Having a room mic to pick up on-site participants’ voices would be helpful
- Avoid acoustic feedback → Because we are having multiple mics in one room, we sometimes heard an unpleasant howling sound.
It may be necessary to have one dedicated facilitator to handle the technical aspects of the hybrid workshop. Being able to run workshops smoothly will give people more ways to work together, get deeply engaged, and tinker in hybrid settings. This will have far-reaching implications in working with overseas collaborators, even after the pandemic is over. We'd like to hear from your if you've tried out new formats like this. Please let us know and share your findings with our community.
This project was made possible through generous support from the LEGO Foundation.