There’s no way around it: virtual learning is scary. In the early stages of the pandemic, no one was prepared for a global health event to shut down education. Far fewer people knew how to work Zoom, or had the set-ups to do so effectively from home. Schools panicked, and tried to force their online curriculums into a virtual environment. And none of it was considered. We saw how that went. Kids hated it. They didn’t feel heard or were confused by the large online classrooms. They were frustrated by the lack of peer-to-peer interaction they were used to.
Now, the thought of learning via computer makes a lot of parents shudder. It’s associated with trauma, anxiety, the uncertainty of that time period, and with fights, the struggle to “make it work.” But Brian Kehoe (my magic partner and the other Head Magician at School of Magic Arts) and I, then magicians who were teaching stage magic classes in person, found more than something that we could “make work”. We actually found a tool that was better for teaching magic than anything we had ever used. Here’s why.
1. Every student can see the instructor's hands clearly.
Magic is so different from a lot of other subjects, like math, or language arts or science. In teaching close-up magic, we're asking kids to see and replicate small, secret moves that can be difficult to grasp. We found that the computer or tablet screen functions as a window for each of them to see, step-by-step, exactly what they need to do. We just don't have the option for that window when teaching in person, and we’ve seen a big difference in student outcomes.
2. It’s easier to ensure a safer space.
Many of our students come to magic to “find their kind.” We don’t tolerate bullying of any kind at SOMA, and we never have, in any of our classes. But in person, it’s hard to control and address bullying in the moment. There’s the under-the-breath remark, the push when the instructor isn’t looking, the exclusion during group work. Virtual classes almost eliminate the opportunity for these aggressions. The instructor is present at all times, and students must unmute to talk to a peer, and that interaction is heard by the instructor. It isn’t that we never have to make corrections, but it’s much rarer, and also easier for us to do that in real time, in a virtual learning environment.
3. It’s better for students to practice.
If there’s one essential to being successful at magic, it’s practice. It’s the ultimate cheat code. The moves necessary for sleight-of-hand, for example, don’t come to most people easily. They must be performed many times. We found that in our in-person classrooms, when it came time to practice, students became easily distracted by one another, noise, or other environmental factors, and lost focus. In our online classrooms, students can turn their cameras off, and have the time and space to practice a move independently before we continue. This makes it much easier for them to find their “win.”
4. There are fewer interruptions in instruction.
Our in person classes were constantly interrupted. Holidays, snow days, illness, alternate building use, fire drills. You name it, it canceled classes. In our virtual space, where parents don’t have to travel to us, these interruptions are far, far fewer. What’s good about having no snow days, you ask? Well, kids love learning magic! It’s hardly ever a struggle to get them to engage in such a fun subject. And without the constant interruptions, we found that their progression was markedly faster, and their confidence increased exponentially because of that.
You won’t know until you try!
Brian and I started School of Magic Arts as a response to the pandemic, but we quickly realized what a gift learning via computer was for teaching magic. That’s when the light bulb went off and we decided to develop a whole new curriculum specifically designed for online learning. We understand that there is a lot of baggage, for both parents and kids, attached to virtual learning. That’s why we provide opportunities for your family to try it out for free. We’re completely confident that you’ll see the difference right away.
So many parents who have taken the chance have found a home for their child at School of Magic Arts. So many students have found a hobby that they love, and are performing in their communities. The bottom line? When we stay open to the possibilities that technology offers us, the magic can be endless.