Laura is a ringer living in Melbourne, Australia. Since April 2020 she has developed lesson plans and run classes to teach the basics of ringing specifically as an online activity.She has also written several articles for various ringing publications about this initiative that aim to support others in running similar classes. As online ringing is as new to existing ringers as those who have never rung before, an additional benefit is that these lessons are a means of introducing people to ringing.
Laura has so far taught courses for four groups of between six and eight learners (based in the US, Australia, and UK, respectively), and is currently preparing to teach another four to five courses in 2021.She has also supported other people as a helper in the courses they are teaching.She has personally taught about 25 absolute beginners this year and assisted in the teaching of another three or four.She aims to increase this to about 30 to 35 learners during 2021.
Laura aims to run a four-week class roughly every three months.She also makes her lesson plans available to anyone who wishes to run a similar class and makes herself available to anyone who needs help and support in running their own sessions.
Laura involves experienced ringers as helpers in her classes through the Ringing Room Take-Hold Lounge, (on Facebook) which she founded in April 2020 as a gathering place and clearing house for people ringing virtually.She also encourages her students to become involved in the wider bellringing community through Facebook and through friendships with other ringers and in other sessions in Ringing Room. Laura also works with ART to handle initial inquiries from potential learners, asking them if they would like to participate in a virtual class.
While many people quickly saw the benefits of Ringing Room as a teaching tool, Laura took the initiative to start using it as an introduction to bell ringing for absolute beginners, who may never have so much as entered a bell tower, and as a recruitment tool for people who might just want to find out more – letting them “try before they buy”.She has been proactive and supportive, a real facilitator in making the very best of the circumstances of 2020 to continue recruitment. She has worked with people around the world as well as the developers of Ringing Room to explore the possibilities of online ringing as a means of recruiting and retaining ringers. I feel she took the brave step of just doing it, and set a brilliant example to other ringers.
Laura has brought ringing to a whole new audience: not just people who already know about ringing, but also people who are participating for fun in a low-stakes game that’s both fascinating and different from anything they’ve done before.Many of them may never be able to ring in a tower, due to distance, life commitments, or disability, but they can experience the fun of ringing by learning in a safe, supportive, well-thought-out environment.Only time will tell if they stick with ringing, but every student in a virtual bellringing class is one more person who knows about and can appreciate ringing, and can tell their friends about it.
Laura has used both word-of-mouth and Facebook to promote the classes, including the development of online fliers; she intends to expand this to Twitter in 2021, develop additional promotional materials such as a logo and media releases, and to work more actively with bell ringing organisations such as ANZAB and the NAGCR to promote the classes and encourage their members to mention them to their friends and family members.
Laura has devised two phases of her teaching program:Zero to Plain Hunt, and Plain Hunt to Grandsire Doubles, which are available to anyone from the Ringing Room Take-Hold Lounge or directly from Laura.She is planning to add lesson plans for Plain Bob Doubles Plain Course and Bobs and for Call Changes during 2021.These lesson plans will also be made available to anyone who wishes them.
Virtual ringing dramatically increases the number of people who can learn about and participate in ringing worldwide.This can spread knowledge about ringing far more broadly than ringing that is tied to particular towers.This could make a significant difference in the robustness and longevity of ringing and the size of the pool of potential ringers.
During lockdown, Laura’s virtual ringing classes have provided a welcome distraction to her students as they struggle with COVID restrictions.
In a time of severe global restrictions on ringing (and life), she has really seized the moment and spotted an opportunity where many of us might have thought it was a catastrophe. In making this nomination I fully acknowledge the huge contribution of many others but I believe Laura set an amazing example to all of us in showing what could be done.
I also feel she has done a lot to highlight the achievements of fellow ringers who are not UK based, and to show how distance and impracticality do not always need to be barriers to successful recruitment.