Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

On Care & Continuity in the Times of Coronavirus

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I’m writing this with so many thoughts and feelings mixed up together. For so many reasons.

But let me start with the most useful dimension of this. I posted on Twitter a call to curate tips and resources on how to teach with care in times of campus closure (omigosh so many c’s) and Mia Zamora and I decided to crowdsource this in a Google doc and later organize and post on Equity Unbound. We’re also planning some live sessions with some caring educators who can discuss this further. Here is the Google doc, jump in:

http://bit.ly/onlinewithcare

Many campuses all over the world, including K-12 are closing for weeks and moving to online instead. Many of the teachers and students are drastically underprepared for this, and I think many of the measures administrators take to help make this happen, to prepare people, are technical rather than pedagogical. And this is not going to work. People’s digital literacies vary, their experiences with teaching and learning online vary, their home internet infrastructure varies, their personal access to a device and internet connection varies (imagine 4 kids in a household with just one PC and all of them have synchronous sessions at the same time one day, and they’re young enough that they don’t each have a mobile, or the software your school uses doesn’t work well on mobile).

On the other hand, planning for contingency using lowest common denominator technologies or options is selling everyone short. You can’t imagine how many times, while giving a required session on “online discussions on Blackboard” faculty expressed frustration, then expressed relief when I mentioned that if they needed a live video conversation they could try free Zoom. So many of their eyes lit up, because they had some experience with Zoom but had not ever scheduled a meeting themselves. They don’t realize how straightforward it is, and they’re relieved we are offering a handout on it (which I insisted we make, even though we won’t be able to support them ourselves).

I don’t understand why, when teaching is often so decentralized, that campuses was to institutionalize and centralize technology. It is meaningless to decide that, oh, lecture capture and Blackboard and Turnitin are the technologies we bought as an institution, so let’s use them. Actually, they forgot that they also bought Google suite and Google drive should be an option as well! They also don’t want to expand their thinking a bit and realize they *could* buy Zoom, and *then* it will be OK to suggest it to faculty more broadly??

But the point isn’t about the tech here but about the importance of flexibility and giving people the support they would truly need if campuses ended up closing, and to understand, deeply, that people have different teaching philosophies and teaching styles. Also, to understand they have different levels of readiness and willingness to learn new tech, and different facilities. And to recognize people will probably not do their best when they’re way too uncomfortable… and technology, for many, causes discomfort. So asking them to twist and turn their pedagogy to fit a set of 2 or 3 possible tools and uses is not going to cut it for them. They need opportunities to explore tools they didn’t know existed which may be quick and easy to learn. Or ones that aren’t easy, but fit their purpose well. I understand this is not scalable. Care doesn’t scale well. But you know we can work together to offer options in ways that others can benefit from them. Not every useful tip needs to be part of a one-on-one conversation, and not every useful guideline document has to be internal to an institution. They can be OER and we can each adapt them as we go.

Moving on…

One of the awkward things that is happening because of Coronavirus fears is what my kid’s school is calling “becoming less affectionate”, by which they mean, let’s avoid handshakes, kisses and hugs. It’s becoming so internalized that yday I was watching a TV show (filmed the night before in the US) where everyone was hugging each other in a crowded area and I started to feel extremely uncomfortable. I kept telling my husband, “how can they just hug each other like that, on TV, this is…”.

Of course, I still hug and cuddle and kiss my child and closest family. At work, it sometimes happens when we forget…

I had a lot more to say, but got to work and started grading and ran out of time. I’ll publish now and come back later.

One Comment

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