One year on, and have we learnt anything?

Today, March 23rd marks one year since the UK went into lock-down. My memory of that day last year is a bit hazy, it was expected but still quite unbelievable. I remember walking incredulously past long queues of cars waiting to get free food from the well know fast food outlet nearby. I remember the slightly surreal feeling of locking the door and wondering who/when would be able to cross over it again. I hoped that it would indeed “all be over by Easter”, but part of me knew that it wouldn’t. I didn’t expect to still be in lock down this Easter.

So much has changed, but so little has too. The most shocking aspect to this whole year is the tragic number of deaths. Over 126,000 in the UK – and it’s still increasing. I remember the shock I felt about a year ago when some scientists were saying 50,00 would be a good outcome for the UK. In retrospect it would have.

Almost a year earlier I had already made the move to home working so I was lucky to have my working space all sorted, and work to do. Seeing and hearing colleagues and friends struggle with home working, home schooling, lock-down life has at times been heartbreaking, at times heart warming.

Today, tho, I am drawn back to this quote I spotted last year. Over the past year I have worried about our obsession with “getting back to normal” – particularly in education. So today I am really considering what part of “normal’ I want to get back to, and what I will be forced to!

Guest post for #OERxDomains21 : Being in the OER x Domains Space

As part of the build up to the OERxDomains21 conference next week, members of the conference committee have been writing a series of guest blog posts. My post has just been published and you can read it over on the conference blog here.

In the post I share some of my thoughts about time and conferences. Why it’s hard to find time to “conference” (particularly during lock-down), why it’s important to find the time to “conference” and a little secret about some of my best times at conferences.

Would taking a raft approach help us think about the transition back to campus?

Photo by Tomasz Urbaszek on Unsplash

As we enter March this year, it is hard to believe that it’s almost been a year since we went into lockdown. Although we start this March with a bit more optimism particularly around vaccines, despite what many people want to think, “this” isn’t over yet. Over the weekend Auckland went back into a 7 day lock down.

I think this should sent a warning to us here in the UK. We have been no where near as successful as New Zealand in containing the spread of COVID-19. Yes, we are doing really well in terms of vaccine roll out, but that’s not a cure, there is still a lot of research to be gathered around the longer term impacts of the vaccines, their longevity and actual impact on transmission and suppression. Despite what many want to think, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of lockdowns.

As we prepare to move out of the highest levels of lockdown, schools here in Scotland have already started their phased return, and think about moving back on campus, the natural temptation is to plan for more face to face teaching, for that return to “normal”, to the spaces and places we’ve all missed for the last year. To bring our communities of learning back together in the “real” world.

However, I think it might be an idea to consider how to deal with short, sharp lockdowns and taking a what I’m calling a RAFT (rapid and flexible teaching scenarios) approach to design.

There is something in my head about a life raft metaphor too with this. Online learning has provided lots of learning life-rafts but there is the overwhelming desire to get back on to dry land. But as the lockdown in New Zealand (and there have been similar ones in other cities/countries) has shown we might have more shorter, local, lockdowns to come. So how can we deal with that?

Well maybe by simply by asking: could this activity/assessment/module be completed if we had to go back into lockdown at short notice? Are all the resources available online? Have I got at least 4 weeks teaching prepared in advance? Do students have clear signposting and support around what they are expected to do and where they should do it? Have I got established communication channels to let students know of any changes at short notice? Not rocket science, and a lot of this is already in place, so it would be tragic to loose what has been learned over the last year and just go back to “normal”. Let’s move forward with truly blended, flexible approaches.