The lock down diaries week 14: endings and shoots of new beginnings

Another week of lock down and the death toll in the UK as I write is 43,514, keeping the UK firmly in the top 3 highest death tolls in the world.  I take some small comfort that the death rate in Scotland is steadily lowering. We’ve had no days for several days now. It is all so fragile and temporary.  

The moves the ease lock down continue, and whilst I am stupidly happy about the announcement that hairdressers in Scotland can open from 15th July, the crowds on beaches, the police closing parks very close to where I live do worry me.  

How can we move out of lockdown and not raise infection and death rates? Local lockdowns are already on the way.  Perhaps there is just an overwhelming denial that getting back to any sense of “normal” is ever going to happen.  However, I guess we can’t all stay on lock down forever so we have to try to tentatively sow some shoots of movement and dealing with the realities of physical distancing at scale.

Meanwhile, back in my little bubble the past week has included a bit of a milestone.  The first part of the week was very ALT focused with the ALT Scotland annual (online) gathering on Monday. Around 70 colleagues from across all sectors of Scottish education joined the meeting. Once again it was so inspiring to see the amount of sharing of practice and ideas across the sector.  

Then on Wednesday there was the AGM, again online – but actually this might be a more effective way to run the AGMs.  Huge congratulations to Teresa McKinnon who received an Honorary Lifetime Membership Award during the meeting. Teresa in my mind really is the embodiment of ALT.  And of course the AGM brought my term as Chair of the Association to end (more about how I feel about this here).  I was really touched by the digital crest that I was presented with too.

I’ll still be an active member of the ALT community, and of course have a bit more time for other things – like my consultancy – so if you need and support with online/digital learning just drop me a line!  

So far this year work has been fine for me but what will happen in the next 6 months who knows.  It was good to read Phil Barker’s post where he celebrates 3 years of the consultancy life and a great summary of what is happening just now in the HE sector .  Hopefully I’ll still be here in another 2 years. 

Sherri Spelic wrote a really powerful post earlier in the week about history. How easy it is to avoid, but how it won’t hide and eventually we all need to embrace it, and understand our place in it.  I read that on Monday, Windrush Day, a day to celebrate people from the Caribbean who were invited to the UK in the 1950s.  There is still a shameful legacy of how many of these people have been treated by the UK state, of how the recommendations from the official enquiry are still to be implemented.

This is all part of my history, my present, my future. Reading White Fragility is helping me to make sense of my inner conflicts around this.  I was brought up in a very small, very white community on the west coast of Scotland. Different races were few and far between. Racism was however hidden in plain sight everywhere. Embraced in the normality of language and knowing looks around “them” and “people like that”.  

I did find out this week that I do have an ancestor who went to America and was hung for freeing slaves. How he ended up in a position to own let alone free slaves I need to find out more about – this may well be a family myth. 

We are of course living through a really significant period of history. Despite the multiple opportunities for multiple narratives to be created and shared, there are still dominant narratives, particularly around education that need to be addressed notleast around the role of technology and technology providers.

Anne-Marie Scott has written an excellent post on some of the recent “discussions” around online proctoring and the need for academic integrity. Whilst universities are dealing with the financial impact of COVID-19, and many colleagues are rightly worried about their jobs, there is still money to be made in education. There is a huge amount of data waiting to be mined and exploited. Just think how much data Zoom now has about the education sector, and actually all of us.  

With reduced funding from central government more attention needs to be focused on the tech companies and funders who are all going provide solutions for “the future”.  Angel investors are ready to swoop – it’s interesting to see this partnership. I have a feeling that ed-tech and investment companies’ “new normal” is much the same as their “old normal”, And, of course that is always about the money, not of fundamentally changing access and equity to education – ultimately that doesn’t pay. 

Until next week, dear read, stay safe. 

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