The lockdown diaries week 13: the stress of next steps

Another week of lock down and the death toll in the UK as I write is 42,589. The death and infection rates are slowly decreasing but they are still very high. Like many others I worry about:  a second spike, people taking more risks with travel (still can’t understand why anyone would want to go on a plane on holiday just now), with seeing others in groups, people not quite getting the importance of the physical distance part of social distancing, people behaving like the virus has gone away instead of realising that we are only now getting back to somewhere near the levels of infection and people in ICUs as we were at the start of lockdown.  This article in the Guardian earlier this week summed up a lot of my concerns. 

That said, this past week has been a much better week for me personally than the previous one. I’ve felt more focused and almost positive.  I got a lovely gift from ALT on Monday morning to mark my time as Chair, so that did help to get the week off to a good start.

the gifts from ALT

The weather has been lovely and I got to see my sister and niece face to face for the first time in 3 months. That afternoon in their garden, though so similar to many others we have spent there, was really special.  

On Monday afternoon I took part in a really enjoyable panel session in the OU’s CARLG conference with Amber Thomas, Dave Cormier, Dave White and Roger Emery, chaired by Mark Childs.  The overall theme of the session was based on a post Roger shared originally on LinkedIn but which crossed over to twitter and, then ended up as session at the conference.

It was timely to discuss not only acknowledgement of themes such as presence, connectedness, eventedness, facilitation and activities/content in the context of what has happened over the past few months and how people are planning for the new academic sessions.

Presence is so important in any teaching and learning situation – not just for the teacher but also for the students.  How we facilitate and nurture student online presence is going to be of increasing importance over the coming months.

John Casey shared this short recording “the end of university as we know it?  from Professor Mary Beards on the ALT list over the weekend. In the podcast she shares her thoughts on the future of universities, and in particularly her sadness over the loss of the physical lecture.  There’s quite a discussion on the ALT list about it just now. To me it is the physical presence of her students that she is really missing and she doesn’t quite know how to get any sort equivalence during an online session.  

She describes the lecture as being a conversation, and the importance of eye contact – all of which I agree with. However it is possible to have a conversation online too. We need to help our colleagues find ways other than eye contact and scanning “the room” to get a sense of engagement and presence of their students -which I think we covered in the panel session on Monday. She also makes some really sensible points about assessments and exams and not have piles of hand written exam scripts on her kitchen table just now – it’s worth taking 10 minutes to listen to.

This week coming is quite ALT focused with the ALT Scotland meet up on Monday and the AGM on Wednesday when my time as Chair ends. I think next week will be another up and down one!  Until then, dear reader, stay safe and well. 

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