Graffiti on wall: These are some serious times
Image: CC BY Mark Fosh (Flickr)

As the COVID-19 virus crisis worsens, the local/global and personal/professional boundaries (already admittedly thin) have been obliterated almost entirely this week. Yesterday (March 12) Ireland’s Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, announced new measures to combat Covid-19 in Ireland. These include closing all schools, colleges, universities and childcare facilities until March 29, at least, as well as limiting the size of all other public gatherings. And with that:

“Teaching will be done online or remotely.” (Connacht Tribune)

Just like that. Of course Ireland is just one country among many where such changes are coming into effect. Thus, over recent days and weeks, many educators have been contributing via Twitter, blogs and elsewhere to share helpful resources for all have been pitched into teaching and learning “online or remotely” all of a sudden, very close to the end of the semester — as well as all who support them. A thread through most of these resources and conversations, at least in my networks of critical digital and open educators, is first and foremost care and respect for every student and teacher who is facing such a sudden, and for many drastic, change. Another thread is a fear that the necessarily quick/imperfect solutions that may be put in place will be seen as “online learning” by some — rather than the pedagogy-led, learner-focused, deliberately and carefully-designed version of online learning that many of us know, design and practice.

In response to requests from educators in the Irish higher education sector, the National Forum created a means of sharing resources that are being created by those supporting teaching and learning across the Irish HE sector. The Google sheet can be found here:

This was modeled on a resource created by Daniel Stanford and credits are included in our sheet (thanks Daniel and all who contributed). Several Irish HEIs have already added resources and more will follow. On the ‘Additional Resources’ tab of the spreadsheet, we’ve curated some particularly helpful resources and we thank all included here.

One resource included in the list is the crowdsourced Teaching Online with Care resource. Tonight at 8pm UCT there will be a related online discussion, which I look forward to joining:

Continuity and Care During COVID-19: Curation and Conversation

In addition, there is a related #LTHEchat starting at 8pm tonight, as part of a weeklong series to support colleagues in contingency planning for Covid-19 related closures and changes. Tonight’s chat will start at 8pm UCT and continue for 24 hours — and will be moderated by Martin Weller:

Q3. What issues will the online pivot cause students accustomed to studying on campus? (and what can we do to alleviate these?)

And what of the personal? My son is final-year engineering student who walked in the door here an hour ago to say “I don’t know what’s happening.” Final year projects, exams, completing assignments — all unknown. He knows that many of his friends, and even some of his lecturers, do not have reliable/adequate wifi at home. So where does that leave everyone? Such are the issues we all seek to address, with care.

I also live in a small, beautiful community in the west of Ireland that has been affected by COVID-19. Several adults have tested positive and are recovering in hospital. Uncertainty and concern pervade our small close-knit village.

And so, I work from home — practicing physical “social distancing” but connecting with friends and educators globally (and looking forward to connecting with many in the Continuity and Care conversation tonight), working closely with colleagues in the National Forum and at HEIs across Ireland (also working from home), checking with my family in London, Scotland and the US, and friends elsewhere, and trying to balance work, care, worry and hope. Like us all.

I wish you all well.

Image: CC BY Mark Fosh (Flickr)

One thought on “Proceed with care”

  1. I feel I need to leave this comment here as a postscript to my post. Last Monday, I contributed the following to the ‘Continuity with Care’ document (referenced in post above):

    “…In addition to our own and learners’ worries and anxieties about moving to remote and online learning/teaching, each of us may well be carrying anxieties about other aspects of our lives, e.g. the health of our children, our parents, our friends, our neighbours, and all who are marginalised in various ways — who is falling out of the social safety net?… financial anxieties re: salaries, expenses, health care costs… and broader anxieties about the future, the planet, global inequality — all exacerbated by the current pandemic. These are just some of many worries and anxieties we and our students may be bringing into our virtual learning spaces, whatever they may look like. Acknowledgement of these, and kindness -above all- may be the most important things we can do to teach online with care.”

    With each passing day, I feel more strongly about this. Much as many individual students and educators are “moving online”, our lives are changing rapidly. For an increasing number of people the worries and anxieties mentioned above will now be realities. Out of paid work. Children home from school/childcare. Loved ones ill. And more.

    We will need to be kind, with ourselves and others. And we will need to be strong. We’ll not be able to meet the same ends as we had intended at the start of the semester. It is hard for humans to change, harder still for systems. So it may take some time for people to come to this realisation. You may need to fight for your rights, and the rights of others, to do whatever they need to cope as our lives change so rapidly. Take care as you do this important work.

    Wishing you all grace, health and strength.

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