It is the end of week three. This is a week I would have been on the NB Haversham, a narrow boat, with friends from the US, cruising the picturesque, lazy backwaters of the Blackcountry and Birmingham canal systems.
(Video of the NB Haversham in the week before lockdown – Graham Holden)
The people I am in regular contact with, within the education sector, are understandably still feeling displaced and uncomfortable about their practice and working from home. And I am reminded here, and there have been several people tweeting similar things, that the current situation should actually be framed as:
“You’re at home, and you are trying to work, in very difficult circumstances.”
One of the things that was thrown into the spotlight this week was assessment of students, and I have been lucky enough to see a lot of responses from institutions that have been both measured and compassionate in this crisis. Almost all of them are no or low tech, almost all of them centre the well being of the student.
I know that there are some institutions that have been slower to respond, but I want to believe that they will be good in their responses too.
Of course there have been some truly awful responses to the issue of assessment –
Adam Steinbaugh commented about how a faculty questioned an edtech company’s privacy policies (a proctoring company) so the company threatened a defamation, copyright, and trademark lawsuit — and contacted the local U.S. Attorney and California Attorney General.
In a letter the EdTech’s lawyer went on to accuse the faculty association of undermining “emergency efforts to mitigate civil disruption” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
I am wondering what kind EdTech Vendor now sees themselves as first line responders in the pandemic? (actually I know the answer to that! I also know the right answer to that!)
But do we need proctoring? I like Ken Bauer Favel’s response:
“I prefer and suggest that we start with trusting our students and their desire to learn.”
I realise that most people already know this, but I’m going to point it out anyway. There are a range of EdTech vendors out there that start by problematizing the students in order to create a need for universities and colleges to buy their tech to solve a problem that is nowhere near as widespread as we are led to believe; and also can be mostly solved with good pedagogy.
We need to stop buying into the vendor driven narrative that starts with the premise that all students cheat. Stop it. Enough. Especially now, when everyone is feeling the pressure, the stress and the uncertainty of the future. Looking through some of the responses that UK universities are having to the issue has been a highpoint of my week, they are creative and compassionate and I hope that we continue to see that, that we capture and continue with some of those practices, as we come out of this crisis.
And it’s not just in working with students that we are seeing creativity and compassion, Ken has also been putting on Educator Coffee (or Tea) Time sessions I went along on Friday, although it was evening for my session so I was enjoying Malbec. I met people I didn’t know, although people I did know inevitably showed up. I learnt a lot about the Mexican University system, talked about the assholes who sell proctoring systems and take lawsuits against academics, learnt about comic-con and discovered a common nerd thread through most of us in the room. It felt genuinely good. I am looking forward to dropping in again.
I hope you are getting to be and stay connected to people in ways that help you. I hope that the tech in your life is a help and not a hindrance.
Stay at home, stay safe.