And here we are at the end of Week Two. How are people feeling?
I was wondering this week if there’s been a bit over compensation to the isolation. FTR, I have been locked up in restricted spaces for extended periods before and whatever hints, tips and tricks you find online to this particular time, the one thing you need to do is find your own groove. What works for me probably won’t for you.
What I noticed this week is the number of people who are connecting online in my organisation to “touch base”. I can honestly say I have never been more connected to so many different people. It’s great. And with that is coming some great serendipity – some of the research I have been doing around user behaviours is benefiting from a colleague in a different directorate now taking a similar approach and we can share that knowledge. That’s just one small story. But we are only on week 2 – and some of the online get togethers seem to be a response to not being in the room. I learned many years ago, as per the photo, that being cooped up in a steel can in the middle of the ocean leaves you with a desire to go out on deck and feel the sun on your face. Let me tell you, that kind of response is no fun on submarines!
We are in week 2, and a lot of people are adjusting to the new ways of working from home, some people need that external input, that knowing that you can swivel in your chair and ask the person behind you, or next to you, a random question, or share some other form of contact that just reminds them that there are other people around. For those of us who have worked from home for a while we usually have various channels continually open, DMs in Twitter, a skype channel always on, text coming through on Teams and other chats. Usually I also have one or two collaborative documents open (one editing or commenting for someone else and one that I’m writing with someone). But that’s me. Your environment will grow and change as you get used to what you need and what works.
Dave Cormier (University of Windsor) covered some of this on the rapidly put together “Online Learning in a Hurry” website. This week he got me to participate in a sub 10 minute video chat about accessibility, I don’t think I contributed much – and it was nice of John Schinker to sum up my contribution in a single tweet!
“Whatever you do digitally, it’s going to be more accessible to your students than not doing it.”
And that pretty was the only message I wanted to get across. Much like the ethos behind Dave’s website – I wanted to focus staff on doing something now – and right now, not doing something because you are worried it might not meet some standard is a bad idea – just do it – and put a note saying we are in a difficult situation and we want to support everyone, if this document or video is difficult for you to access for whatever reason get in touch – we’ll get the learning you need to you some other way.
And that’s the key right now, flexibility and adaptability, and we need to let staff make mistakes without repercussions. Now more than any other time staff who are teaching need to feel supported in taking risks. In fact, right now we need to reframe that whole notion of taking risks with our practice – it needs to be a given that you can try new things, it’s ok, the institution has got your back, even if something doesn’t work out, or go quite the way you’d hoped..
I want to return to the idea of isolation and working from home – even our Government Ministers are doing it now. I think it’s important to recognise that not everyone experiences this in the same way. Some will be experiencing it as a loss, and may even be grieving for a job that has gone or been lost as they have had to change practices. Some will have lost their jobs, or at least be on the Government benefit that is in place for this crisis. And of course there will be some who can not seem to focus on the tasks at hand because they are worried about relatives and friends who are vulnerable.
And there will be people who are thriving in these conditions! As my friend Mark Childs from the Open University put it recently…
“In short, I will be supportive as possible, and understanding, to everyone who’s going through these difficult times but, when it’s all over, please don’t make me go outside again.”
Expect people to behave very differently for a while, be kind and stay well.