Pedagogy In The Time Of Pandemic: Week 1

So the first week of pedagogy in the time of pandemic has come and gone and I am sure we all have feelings and thoughts. My first observation is just how willing faculty have been to think about different ways to help support their students at this time. If you have a teacher in your life, whether they teach K-12 or Higher Ed please thank them right now. They have done so much in such a short amount of time, sometimes with poor access to technology and it truly is to be commended. I have a few things I want to focus on in what will probably be many weeks of pedagogy in the time of pandemic.

Pedagogy First, Technology Second (If At All)
In the vein of we are all trying our best with what we have, remember to try to put pedagogy first and not the technology or anything else actually. With the pedagogy first comes what underpins critical and socially just pedagogy which is empathy and understanding. These are the ways in to what we are being asked to do right now. Understand that some of your students (maybe the majority of them) won’t have the technology or the Internet access to do what you want them to do and think of ways to design around that. UDL (universal design for learning) principles ask for supporting a plus one mentality which means whatever way you would provide information, provide it in one other way. Similarly, in whatever way you would ask students to submit their work, provide one more way for them to submit their work. There are great things you can do with a telephone conference call pedagogically; I am not joking. And this is especially true when no long distance charges can be accrued. The tech supports the pedagogy and not the other way around. Think as equitably as possible.

The Myth of Productivity is Crap Let’s Stop With This Please
My Twitter has been filled today with folk being very anxious about what all this time at home will mean for the job market next year (if there is one). Folk are concerned that there will be a belief that since there was “more time spent at home” that this will automatically be seen as “look at all the publications I have for 2021.” Can we stop with this nonsense please? There are heated battles happening on social media between the “oh you are so lucky you don’t have kids to distract you” camp and the “you do realize that just because I am alone in this house I still expend a ton of emotional labour thinking about my family who is very far away and I can do nothing for them” camp.  This isn’t "time available" Olympics. We need to be more empathetic to each other in all of this. I have been alone in my house (except for my cat) since last Friday. Am I lonely? Yes. Have I worked on any of my research? No. Do I feel I have the mind space to do that today? No. Why? Because my 70+ parents live 7 hours away and my 98 year old grandmother who is used to seeing my mother everyday now can’t and I have faculty with pedagogy questions that I want to answer and I haven’t seen my best friend’s face in real life for a month and my 15 year old cat is running low on treats that I can’t find online anywhere so you know what that research on inclusive pedagogy I have been doing is taking about 10 seats back right now. Also pandemics are times for run-on sentences.

The Myth of Productivity Part Deux: Stop the Clock
Also I am seeing places that are stopping the tenure clock which I think is great for all the reasons in the above paragraph. But you know who also needs a clock stop? Graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and contract academic workers. There is a ton of precarity that is happening because of COVID and folk who were already precarious are now even more so. This is not going to be business as usual for a while, if ever, so we need to have a new normal that takes into account all of the folk who are doing what they can to support the students in all of this knowing that maybe in a few weeks they won’t have the income to pay their rent or buy food.

Associations Need to Think Holistically
Congress was also cancelled this week in terms of in-person attendance and some associations have taken to cancelling their meeting completely while others are contemplating some sort of online delivery. I beg associations to think holistically right now. Here are some questions to contemplate if you are on a board of an association (the fact that it is clear that I need to spell this out for some is actually what is really scary):
  • How many of your members have access to technology that will allow them to present online?
  • How many of your members have access to technology that will allow to access presentations online?
  • Is whatever you are going to present accessible (in all senses of the word) I mean captions, described video, alt texts for images, screen reader accessible text, etc.
  • Are you going to gate-keep conference information behind passwords and hoops? Why? What does that say about your association? What does that say about the state of higher education?

Being at home and not actively researching at the moment means I am not necessarily being “productive” in the traditional sense of academic production, but holy Hannah have I had a lot of time to think about what is not working pedagogically, technologically, and accessibility wise with what we are doing. I am trying to be as kind as I can to myself and to others because this is a very stressful time, but if you are actively and knowingly participating in pedagogical and academic work that is excluding others right now because there’s just not enough time to do it right, stop. This is exactly the time to get it right, reflect, reach out, there are so many resources out there it’s like drinking out of a fire-hose at the moment. We can get it right, it doesn't have to be snazzy, but it can be right with the lowest of tech, you just have to ask, and know that there folk who don’t have it like you right now.

Here is my weekly challenge: Assess the space where learning happens for you right now and think about what would happen if just one of the things you are using on the daily was not there. What would happen if you had no Internet, what would happen if you only had a smart phone, what would happen if you did not have enough food to get you through the week, what would happen if you are going to run out of meds this week with no replacement, what would happen if you were being evicted this week? Then practice your pedagogy from that space. For the record I know at least one person who fits exactly each question I posed above, and you probably do to…you just have to ask.


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