I’ve been thinking a lot about life pre-lockdown and what life might look like when things start to return to something more ‘normal’, whenever that might be. My work as a senior lecturer in the University of Sunderland School of Education is as part of the International and Independent Distance Learning team, so working remotely from the students that take our teacher training programme – the PGCE (IDL) – is perfectly normal. We have over six hundred students a year in multiple cohorts training to be teachers all across the globe. Organising internet calls with Hong Kong trainees and providing online learning is the bread and butter of my work. I’m currently planning a webcast tomorrow for 300 students.
My team is well-equipped and experienced in distance learning. In a normal week, our core team would be on-campus for meetings and collaborative work part of the week and we would work from home the rest of the week. We’ve made a fairly seamless transition to #TogetherOnline. We start the day with a Teams meeting and end with an online quiz – competition is fierce! I’d say we are closer together as a team and as productive as ever, especially as we have moved to support our trainees via the grading safety net arrangements. We’ve also been part of the university’s Digital Champion resource base and have supported colleagues in their pivot to remote teaching. I had a fascinating meeting with a colleague as we discussed how to move a scheduled conference entirely online – such is the way of things at the moment.
On a personal level, Covid-19 has touched my family because of my mother’s recent passing – one of the non-published statistics of elderly victims in care homes with underlying health conditions. My team rallied around me; my students were wonderful and I have my work to keep me busy while I process the massive changes in my life. I have much to be grateful for.
My background in educational technology research means that for some of my time at home, I switch over to concentrate on my research and writing. Obviously, planned face-to-face research activities can’t happen in the near future, so instead I’ve been writing more. I’ve submitted one paper to a journal for review and completed revisions on another paper. I have a book chapter due to the publishers at the start of June. The topic of the paper I wrote is particularly timely because it looks at the use of video calling and desktop sharing as a research method. It’s based on a method I developed for my doctoral research and have presented on at the BERA conference last year. In the current crisis, as researchers consider how they might move their research forward, I’ve been able to contribute to a research community crowd-sourced document on fieldwork in a pandemic (Lupton, 2020) and the National Centre for Research Methods has picked up my work and shared it in their news article: Switching to teaching, learning and researching online – what does it mean for research methods?
This leads me to think about the future. I’m an advocate of technology in support of pedagogy. I relish the tools and techniques that we can use, such as video-enhanced lesson observations, and digital and visual research methods. Now that everyone in education has had an instant injection of technology into their practice, it’s my hope that they will be more open to exploring these strands of practice in future. I’m also thinking about how to develop our IDL teaching even further.
I have all this to look forward to, as well as a return to lunching with my team on-campus at The Riverside Café in the Prospect building!