Alone With Company

Stay-home life, remote learning, the questionable value of "planful"

I'm just old enough to remember the days of party lines and television aerials that gave you a static-filled, almost-intelligible signal if the conditions were just right. A pandemic stay-home order would have been a different thing, then. At least now we have The Internet, for better or worse. More streaming with less horrible news, please.

Status Report

Still home, still healthy. British Columbia got more serious about its stay-home restrictions last week. I'm not seeing the gym rats out on the local sports field any more. We waited in a well-spaced line for about 30 minutes yesterday to be admitted to a grocery store whose toilet paper and baking products shelves were stripped bare. Grateful thanks to everyone involved in making sure the food was still well stocked.

My wife Holly says we've switched places. She works in tax, so normally this time of year is filled with deadlines and stress and endless hours for her. This year with deadline extensions she's barely working a 40 hour week. Meanwhile my wrists are sore from spending so much time at my desk. That's not a complaint; I'm grateful to be working on something important, and my team is one of the best I've ever had.

Remote Learning Help

We had a few new resources for remote learning come online last week.

Based on a lot of the questions we were getting in the Enable Remote Learning community (among other places), we've released a new summary article called Get Started With Microsoft Teams For Remote Learning. It's intended as a starting point for educators and school leaders who need to move quickly to a distance learning model.

My colleague and caped rock star Mike Tholfsen has a new Youtube playlist of quick tip videos for teachers. He's also hosting a Remote Learning With Microsoft EDU webinar Monday through Thursday, and posting updates on his Twitter feed several times a day,

Longtime friend of Microsoft EDU Leslie Fisher has a new series of webinars en route. My favorite is "Going Rogue With Microsoft," wherein Leslie reminds us that Microsoft Teams and other Microsoft EDU tools work just fine on Chromebooks and MacOS.

Load-Bearing Servers

Fun stats, all from this article:

  • We have seen a 775 percent increase of our cloud services in regions that have enforced social distancing or shelter in place orders.

  • We have seen a very significant spike in Teams usage, and now have more than 44 million daily users. Those users generated over 900 million meeting and calling minutes on Teams daily in a single week. You can read more about Teams data here.

  • Windows Virtual Desktop usage has grown more than 3x.

  • Government use of public Power BI to share COVID-19 dashboards with citizens has surged by 42 percent in a week.

The engineers are performing miracles on a daily basis, but to keep service availability for all worldwide, we're having to make some service changes. Most of them are on the back-end, so you won't notice. One change you will notice: for now, when you want to edit an O365 document (Word, Excel, etc) you'll need to launch the online or desktop app. In Teams the document will be read-only. There may be more changes coming, so if you think you might be impacted, you can join the Enable Remote Learning community for regular updates. IT Admins will hear about them in detail in the Admin Message Center.

Emergency Remote Teaching vs Online Learning

My colleague Mark Sparvell, epic enough to have his own Twitter hashtag (#sparvellous), posted an article from Educause: The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning. Well worth a read.

Online learning carries a stigma of being lower quality than face-to-face learning, despite research showing otherwise. These hurried moves online by so many institutions at once could seal the perception of online learning as a weak option, when in truth nobody making the transition to online teaching under these circumstances will truly be designing to take full advantage of the affordances and possibilities of the online format.

In summary: what we're doing now shouldn't be construed as a planned* transformation to online learning. It's crisis response. It's providing a level of continuity in an extraordinary situation. Different rules apply. Our expectations should be set accordingly.

(* For some reason my colleagues have started using the word "planful" in place of "planned," as in "are we doing this in a planful fashion?" Merriam-Webster says it's a legitimate word, but my inner copy editor cringes.)


Social distance has a beauty all its own.


I told a friend I was pretending to be a baseball player. One day / game at a time, and don't let the highs get too high or the lows get too low. We'll get through this.