Someday Again

Proof of life, remote learning resources, quarantine entertainment

I had a birthday last week. Since we're all in quarantine I expected it to go mostly unremarked, but on the morning call my co-workers all sang to me, Microsoft Teams-style: heartfelt, with love, completely out of synch and tune as the video feeds took split seconds to catch up with each other. I laughed so hard I nearly cried. I have the best colleagues.

Speaking of laughing myself to tears, thanks to @ylitvinenko for this:

Status

Both Holly and I are still healthy. The lockdown strain is starting to show. Our haircuts are getting more shaggy. I'm adding a few pounds, not of muscle. I find myself irrationally resenting everyone with the time to enjoy the lovely weather in the local park, even though I know full well many of them have the time because the social distancing restrictions have barred them from earning a living.

We have a dog, not kids, but a theme I'm hearing from customers and co-workers alike is the absolute chaos of households where parents are trying to work and support their kids in remote learning. I'm deeply sympathetic. Even Holly and I have to work every day to make sure we're not bothering each other, and we're a much quieter household.

I participated in some triathlons when I was younger. This is the bit we called "grinding." Dig deep, remember the goal, and push through it. Better days are coming.

Remote Learning Resources

My colleague Mike Tholfsen has embraced his true calling of education influencer, pouring out a steady stream of quick tip videos and hosting longer webinars on remote learning.

All the webinars have been good but I especially enjoyed two of them this week. Gordon Chang of the Teams product group talked about Teams Meetings and the plans for making them even better for instruction. Valentina DeNardis of Villanova University talked about how Teams and OneNote can help remote learning scenarios in higher education. (With musical accompaniment!)

Another good webinar: Dr. Bruce Kingma of Syracuse University spoke about “Pandemic and Online Education,” where 14 student teams evaluated the mid-semester switch to online teaching at Syracuse University, and made recommendations to the Dean and Chancellor. It's great perspective.

One shout-out: We're getting lots of questions about how instructors can see more data about their classes in a remote learning environment. For those who haven't discovered it yet, have a look at the Class Insights feature in Microsoft Teams. It's the first part of what will be an ongoing effort to bring actionable insights to instructors and institutions alike.

What next?

One of my tasks for this week is to track more closely how universities and colleges are thinking about the summer and fall terms in a post COVID world. We're already seeing articles on massive cost burdens, campus closures, possible fall term delays, and more.

The sense that we've got, in the words of my colleague David Gibson, is that higher education institutions are still in first-response mode. Rephrased: let's finish the emergency pivot to distance learning, finish the spring term, then work out what comes next. I'm looking forward to learning and hearing more.

I read a study this week from Eduventures that dropped this factoid: whether US high school seniors are worried about their college choice being affected by COVID-19 is correlated to whether their county voted Democrat in the 2016 election. Oh, my poor home country.

Inspiration

Hard to remember I used to travel a lot. Someday again.

Quarantine entertainment

I am not the target audience for Fiona Apple's new album FETCH THE BOLT CUTTERS. (That would be Gen-X witches of all ages and genders.) That said, it's a brilliant and challenging piece, percussive and deep and a little angry. I'm looking forward to more listens. There's a lot there.

In the better-late-than-never department: I've been enjoying Nnedi Okorafor's BINTI, Afrofuturist SF with the breakneck pace of old-school space opera. For some reason the soundtrack in my head is mostly Marcus Miller basslines. If you liked the Black Panther movie, you'll like this.

(I just looked up Okorafor on Wikipedia and discovered we were born within a week of each other. Hello, fellow Aries! Thank you for being awesome.)

Onward

I am by nature not especially good at living in the present moment, but I keep trying. One moment at a time. Find the little miracles. Let them carry me through the challenging days. I wish the same to all of you. Living through history is dumb and hard and better read about than experienced, but we'll get through it together.