The blog has been dormant… grad school, job changes, teens growing and learning to drive and go to college. I’ve been thinking for a few months about how I could share more now, like maybe bits of the sermons I’ve been giving at my church, or thoughts on ministry in a gentrifying neighborhood. Now seems like as good a time as any to start it up. Usually my posts are about ministry and kids, but after yesterday’s OSU announcement that all classes will be going online to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, I was asked what I think.
(1) This is not the flu. We shouldn’t treat it as nonchalantly as we treat the flu. We don’t take the flu seriously, and it kills 1 in 1000 people. This kills about 35 in 1000, according to what we know now. Our country’s “it’s just a flu” attitude is going to get a lot of people killed. Other countries are doing free and drive-up testing, which prevents more spread of illness, but we haven’t even managed to make testing available broadly – and what is being done requires going to a hospital, thereby exposing workers, janitors, nurses, doctors, immunocompromised patients, etc. At least wash your hands!
(2) I am concerned for my family members who are immuno-compromised… because they are independent and don’t like to be told to stay home. A move like this from places like OSU (and conferences and big events canceling) at least puts the immuno-compromised in a position to stay out of harms way.
(3) I think about the disabled who have been refused accommodations like online classes for years because it’s too difficult and costly, and suddenly now major institutions can flip a switch and make their entire curriculum virtual. I’ve learned more about this from posts by Shannon Dingle (twitter: @shannondingle) as she’s shared some of her insights.
(4) I think this kind of move by a university is inherently classist, too… it is done under the assumption that all students can get online and participate as fully as they can in person. If you’re a person that says “every student has technology,” then you’re not paying attention. I know lots of students who, for a variety of reasons outside of their control, don’t have access to a computer or tablet – unless in public, like a library – and these kids will be left out, or will have to take health risks, or maybe can participate on something as difficult as their phone. The online mediums I’ve used aren’t mobile-friendly. The images don’t adjust, the videos aren’t playable, the windows open incorrectly, the buttons don’t respond, etc. These students are at a disadvantage no matter what.
(5) counteracting point 4… at least OSU says students can come onto campus to do their work, can stay in their dorms, etc. I love their encouragement of “appropriate social distancing and enhanced preventative public health and hygiene measures” for those staying on campus. Some universities are shutting down their campus, which puts students who have nowhere to go in new kinds of danger.
(6) I’ve taken online classes, about 1/3 of my Master’s Degree was online coursework. Done well, it’s great. Good videos, practice using the technology, good microphones, and well prepared syllabi all help. Done poorly, it’s horrible. I’ve wasted hours watching painfully recorded videos, listening to inaudible sound (profs, if you’re being recorded during an in-class session, repeat any questions that are asked into the mic!), failing to connect, and having professors get sidetracked online. I hope that profs and TAs and admins will do it well, but that takes time and resources. In OSU’s case, this is Spring Break, so they have a week to figure it out. I have my doubts.
(6) I’m grateful for my kids’ high school – it’s a STEM school and they practice “Virtual Days” where kids and teachers work remotely about once a month (and any weather/”calamity” day). After our first virtual day experience I said this was clearly going to prepare my kids for telecommuting in a way that others are not prepared. As such, my kids will have experience and a high expectation of learning in an online setting, which hopefully will serve them well.
(7) Finally, my thoughts on this situation go directly to my neighbors. I think of those with no health insurance, those who don’t have paid sick days, those who will go to work no matter what so they can pay their bills and put food on the table. I think of the kids who get most of their stable meals at school. I think of those who use the ER as their primary care. How will we love our neighbors well, right now, before and during a crisis? I think this will be a defining moment. I hope we can find a way forward, with love and clean hands.