A Room with a View: Learning through Lockdown
By fola.brady.19, on 11 June 2020
Just as businesses are adapting to the remote working environment created by lockdown, so must staff and students at the IOE in order to maintain learning during Covid-19.
On a personal level, this has taken me from my room in Camden Town to the left-hand corner of my mother’s attic (there are birds living in the roof on the other side and I don’t particularly want to befriend them). Yet, even from my “desk” (read: shelf), with its temperamental Wi-Fi, soundtrack of occasional muffled arguments or hooting from the ceiling, and even the carousel of visiting cats – I feel I will have grown as a learner by the time I return to UCL.
During an average term – working out of the computer room in the IOE wing, accessing the Newsam Library and its facilities or studying with friends in the downstairs lobby – one can’t help but become accustomed to an interdependent environment. The community at the IOE is shaped by its work in pedagogy. Projects such as those to improve education for marginalised or SEN groups embody the drive for social change through research and discussion. This collaborative environment is to the benefit of all, and research is shared frequently through talks and presentations open to all students and staff. Learning is further guided by academic writing workshops and retreats hosted by the Academic Writing Centre, where peer-supported learning is used to create co-operative working patterns and to hone research and writing skills.
The loss of the benefits of physical presence at Bedford Way, therefore, has made me a more versatile learner. Without the facilities and consultation available to me there, information is more difficult to disseminate, outstanding work appears mountainous and morale can drop. As such, my work is mandated to be streamlined. Despite the endless reams of hours available to me to leaf through PowerPoint slides, my focus is increased to prevent my work drifting into ineffectual browsing. My academic circles have moved online, with new modes of exchange are emerging and flourishing to partially fill the deficit of life at the Institute – and they will stay, integrated into mine and others’ working strategies irrevocably in the future.
But beyond developing strategies to cope with the challenges of remote work, the situation is a retrospective highlight of opportunities at the IOE I could perhaps have utilised more over my first year there. Clearly, Covid-19 has placed a premium on proximal interaction but the understanding of my own cognition and academic values I have gained from learning through lockdown means that I will engage more fully with the IOE when I return in person. Certainly, I will be attending more writing retreats, since the value of exchange and collaboration has increased exponentially. Lines of feedback from academic staff have also become crucial and I wish I had taken further advantage of the opportunities at the IOE for collaboration before term was interrupted. However, recent provision by the IOE, such as the Writing Buddies scheme established by the Academic Writing Centre in light of student feedback on isolation will prove invaluable in creating networks for academic betterment.
I may currently be confined to a perch between a fold-up sun lounger and the Christmas china, but my sense of affiliation to the community at the IOE is renewed. In the short restful periods between avoiding family members and ushering out wayward sparrows, I look forward to engaging with the new IOE podcast, which promises to span the breadth of the Institute’s research in education and social science, with its customary focus on application in policy and practice. The utilisation of Blackboard Collaborate on a faculty level to share experiences of remote learning and to gain one-to-one academic support is a coping mechanism that promises to improve communication long-term, rather than merely stem the loss of face-to-face interaction. Dissertation discussions, webinars and Q&A sessions have moved online and the consistent contact by the academic support staff at the IOE means that physical distance is little obstacle to accessing the resources of community learning.
I will look forward to participating more fully in life at the IOE when term eventually starts. But until then, I will renew my use of the resources hosted by the staff to improve myself academically and socially during lockdown.