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Coming out of Covid and the woods of Sussex beckon

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 20 May 2022, 09:35

A yellow woodland iris, bracken fronds opening and wild garlic after rain

As others have surely discovered already, just because you are not longer testing positive for Covid does not mean its effects cannot still be felt. Major stomach cramps had me ill and indisposed for four days soon after coming off Covid. Then I got that cold, the one everyone is getting - the nasty bastard. The cold the like of which you haven't had since you were a child: full of snot, goes to the chest, lots of coughing and a few days spent mostly asleep or, in the past at least, watching daytime TV; I took to a Netflix box set (Better Call Saul) and Tik-Tok (reading was slow).

Anyway, that was then and now is now. Now is catch up time for projects and work. There's also the perennial itch to be studying something but I rather think getting through the 44 books I have identified on my shelves that I am yet to read is where I start first. This is most history of the First World War - often books that were last published in the 1960s or earlier that I have been told about. This and my constant journeying to a multitude of local woods, all of which can be found on the excellent Find A Wood tracker on The Woodland Trust website. I now have around eight woods that I try to visit once a month, especially over the last few weeks not wishing to miss every part of the transition from winter to wood anemones and wild garlic, wild daffodils and bluebells, various orchids and now as the canopy closes over the verdant greens of oak, beech and birch while woodland glades and commons have emerging bracken and heather. 

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Covid Free

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 23 Apr 2022, 07:15

A set of positive lateral flow tests spread over 16 days from Day 1 to Days 15 & 16.

Covid Free (mostly). It has taken 16 days of testing positive. Fatigue was the most prevalent symptoms: I needed a siesta - usually for a couple of hours, then an early night; one day I slept through pretty much to the following day. No fever, no loss of taste. Heightened allergy symptoms but hay fever and being in bed a lot would do that, however the aggravation of tickly cough has persisted now for a further week. I'm on antihistamines and nasal sprays and for the first time in a decade or more have a reliever inhaler - not that using it makes any differences at all to the wheezyness.

The testing was interesting. On Day One, -1, I tested negative with a lateral flow test. For a couple of days I took the symptoms to be hayfever. Then I got a positive PCR test. As part of the Zoe Covid Research I log my symptoms everyday and 'they' had prompted me to get a test - still free at the end of March. The first positive lateral flow test produced the two line indicators within seconds. By the end of the infection I had to use a timer as the second line would appear 15 even 28 minutes after doing the test. Finally, there was no second line at all, ever, not within the 15-30 minute window, not overnight. This restored my faith in these as for 18 months I had been testing negative; obviously because my asthma/hay fever symptoms are possible indicators for Covid. 

Having had two vaccinations and the booster I assume I got off lightly. 

There were nights when my breathing become very light and my blood oxygen dropped to a level that required me to get in touch with my GP. I did breathing exercises to make sure I was filling my lungs, not something you want to do when you feel you lower chest is wrapped in elastic bands ... or your are wearing a corset.


A collection of benches: traditional, pine log and oak timber.

Others have been dropping like flies; two council members recently, many others too. I went in, masked up, windows open, to make up the numbers for the Landport Bottom Committee. (Apparently Government guidelines permit this and the Town Clerk provided the advice. We've already had this meeting postponed twice). I wanted to steer the inventive ones away from complicated responses to a bench with a dedication; my thinking, based on 50 or so photographs of benches from across East Sussex, was that something simple can be suitably aesthetic, easy to maintain and not too expensive to purchase and site. I also wanted to share my insights on signage (information boards) and rules/guidelines about dogs on leads around sheep. 

I have watched a lot of TV, and far too many videos on Instagram and TikTok. 

I will be deleting social media once more now that I have my brain back. 'Brain fog' was an interesting one because it was some imperceptible; I could work where this required proofreading i.e. a mindless repetitive task, but I was disinclined to read or write. Interestingly, which might be indicative of brain fog of sorts, my scores for the language app I do several times a week, LingVist, dropped to an historic low of 26%. On a good run I get 80%+ consistently. I'm still floating around the 50% mark. It's as if my brain is unwilling to retain new information. 

I used the fact that I am watching masses of TV and film to revive an interest in storytelling; once again I am spotting opening scenes, 'beats' and turning points in scripts and stories. 

April bluebells in Laughton Common Wood, East Sussex

Unhealthily I had been spending an hour or more in a local wood seeking out bluebells, wood anemones, wild garlic and marsh marigolds. For someone who gets seasons hayfever this has probably not been a great idea! 

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Positive Covid Test

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After two years it has finally got me. This is despite teaching in a busy FE College in the first 18 months, though probably a consequence of engagement with large groups of swimmers at the swimming club three times a week. 

I've had so many tests to date, all negative, that I have come to brush off symptoms as 'allergies' or a 'cold'. This time I wasn't satisfied with the Lateral Flow Test so got myself booked in for one of the last 'free' PCR tests. And here I have it; 24 hours later. 

Being the kind of person who follows guidelines as well as rules I'll be at home for a week and have cancelled everything. No brain-fog, no loss of appetite, just a headache I thought I could 'cure' with a stiff cup of coffee and an inclination to 'nap' every four or five hours.

I'm sure others have had it far worse. We're now following the guidelines by wearing masks (FP2 standard) at home, keeping windows open, washing hands and staying apart - like students who aren't getting along we take it in turns in the kitchen and use separate bathrooms.

I'm not stretching my head too much: there are some routine tasks I can get on with, mundane proofreading for example. I'll leave reading books for review to another day. 

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Jonathan , Wednesday, 13 Apr 2022, 09:56)
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The world of education is changing forever.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 1 Dec 2020, 17:18

Education coming out of Covid will put 25% to 100% of their content online, whether or not students come in for classes or workshops, the go to place will be digital and online. It can therefore be used as flipped or blended learning and will replace textbooks. In some instances colleges will go down the Open University model and close their estate and put everything online. 

The role of marketing to sell digital to students and staff, or at least the skills of advertising, marketing and PR to get and then hold the attention of users is becoming all the more important. This is not just a case of getting the message out on digital platforms, but getting our wishes in front of students the traditional way too: in posters, displays and with electronic signage - but in a coordinated rather than a fragmented manner. 

Teachers will have to become facilitators and moderators of content created by others. For example, taking Geography in the UK. How many teachers does it take to get 240,000 students through their GCSE in Geography? And how many of these also support the 36,000 students at A'Level? In the physical world I'm guessing 1,300 or so? 

Online Barbara Oakley created 'Learning How To Learn' module on Coursera. 2,649,556 have enrolled on the course. A handful of people created the content, with Barb as presenter, writer and lead producer, a resident expert to offer further weight to the science, some greenscreen presenting and some simple graphics and animations. There has been a 'moderator' role - I have done this on a volunteer basis having taken the course but it is being down played and even discontinued by Coursera. These are designed to be self-paced courses. It's simple and it does the job. Why look elsewhere to 'learn how to learn' ? Who is doing this for other subjects? Well, there the Khan Academy for Math. What about History, or Biology? 

Ok, we cannot have 75% of students dropping out in the first week! This doesn't mean we can't use the very best online content out there, it simply means that the role of teachers should be collectively to make the experience even more engaging without simply recourse to holding the interest of a captive audience in a classroom.

And a module on Coursera is not two years of education delivered over three terms a year. It will take time an investment to create the content. Are the likes of City & Guild Kineo, and Pearson not doing this already? And what about universities that have committed to 100% online, such as the University of Coventry in the UK and Duke University in the States - and not forgetting the Open University (as everyone does) who have been online since 2001.

If teachers are creating their own content from scratch, beginning when they set out as trainees, are they not reinventing the wheel every time? Have their predecessers not produced materials already? Lesson plans to follow? Top notch resources? If not, why not? I see the value and pride of ownership of this work, of reliance on it to deliver in the class. Can one standup comic hand their material to another? Or might I be saying, the comic presenter has his or her team of writers? What if teachers deliver scripts others have written and that we all work to perfect? 

The model and financing will be more like the Open University producing high quality and engaging content. The issue for teachers is if this is seen to undermine their role, their lead role in the class and their pay. The issue for college is paying the licence fee for such content - unless of course it is pre-paid for and offered as a free Open Education Resource. 

I'm hazzarding a guess that if we with with the Bell curve of normal poplatoin distrubution in a cohort of teachers 70% will find a way to treat going digital and getting it online as part of their job, the rest will split into two camps: 15% who would prefer to leave - to take early retirement, the resist the change and technology absolutely - while the other 15% of ‘outliers’ are already ahead of the curve when it comes to creating content. They may even feel the benchmark has been set too low.

There is a need to collaborate with others in order to deliver the class. Teachers should not be expected to achieve the Google Certified, Microsoft Certified or Apple Certified Educator Level I, II or II but rather educators should be supported by a larger team of coders and designers in order to deliver content, but rather they feel supported by someone with the skills: like a director working with an editor to deliver the content. 

There are some who think that the creation of materials should go down the OER path. There are issues with IP over content created by teachers. They want to be paid up front for their time, not put on some option or share deal.

One way or another, things are going to change. It ought to change for the better for the student, where the student who gets behind receives support, while the student who gets ahead is offered an ever greater challenge to feed their curiosity and desire.

REF: Geography in the United Kingdom 2004 Belgeo 

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Understanding the Digital Student Experience

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Josh Fleming, Head of Strategy and Oversight, Office for Students (with Sir Michael Barber).

(This is a preliminary review of a report that will be published next year). 

Triggered by the pandemic response while looking ahead. Digital poverty, definition: 

Six elements that make up digital poverty. 

  1. Hardware > having the appropriate device for the work you are doing. 

  2. Software > having the right software for what you are learning. 

  3. Connectivity > having the connection to get online 

  4. Having response TECH support when the student needs it

  5. Having a trained facilitator/teacher with the necessary skills to deliver learning online and to support the learning. 

  6. Having the space to learn.

Anecdotally the above are live issues and students are struggling. 

Emerging themes:

  1. Training for staff. There is a correlation between student engagement and the better trained the staff are and the better that staff feel that they are supported.

  2. Asynchronous learning is vital for anyone needing to be able to work around their studies especially if they are having to negotiate over who uses the one computer in the house and can do so on the kitchen table and not be disturbed.

  3. Surveys to quickly provide devices and connectivity where it is needed. 

  4. All institutions should be listening to students. THEY are best placed to tell institutions what they should be doing.

  5. Regular, clear communication is ‘so terribly important’ to navigate the situation created by Covid. 

  6. The potential is a huge opportunity. Over a five to ten year period, say taking disabled students, it can be transformative for them and for learning around the world.

We expected to find subject bias. The anecdotal bias of humanities vs hands on technical degrees, we have been surprised at how well the creative arts have transitioned so that lab time is far more effectively utilised in a way that helped with their pedagogical approach. 

With international students, asynchronous learning can be really good if there is a different time zone, but synchronous learning does aid with any sense of isolation. 

Use of AI to augment human instruction to free up staff time to concentrate on the higher order learning and to improve the student experience. The students of the future may not be taught by Bots, but they will be supported by Bots.



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