The abrupt switchover to online tuition in the wake of COVID-19 has prompted a raft of well-intentioned advice from educators who have long been enthusiastic proponents of virtual teaching and learning.
While there are certainly some useful tips being dispensed, a lot of this advice feels somewhat tone-deaf to the realities of the situation. School teachers and university tutors have not planned and prepared to be teaching in this manner. Many will have other ways that they will prefer to be working. This is a time of high professional and personal anxiety – leaving the mental health of teachers and students in a fragile state.
More importantly, teachers are being thrust by their institutions onto platforms, apps and systems that are largely untested (and certainly not trusted) modes of working. In short, the social and political dimensions of the global pivot to digital education need to be better recognised and discussed.
It is therefore heartening to see the recent efforts of the FemTechNet network to promote their statement of ‘Feminist Pedagogy in a Time of Coronavirus Pandemic’. This is a welcome counterpoint to the tech-centric (and largely a-critical) directions that educators are currently being pushed.
This statement is certainly not anti-technology. Yet it does convey a distinct set of values relating to technology and education that need to be more foregrounded in the weeks and months to come. These include issues of accountability, collectivity, collaboration and care. There is some great advice and food-for-thought, and we would urge all educators to take a look at the full document. Some particularly sage points include …
- “We encourage “minimum viable courses”: by this we do not mean less; it’s an opportunity to rethink what a class is and could be. For now, simpler is better.
- Migrating a class into domestic space changes all interactions.
- Foster scepticism about techno-solutionism and the visibility of corporations who are promising a new normal.
- (Options for) asynchronous learning can be helpful for anyone who has responsibilities outside of work or school. Being co-present should be extended in the spirit of hospitality, not enforced as a demand.
- Consider labour practices as you work as student, staff, or teacher: you should be doing less at work (or at school), for now, so you have the time and energy to care for yourself and your community.
- Audio works just fine while opening accessibility to those without access to broadband and allowing for some privacy and distance. Help people to figure out how they choose to safely display their digital presence and how they negotiate online performance.
- Uneven resources always exist, but the move online makes this structural inequality more obvious.
- Embrace DIY peer-to-peer improvised faculty and student connections,
- The supposedly “born digital” generation needs just as much help as others.
- Consider how international students can be supported in a time of widespread anti-Asian racism.
- Consider how to recognize and thank everyone who is participating in the class.
- Online experiences can be unsafe – online education raises the threat of online violence
- Differences around race, class, nationality, gender, sexuality, and ability don’t disappear in online environments. Online experience is as racist and sexist and homophobic as anywhere else”.