Post 57: #Coronavirus and a global perspective.

Today we’re free-form writing!

We’re sharing our experiences, thoughts, and uncensored opinions during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 57. 

And now…#AUB

RJD, #Beirut, #Lebanon

“Saving AUB must be our only priority. And save it we will.” – Fadlo Khuri

I was heartbroken this week reading President Khuri’s email to The American University of Beirut’s (AUB) staff and faculty about the fragility of AUB during the #COVID-19 pandemic. This comes after many small businesses, including mine, closed recently. This also comes as the Beirut Marathon declared yesterday that it has halted operations.

Lebanon’s devastating Greek/Venezuela-like economic crisis has made this great institution raise its white flag after 6 months of turbulence from the October 17 Revolution to the collapse of the government, the instability of the greenback to #COVID-19.

AUB has been an integral part of my life since childhood, and I am certain many others feel the same way.

Most of my family members had something to do with AUB at one point or another in the past 100 years: my grandfather used to take care of the cows at the AUB farm, my grandmother used to sew for the wives of the faculty and was rewarded with her first sewing machine, my dad graduated from AUB in the early 60s, my uncle too and was an engineer in the hospital where my aunt was a graduate nurse, my father-in-law was the President of the Alumni Association, and my husband teaches to this day.

Most of my childhood memories revolve around the campus, playing in the playgrounds, spending time running with my dad on the green field, folk festivals, concerts, kissing boyfriends under the trees when playing hooky from school, and most importantly, my dream to graduate from AUB when I grew up.

That dream was shattered with the advent of the civil war, when my family left Lebanon. Upon returning to Beirut, in the 90s, AUB remained on my daily radar. Still living close by, still running on the green field, and still dreaming of having a second degree from this landmark institution. I also got the opportunity to give a talk at the University for Seniors a few years ago!

I love the campus, I love the spirit, the old chapel (now the Assembly Hall), the museum, the guest lectures, the Oval, the cats, the lighting of the Banyan tree at Christmas, and the old Observatory. There is so much more hidden on campus if you look deeply. How many of you know the number of stairs from upper campus to the tennis courts? What are the names of the dorms? Which small pathway takes you from one staircase to another?

As AUB struggles with coping during these uncertain times, I am now more determined than ever to go back to school there and make that dream come true, and in my little way, help save AUB. As gloom and doom loom, I am now more determined than to promote the great achievements of this iconic institution, the alumni, the campus, and the faculty to heed to Dr. Khuri’s word, in my own little way.

Save it, we will.

Happy Mother’s Day

Norma B. Wallace, Bend, #Oregon

Mother’s Day is celebrated today in the US and in seven other countries. In Spain, it is the first Sunday in May. In the Middle East it is March 21; in the UK it is March 22 and is called Mothering Day.

Whatever the date, one day is set aside for honoring Mothers. It’s wonderful to honor them (Mothers) with flowers, and often, a Mother’s Day brunch or breakfast in bed. I got a very special box of chocolate-covered strawberries that are my favorite. They are the biggest strawberries I have every seen and so delicious. My special thanks for being remembered today, Rafif, Wayne, and boys.

This year, I think, more than any other year, Mothers are doing so much more. Being a Mother has always been a 24/7 job. But it is not always a 24/7 with the children all day. It is not usually adding the job of teacher and making 3 meals and 100 snacks a day, especially if the kids are younger.

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Don’t worry, some day the kids will go back to school and will be able to play in the playground or hang out at the mall. We will get through this pandemic. When I think of it, my job was so much easier, but I am not giving up my strawberries.

Happy Mother’s Day every day, 24/7.

How did it all start?

Tina F., Fairfax, #Virginia

The million-dollar question today is, where did the COVID-19 virus really originate?

The majority of the world is in agreement that Wuhan, China is where it came from, but who was Patient Zero, and how did the virus manifest itself?

By December 2019, the Chinese government realized they had an epidemic, and they informed the world that this virus was a natural occurrence from infected bats sold at a Wuhan market. It’s ironic that there is a lab in Wuhan – not far from the market – where scientists conduct experiments on the coronavirus. Coincidence?

Let us remember that the lab was funded by the United States government, which now adamantly maintains that the virus leaked out of that lab, and which is accusing the Chinese government of a cover-up. China has lashed back at America, stating that this accusation is part of Trump’s re-election strategy. The US administration has decided to cut research funding and placed political pressure on the Chinese government to allow an independent investigation to determine the origin of the coronavirus.

So here we go again with the blame game and finger-pointing. Perhaps the Chinese government has not been forthcoming about the virus’s origin. (Notice I say the Chinese government and not the Chinese. We have seen a rise in xenophobic hatred and violence towards the Asian community in the US because of China’s association with with the coronavirus).

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No copyright violation intended.

Honestly, I’m not sure I care who is to blame, but it’s the circulating conspiracy theories that have me aghast. There are so many undercover occurrences and theories to make us second-guess ourselves, let alone our governments.

The virus, whether man-made in a lab or accidentally transmitted from bats to humans, has become a pandemic. Yes, a PANDEMIC! As of current writing, the world has 4,000,000 confirmed cases and almost 280,000 deaths from COVID-19.

We, as citizens of the world, are owed transparency and truth. What we are getting is political rhetoric and threats. Maybe this battle of the words is a strategic act by governments to confuse their citizens so that we no longer seek the truth, thus allowing more underhanded collusion and deception.

The political games being played will not curtail the spread of the virus. I know I speak for many when I demand that world governments work together to find sustainable solutions to this pandemic. After all, it’s in everyone’s interest to recover our health and our economy.

Not a Rant

RafifJ, #Malaga, #Spain

Today I’m not going to rant about how Mother’s Day is little more than a commercial construct…or that EVERY day should honor mothers – not just one – because they give us LIFE…no, today I’m #grateful that my boys, 18 and 16, are alive. I’m grateful that in their lifetimes, they have not known real adversity.

Today I also feel sorrow. Sorrow for the mothers who have lost their children to racism, gun violence, drug addiction, and the countless other horror stories that befall our societies. Sorrow that some mothers must fear for their children’s lives every single time their kids step outside the house. Fear that a stray – or intentional – bullet will catch them. Or that they will be caught Running While Black or Driving While Arab or Working While a Person of Any Color But White.

Hug your children every day, if they’ll let you. It could be their last one, especially if they’re a minority.

Thank you for reading our blog! We welcome all feedback.

If you’d like to contribute a post, please get in touch! Send me an email, contact me on Twitter, or leave a comment here.

Post 32: #Coronavirus and a global perspective

We’re friends and family from around the world, sharing our experiences and thoughts during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 32. WE DON’T ALWAYS AGREE – nor do we have to! We post our opinions, and those of our guest bloggers, with no censorship.

TODAY’S TOPIC: Remote Learning

The future is calling

RafifJ, #Malaga, Spain

Remote learning, distance learning, online courses, online collaboration – whatever you call it, it boils down to the exchange and processing of information in a socially distant and hygienic environment. Today, anyone reading this blog is using the Internet. In their daily interactions with others they also use applications like WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom, WebEx…..I don’t need to go on, do I? We are learning and unlearning – learning to use new technology even as we unlearn what is “traditional” education.

Our kids are learning and unlearning, too. From language classes to business principles, students are adapting to the new way of acquiring knowledge and the accompanying etiquette. We know about online manners: hate speech and bullying have severe consequences; disrespectful comments will earn the wrath of fellow participants. Instructors define the rules of online classroom behavior, much as they did in their brick-and-mortar classrooms.

What is changing, though, is how we acquire knowledge, and the pace at which we acquire it. Along the way, we’re unlearning some of the old rules. Is a 4-year degree really so important? Can one acquire the same amount of knowledge through multiple online sessions? Increasingly, Generation Z kids, who were raised with plenty of technology, acquire knowledge not just through in-person classrooms but through online learning and eBooks as well. These once nontraditional learning methods are fast becoming the norm; we did not need the #Coronavirus to get here, but it has accelerated adoption. New traditions are being formed. Forget about commuting or packing a lunch; today’s learning is available to anyone, virtually anywhere, if they have an Internet connection and a device.

I experienced this myself a few years ago when I did my master’s degree in strategic communication at my alma mater: The American University in Washington, D.C. I joined AU’s School of Communication for its a top-notch online master’s program. Two years later, I had earned my degree at a pace that was right for me. The program’s flexibility allowed me to play with my kids, take care of my work, and even have some time for myself. I actually wrote a couple of blog posts for AU about their program and its benefits. No, I’m not getting paid to promote it.

Today, I’m happy to say I’m still in touch with many of the students and professors I “met” during my remote learning experience. Every so often, I teach a proposal course at AU for the same program (just held a session via Zoom a week ago).

All in all, I think remote learning is the way to go. It’s the way we are going, at any rate. “Resistance is useless,” as Douglas Adams once told us. You can look it up online.

Interview with a University Professor

RJD, #Beirut, Lebanon

Today I interviewed a professor at The American University of Beirut (Suliman S. Olayan School of Business) to find out his perspective on remote learning. Here are his thoughts:

What do you consider to be the benefits of remote learning?

“I think the student has the option to learn at their own pace. The student can also replay the material (specially Voice over PowerPoint) over to ensure they understood the material. Another advantage is that they can review the material on a schedule that works for them. Some people are more clear in the morning, others prefer the evening. And finally, I think not having travel time allows them to concentrate more on the material and the assignments at hand!”

What do you not like about remote learning, or what don’t you find effective? 

“I believe remote learning takes the fun out of campus life and limits the students’ ability to interact. I also think that, even in large groups, students learn from one another when the session is on campus. For instance, when I tell them a story, or when they share their experiences, and we all relate. 

Also, I feel remote learning makes it more difficult for a teacher to know if specific students are having difficulties with the material because you can’t see them all the time! 

It is also more difficult to ask questions online if the class is large. Between reading questions and answering them verbally, for instance on Adobe Connect, I can lose my mind and it is very distracting! 

Reshuffling my classes from in-class sessions to online also took a huge effort to produce; to perfect it was also very tedious. For instance, when you are speaking, sometimes you say “ummm,” but in a presentation, you have to force yourself to stay away from these pauses.

Finally, I love to tell my students interesting anecdotes and stories about my personal business experiences to illustrate a point, and sometimes this happens spontaneously. In remote learning, I am finding it difficult to relay such stories and make the class more interactive. 

On the other hand, the material that we had to prepare this semester can be used over and over, should the need continue (for instance some colleges are thinking about remaining remote in the upcoming Fall semester).”

Would you recommend remote learning in general? 

“Absolutely not. It takes the pleasure out of teaching and out of learning. It makes the whole experience mechanical. I am noticing that a lot of students are not learning as much, are not as disciplined about assignments, communication via email is not the ideal and I just don’t have the time with 4 courses and over 100 students to talk to each one individually.”

Remote Learning

Tina F., Fairfax, #Virginia

This is not a topic I claim to know much about. Although I do consider myself a lifelong learner, I usually research and learn about specific topics that interest me. I have never attended a class remotely.

I asked my kids, who are both taking college classes, how remote learning is impacting their college experience.

My daughter has “real time” classes, but the lecture is prerecorded so it’s not real time because she can pause it and take notes or take a nap. She says she would much rather be in class in real “real time” and not on a screen in her room still wearing PJs.

My son said the same thing, although his classes do not have lectures; they post the class resources and homework on their school’s remote platform.

The kids agree that they miss physically being on campus and in the classroom, where they can chat with teachers and friends. They also miss the hands-on classes like lab, darkroom, and the kitchen the most. Classes that are taught by doing and seeing and working with their hands. Unfortunately, those classes have to wait till the students can get back to campus.

In the meantime, my daughter still needs to finish and pass her darkroom photography class. In the absence of the darkroom, the teacher has given them creative assignments such as watching a movie and writing a paper about it. According to my daughter, it is a waste of time….

The truth is, both my husband and I agree that testing is a measure of someone’s ability to memorize rather than their ability to learn and comprehend. We believe in some cases it’s better for students to research the answers and learn, rather than guessing or getting it wrong and never learning the correct answer. So maybe this is all positive. Is it really cheating to take the time to look up an answer? Learning should be based on everyone’s personal abilities. It is not a one-size-fits-all. I personally hope the post-Corona school system will reassess the curriculum, standardized testing, and how we teach kids today.

My kids also agree that the whole process is weird, especially since the teacher cannot monitor if students cheat. (Perhaps they are confessing something to me).

Thank you for reading our blog! We welcome all feedback.

If you’d like to contribute a post, please get in touch! Send me an email, contact me on Twitter, or leave a comment here.