COVID-19: Thank God for Zoom and MSTeams and adaptable, patient, students and external speakers

My module for MSc Biodiversity Consevation and Ecosystem Management started on 16th March – as the Universities shut down.

Was so looking forward to:

  • learning to make promotional videos
  • students taking us on guided tours of local Nature Reserves
  • external speakers ond Policy and Practice from NP AONB partnership, Natural History Society etc.
  • Trips to Hepple rewilding and Chillingham wild cattle
  • … was going to be my best module ever

But I know my problems of a thwarted module were nothing compared to many, so we girded our loins and got our thinking caps on and wrestled with technology:

Steve Lowe from Northumberland Rivers Trust came to talk to us in person about Northumberland Rivers – and crayfish
Our first technological Zoom success was Adam talking to us about Wildlife Licensing from his home to all of us at home – with students sending questions in on the chat
Actually, this was a different module – Hannah and I are running oral exams for 30 agric students. Huge success. Wish this was their final exam actually – so much better than written exams as you really get a feel for what student knows, can meet them exactly where they are at, give them immediate feedback, they can self-assess and it is practice for job interview . Written exams are not practice for anything – IMO. Recommend them as replacements for modules this summer.
Then I tried to do bird calls using MSTeams – not sure of its success, but we did get the audio to work and the chat to work

More next week

No A levels? Worried about Uni place? Make learning at home an opportunity.

If you are someone who has been to one of our open days and has picked up the link to my blog and are reading now, you probably heard me talk about learning for the love of learning, and how sad it makes me that our school system is geared toward passing exams. Maybe there are opportunities as a result of C-19 while you are learning at home:

  • Alevels are great ways to stress you out, to help you learn mark schemes, and to dampen your creativity and risk taking (IMO).
  • Don’t stop learning – learn to learn, and learn to love learning
  • When you get to Uni, you will have to be more independent, it is not too early to start that now.
  • If you find something interesting, follow your interest, find out more about it
  • Question everything: even if someone you trust tells you something, do not assume it is true, find other opinions, look for evidence. There has been lots of nonsense shared about C-19 e.g. something about sips of water preventing the disease, then there has been info with no real full evidence but some indication e.g. about ibuprofen … Don’t trust any source – find info from lots of sources and weigh it up. See things from lots of points of view
  • Learn to be disciplined, set yourself targets and give yourself rewards for completing (maybe you are good at that)
  • Read around Environmental Science issues. Read government papers. Check out websites of organisations e.g. IUCN, WWF, Environment Agency. Find out what they do. Does not have to be on your syllabus.
  • At Uni you will get much more freedom to choose topics, to present work in different ways, to decide for yourself. There are mark schemes to give you guidance, but you cannot learn them. There is often more than one right answer (tho there are wrong answers)
  • Maybe you can learn with your family – not just on your own. Do projects together. have debates?

Some things we have no control over e.g. whether we go to school and take exams. Things we do have control over are how you are going to use your time. Use it to enjoy your learning.

I know this is not possible for everyone, you all have different situations, but I hope it inspires some of you.