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Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Adjusting to the New Norm


I celebrated my birthday recently and amidst quarantine congregation restrictions and social distancing instructions, I was still able to celebrate it with 17 people hailing from the UK, US, Jamaica and all parts of Trinidad including St. Augustine, Chaguanas, San Fernando, Princes Town, Penal & Fyzabad. Fear not, no quarantine guidelines were broken. It was all done via video call using the Zoom platform.

Zoom Video Communication share price went from US$62 in October of 2019 to peaking at US$162 as of March 2020. Zoom Communications along with many other video conferencing and online learning and productivity platforms are some of the few companies that are profiting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other organizations are now using their products in an attempt to just stay afloat during these very uncertain times. The question is, when this pandemic dissipates, and we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, would business operations go back to usual or are we experiencing the genesis of what will be referred to as the new norm.

Working from home as the new norm

I’ve heard many people who started to work from home due to COVID-19 say that they have been working much more hours than when in the office and that some of them are even more stressed than before. Becoming consumed and contributing more hours to your overall work day can be attributed to the added comfort of your home, no traffic, getting up later and not having to worry about what clothes to wear and can easily make you forget to do some of your regular routines, like eat and bathe.

On the other side of the coin, having to look after kids coupled with working from home can be even more challenging especially if you need to dedicate some time to school work supervision, preparing of meals and parting the oh so frequent squabble between siblings who are now even more confined to the walls of their living spaces.

A little bit of planning and scheduling of activities can go a long way to mitigating some of these issues. While contemplating the COVID-19 Quarantine of 2020 I relate back to the Coup d’etat of 1990. During that forced time at home, internet was not that ubiquitous. There was no binge watching of shows and I distinctly recall the same schedule of programs and movies playing each day. Outdoor play was understood and screen time wasn’t even on the list of activities back then.

Now however, both adults and kids can fall prey to the lure of technology and the need for screen time amidst a forced quarantine. It is recommended that you develop a schedule for yourself and your kids, print it out and stick it on the fridge or a place visible to all. There should be some intersection of activities in these plans as we should take advantage of this forced together time to connect and communicate in person and without technology. Make sure device parental controls have been updated as access to devices are now for the entire day. Ensure that you set and adhere to cut off times for work and technology. If this was the norm pre-covid19 then continue it now.

For example, one adaptation to my new schedule is that I decided to use what was my traffic time for exercise. Taking advantage of the additional 2 – 3 hours lost in traffic can make you a much more productive, accomplished and stress free person.

Teaching & Learning Online as the new norm

Feedback from the community that CyberSafeTT has been interacting with for the past ten years, it seems that the biggest challenge is adapting to online learning.
For the schools that had already integrated technology into their teaching and learning and more so for those who haven’t, the biggest challenge is to move teaching and learning to a fully online solution. One that does not involve any face to face or personal interactions. One that seems to be void of emotion and control. One that seems to take the fun out of being a teacher and removes the same element of  fun in being a student. No more recess and playing with schoolmates or end of term parties. These are elements that enrich the schooling experience and ones that all will not be able to experience this time around. That void only helps to makes this transition more difficult.
Even if we were to ignore what was aforementioned and dive straight into the teaching and learning aspect, we have the following which was shared to fellow staff members by Dr. Jacqueline Huggins, Manager of the Student Life and Development Department, under the Division of Student Services at The UWI St. Augustine Campus.
Dr. Huggins outlines the following real challenges that students of the university are facing in the light of moving to complete online teaching and learning:
  • Poor internet coverage or almost no reliable internet access
  • Some students do not have a personal computer or access to internet at the moment
  • Online sessions are not clear and sometimes there are connectivity issues during a class
  • Issues based on type of disability – typing for students with physical disabilities (of the hand), listening to lectures for students who wear hearing aids, students with dyslexia
  • Some students still prefer physical classes and exams due to medical reasons
  • Students who cannot look at the computer screen for too long based on medical conditions such as severe migraine headaches
  • Students who feel that they think they are either being ignored or not getting the adequate attention when contact is made to lecturers outside of class session

Adapting to the teaching and learning new norm will pave a longer road to be travelled which will include stops along the way for training, cultural adaptation, leveling of the technology playing field and paying more attention to the accessibility needs of both teachers and students.

Let us as parents, teachers and employees give these new norms adequate time to evolve.

Employers should be respectful of an employees time in the same way as was done pre-covid19. Knowing that there should also be a cut off time to email and WhatsApp.

Parents need to understand that schools and their teachers have as much questions regarding this new norm as you do and sometimes they may not have all the answers. Don’t compare one school to the other, but instead focus on your child and help them adapt to this new norm.

Teachers, it will be a challenging time for many, as moving to a fully online teaching style is not one that you had ever trained for. Migrating your handwritten notes to digital and sharable formats would be a task. Getting to know and understand the technology would be a task. Attempting to manage a virtual room full of kids, more easily distracted now than ever before would be a task. But it all has to be done. You cannot give up. Expect hiccups along the way. Eventually you and your students will get to understand and learn inside this new norm.

Lastly, education policy makers should also take heed as rash decisions regarding online examinations and grading has to take into consideration some of the aforementioned points in order to give each child a fair chance.

CyberSafeTT wants to hear from you.

What has your experience as a parent been with schools being closed and kids now having to learn from home?

How has this affected you?
Are you coping?
Are your kids learning?
Is it effective?

Help us gather the information so that we can have data to share with the relevant authorities to address this in the near future.



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