My Life in LA County During COVID-19: March 29

Harry Keller 80By Harry Keller
Former ETCJ Science Editor
& President of SmartScience

Are we about to enter a new world, and how brave will it be? -HK

Mar 29, 2020 at 9:30 AM: I absolutely must give a huge shout-out to the doctors, nurses, and health care workers risking their lives under sometimes impossible situations to save lives. All of the support personnel in our hospitals, from janitors to pharmacists, also deserve our thanks for entering buildings under these conditions that threaten their lives and those that they live with. It is beyond unfortunate that we did not respond more rapidly to the wake-up call from China.

Yesterday was a great day for me because I had visits from both of my children and a walk with my wife.

It began with my son calling to say he was dropping by. He said that his 14-day quarantine was over. He arrived with his wife and an Indian lunch for us all to share. We still did not approach each other too closely. It seems that you cannot take too much care these days. 

Yesterday was a great day for me because I had visits from both of my children and a walk with my wife. -HK

Later, my daughter arrived with her husband and two sons (ages 10 and 12). They stayed outside of the 4-foot fence but did bring along two rolls of toilet paper for us. My daughter, the MIT graduate, has been searching for ways to manage during this crisis and has found some resources that she shared with us.

Our cat was running out of treats. This is hardly essential in my view, but my wife feels differently. I had the beginnings of cabin fever. So, we walked a bit over a mile to a local Petsmart and very carefully picked up the necessary stuff — lots of it. Once out of the store, we sprayed out hands with sanitizer and headed home.

Just another day in the life of a person enduring during this crisis. We are watching more television than usual, mostly streaming movies. I feel that I should be out doing stuff though. This feeling nags me and detracts from the movie watching.

How can we benefit from this unprecedented viral crisis? Will we improve anything? Plenty of people, teachers and students, now have their first taste of remote learning. It must be the deep end of the swimming pool for some. Just keep kicking and splashing. Talk to your friends who have already learned to “swim.” The water’s fine.

Could we achieve a new normal that is better than before? -HK

How about telecommuting? Plenty of workers are finding out that it can be done and also finding out about the pitfalls. It can be hard to stay focused when at home. For many, it is just plain unnatural. As I look out at the distant mountains here near the beach in Los Angeles County, I am struck by the clarity of the air. If we could keep the traffic down to this level in ordinary, that would be a tremendous boon to all who live here. Usually, the mountains are not visible due to the smog.

Is it possible for those who can telecommute to continue to do so after this deluge? Could we achieve a new normal that is better than before? What sort of support will we find necessary for those who live alone and depend on their workplaces for social interaction? Can virtual interactions replace at least a part of physical interactions? Are we about to enter a new world, and how brave will it be?

4 Responses

  1. Harry, great questions. But, first, we rejoice with you in your reunion with your children and grandchildren. Everyone’s safe and healthy!

    COVID-19, the “deluge” you’re observing, is sweeping into our collective consciousness like a tsunami and altering our perceptions of work and school. The masses are beginning to see the immense potential of telecommuting and online learning in a very personal and in-your-face way.

    I don’t think we’ll be able to return to the pre-pandemic days after the crisis. COVID-19 is changing us, and our world will never be the same. Working from home and teaching-learning remotely will become the new norm.

    Stay safe!

    • I wish that I could be as sanguine as you about the future of remote education, Jim. I do think that we are accelerating the process due to this awful crisis. A great many teachers and students are learning about it that otherwise would not have. That is a plus.

      In the fall, when the worst is past, many will return to their previous ways. Some will add remote components. A few will embrace remote learning wholeheartedly. The technology acceptance curve will have experienced a step change. Its upward slope will have increased.

      Remote-learning technology still has some distance to travel before online utopia arrives. I struggle with these issues every day as I seek to improve our software to make it easier to use and more potent pedagogically. It’s a tough and bumpy road and a long one, but we will arrive at widespread acceptance in time.

  2. I’ve read most of Harry Keller’s posts recently and in ‘My Liife in LA County’ I’ve enjoyed the calm perceptive observations on everyday human activity in his neighbourhood. I’m writing from Cambridge, England and have family ‘down Mexico way’, specifically in Baja Califonia Sur. I’ve been forwarding Harry’s posts to my daughter, who is teaching and administering there, on the assumption that they may be useful and have relevance; schools now being closed.

    I’m interested (as a retired educator) in online delivery and distance learning which was beginning to take shape in the late 1990s. I was in Africa at that time. Computer literacy was a fanciful idea for some and many older teachers couldn’t quite come to terms with its magnitude.

    I recall a joke circulating in academic circles then. It was in cartoon strip form and featured a college professor who discovers that several of his students were not attending his lectures, but merely leaving tape recorders ‘in situ’. In the second box, the numbers doing so have increased significantly. In the following box, the professor walks into the lecture hall, which is now thinly attended by students, with tape recorders dominating. Sporting a Machiavellian grin the professor places his own tape recorder on the dias; then walks out, to the consternation of students on the front bench. Finally, on the following day, we see the professor’s face, aghast & horror-stricken, as he peers through a window and beholds an empty lecture hall, populated entirely by recording machines!

    Many of my peers at the time found this cartoon amusing, as I did myself. The mantra of our inset group was, “There’s no teaching without learning”. It remains a valid premise.

    No doubt we are experiencing a post digital redemption. Measurable, quantifiable objectives and competencies need to be built into the curriculum these days. That’s a given. In Covid-19’s emerging ‘school of hard knocks’ there’s much to be learned and many of our existing humanitarian values and behaviour are about to be assessed. Let’s hope they pass muster. Whatever comes, the learning curve will be steep and human-social intelligence not AI will shape our future. We must all be courageous in stepping up to the plate.

    Harry’s recent question – How brave will this new world be? – leaves much food for thought.

    • Thank you very much, Tony, for your thoughtful comments. I certainly agree that AI will not shape the future of education. It will affect our lives in many ways, which I hope will remain positive.

      I seek for education to teach thinking skills and not the usual memory skills augmented by obeisance to authority and the ability to work on a timed schedule.

      The future belongs to the thoughtful who can use logical, critical, and creative thinking to solve the world’s problems and bring us ultimately to a society of abundance where hunger and homelessness belong to the past.

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