COVID-19: Local-Global Learning and Civic Resources

March 18, 2020

For the vast majority of us, the greatest contribution we can make right now is to limit our movements. Be still. Stay home. Distance. Yet even staying home requires new ways of thinking. And, many of us have begun to identify ways we can be supportive of broader community in more ways than just staying home. 

Campus-Community Engagement, Volunteering, and Civic Organizing  

Colleagues have already responded to this rapidly changing moment with a breadth of resources. Iowa and Minnesota Campus Compacts have stepped forward to create a continuously updated resource page particularly relevant for community-engaged and social justice educators. Their resource round up includes everything from caring for students and restructuring courses to a Virtual Volunteering Guide from Idealist, and much more. But restructuring isn’t only about considering options for online, project-based learning. It’s also being cognizant of existing relationships with community partners. 

In that spirit, Jennifer Alkezweeny, Teaching, Learning, and Engagement Associate at Portland State University, quickly pulled together this comprehensive Community Based Learning in times of Social Distancing, Isolation and Quarantine. As the resources assembled there make clear, we want to be in contact with local organizations, public officials, and partners – and there are many other needs and uncertainties we’re all working through. At The Globalsl Network, we’re returning to our series on what it means to be in partnership when travel is not possible.

That series describes how, across North America, several institutions with longstanding partnerships in Nicaragua have maintained quality and depth in those relationships despite two years of travel prohibition. Similarly, some of our colleagues involved with restorative justice and decarceration activism have raised and transferred funds to their partners on the inside. People who are imprisoned are at high risk, states aren’t investing in additional soaps or hygiene, and this move gives people stuck on the inside funds for extra sanitizing supplies at the commissary. Along with an extraordinary guide, Small Yet Significant Kindnesses in the Time of COVID-19, put together by the APPS Team at Imagining America, these two examples provide avenues for resource sharing and creative community-building in times of crisis. Just yesterday, PHENND Colleagues also summarized discussions in this vein on the HE-SL Listserve and Community Service and Service-Learning Facebook Professionals Group. We’re working to identify more resources to support our moves relating to engaged programming, while we also acknowledge we have so much more we must learn about this crisis and what it means for us.  

Critical Inquiry – COVID-19 Syllabi 

As we think about civic work, we know it requires intentional learning on the topic at hand. Academics are supporting this essential effort as well. 

Alondra Nelson, President of the Social Science Research Council and Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, initiated this incredible collection of resources for the #coronavirussyllabus.

Two faculty members at Northeastern University, Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, Distinguished Professor of English and Co-director of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, worked with Sari Altschuler, associate professor of English and associate director of the Humanities Center, to develop the Humanities Coronavirus Syllabus. 

And the broader context of global health and development efforts is also being revealed in this critical moment. In that vein, the SDG Academy has offered a series of new webinars clarifying the resources they have and how they can be integrated with existing courses.

But having good resources and a good syllabus is not enough. How will this content connect with students? The higher ed community is already doing a great deal to mobilize resources on online learning, broadly construed. At this site, we’re particularly curious about learning and social action. 

Online Social Action Coursework, Discussion Facilitation, and Humanizing 

Just this past week, the Bonner Foundation pulled together a webinar on Teaching Social Action Online, drawing on lessons learned through Harvard’s program on Public Narrative: Leadership, Storytelling, and Action featuring Marshall Ganz, Sarah ElRaheb-Dagher, and Aditi Parekh. After introductions the session kicks off at 11:45: 

That video is comforting in some ways (isn’t it great to think about Zoom as a fundamentally connecting space!?), but it can also be overwhelming. What if we don’t have time to plan all of that for our courses this week? Higher Ed’s social media sphere has gone giddy in the past few days over two pieces that address this strain in different ways. Arkansas State Assistant Professor of Sociology Rebecca Barrett Fox begs faculty, Please do a bad job of putting your courses online – for all of the most humane reasons. And with sustained emotional clarity, Brown University Associate Professor of Sociology Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve offered her students a letter on how to breathe, radically relaxed course requirements, and reoriented the online classroom as a supportive community of possibility.

It would be hard to say enough about supporting one another during the challenging transitions now and ahead. University of Pittsburgh Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education Kari Kokka has put this editable Google sheet together, focused on wellness, collective care, and anti-racism:

Once we get past these first days and weeks of realignment, we may have more time to plan for online courses. Perhaps this summer term will be more online than had been planned. 

If you’re looking for resources on developing student-facilitated online, discursive classrooms, check out the Interactivity Foundation Guidebook for Student-Facilitated Discussions in Online Courses, Instructor Edition and Student Edition (disclaimer: my wife is one of the authors). There’s also an extraordinary resource, Humanizing Online Teaching By Drs. Mary Raygoza,  Raina León, and Aaminah Norris of Saint Mary’s College of California. 

And, I’m sorry – I said it in the paragraph above, “perhaps this summer.” We are all working to get our minds around a reality that seemed fantastical just a few days ago – this is not about the two week suspension of normal we started with. This is a long haul.  

 Nurture Yourself, Your Family, and Your Community for the Long Haul 

There’s so much unknown. That’s stressful. As you think about what you and your loved ones need, understand that it’s likely that we’re in a marathon – that your two-week hiatus from schools and businesses may be extended if it hasn’t been already. Stay in touch with loved ones, friends, and therapists or colleagues, online. Consult mental health resources. And be sure you’re getting nourishing time everyday, away from news, whether through meditation, walks alone, reading fiction, or whatever can nourish you. It’s important that we’re strengthening our centeredness because prolonged uncertainty is not easy for anyone. 

Make Time to “Do Nothing.” Consider other projects and inquiries. Listen to favorite music. Read poetry. Consider taking one of the 450 Ivy League Courses You can Take Online Now for Free.  Reflect on this art and text, originally created in Spanish by Miguel Brieva https://www.instagram.com/p/B9oStQbj6Me/, Translated by Guerrilla Translation.

Original art and text (in Spanish) by Miguel Brieva https://www.instagram.com/p/B9oStQbj6Me/
Translated by Guerrilla Translation
#Degrowth, #Commons #Environment

You can do this. We can do this. We’ll keep learning more, sharing more, and gathering online together. 


The Globalsl Network will soon announce upcoming webinars among institutions realigning summer global learning and considering other critical community engagement questions in the time of COVID-19, along with upcoming webinar collaborations with Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, Imagining America, and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, among others. 

This coming fall, Globalsl will host a Community-based Global Learning 101 on October 1, 2020, in Philadelphia, immediately preceding the October 2 – 3  Conference of the Pennsylvania Council for International Education (PACIE). Save the Dates or make a proposal for the PACIE Conference.

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