New Zealand now has zero COVID-19 cases - so I'm getting ready to say goodbye to my "bubble" (for readers from outside NZ the word "bubble" was used to describe the group of people in each household during lockdown - we could only interact with those in our "bubble"). However in many ways, my home office was a bubble - a small confined space that I was enclosed in for the work day. But it's time to say goodbye to that bubble ... and get back to campus.
But before I pack up the combination of computer bits and pieces that made the last 11 weeks of working from home possible I want to share a glimpse of my office "bubble".
The space I worked in was small - about as long a three seater couch (but a bit deeper). I was in online meetings, or recording video lectures a lot - so quiet and access to ethernet was important! The space was frequently shared with our two corgis (on whom snored through many meetings while curled up in a chair next to me), and a boisterous puppy (who prompted us to engineer various barricades to stop him Zoom-bombing my meetings).
I've been teaching 950 undergraduate students online - in a new course entitled "Energy and Society" where we discuss thermodynamics (among other things). We touch on the second law of thermodynamics - which can be encapsulated by the phrase "Perfect is Impossible". The space I worked in was imperfect and cobbled together - an old office chair, a pin cushion as a wrist rest to help make the ergonomics work (students ... remember my lecture on creativity, and unanticipated uses for objects, that part of my office set up was creativity in action!).
And why does my home office space have a tower of small black and white boxes stacked up in one corner? No, it's not an interior design trend! That part was a quickly improvised solution as a platform to move my web cam to when I was film demos with objects from around the house or learning haka online (as part of the Haka Experience challenge). All sorts of things were possible from my "bubble".
I am very conscious that many people in NZ (and the world) were working and studying through the lockdown in circumstances that were far more challenging than the imperfections in my space. If you're a University of Auckland student facing hardship please ask for help. The University has a hardship fund that still has scope to support students.
Students in both the classes I've been teaching have been asking some great questions and submitting high-quality work for their assessments. So I am confident that learning has been happening - whether that was while sitting on a couch in a student apartment, at home at a kitchen table, in Auckland, or beyond. I am truly impressed by the commitment my University colleagues have shown to teaching and learning to make sure everyone can stay connected with their learning despite the fact we haven't been in a lecture theatre for 11 weeks. It is going to be fascinating how this crisis changes the future of higher education - but I'll save my thoughts on that for another time.
For now, I look forward to getting back to the office, and to the lecture theatre. I look forward to being back in a "3D" world - instead of communicating with students as a "Talking Head" (and not this kind of Talking Head) in a black square in the corner of a screen.
(and some pent up blog posts will be coming out soon'ish too).