The Little Things: Reflecting with Joy on Distance Learning

Hannah Johnson ‘21

Regular American

These are just crazy times we live in. For many like myself, the pandemic completely uprooted our lives, and for maybe a month now, we’ve all embraced social distancing, online learning, and staying healthy and well from our quarantine locations. It’s given me a lot of grief, but I enjoy reflecting on all of this with humor.

Photo courtesy of the New York Times. (Yes, they really did publish this)
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Today (that is, 4/22) was the academic conference, which maybe some of you attended–I know I did, if for no other reason besides just wanting to witness how it goes, to see if the new virtual format is a trainwreck or not. I would actually say it went surprisingly well, and I’m looking forward to viewing the virtual choir/band concert coming up in May–but today I did get my share of technological foibles… I’m talking professors and students debating for a few minutes on how the host can enable screen-sharing for participants, people (usually professors) forgetting to unmute themselves before they begin talking, plentiful use of the cute little reactions in Zoom’s interface (applause, thumbs up), and my personal favorite, the end of the philosophy presentations, which consisted of Prof. Bernstein wishing us well and commenting that he’ll “see us on the other side”, only for Prof. Stueber to begin a philosophical tangent about what is the other side, and can we find a link between these two sides, only to be abruptly cut off by the host ending the meeting and suddenly kicking us all out. I laughed for a good minute or two. In hard times like these, I hope we can all find joy and humor in this new situation we find ourselves in, assuming you also have the pleasure of attending online lectures, probably with pajamas on below your torso while the upper half of you has been mostly cleaned up to appear suitable for class (I call it the Skype Interview look). We get to see dogs and cats invade people’s camera space while trying to make out the garbled speech of our fellow soldiers with poor bandwidth or struggling webcam microphones. And for those of us who have taken the opportunity to host Zoom meetings or Discord sessions with fellow students, you’ve surely enjoyed people’s creativity with custom backgrounds (I think my favorite so far has been seeing Carole Baskin, which sparked an animated Dennis Liu to educate us about her poor husband) as well as playing streamable games like the Jackbox party packs to stay connected and share some laughs. It’s been very fun, but I’m sure all these little interactions will be merely a conduit, paving the way for us to one day return to campus and be together with a new appreciation for the gift that is social proximity.

Categories: Eggplant

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