CEW: Child Enhanced Working

an open laptop, with the tops of two children's head showing over the top

The day starts with calm but it’s not long before our youngest starts screaming. The noise finally subsides as the children are ushered in front of the iPad for 30 minutes of Cosmic Yoga, buying time for the morning meeting. As people are joining the Zoom call, I print off reams of colouring-in mixed with maths worksheets. Later, I take a few minutes to set up some paints then rush back to the computer to answer another email. Afternoon arrives and I wonder if the webinar attendees can hear the Mary Poppins Returns karaoke taking place downstairs. As the webinar continues, some curly blond hair sidles into the corner of the screen to pick up yet more colouring sheets and deliver a biscuit on the way. 

Like many other people, the last three months of lockdown have seen my wife and I juggling childcare with our respective jobs. We have two children aged 6 and 4 and both work a kind of ‘covid’ full-time, fitting in the hours where we can.

We’ve opted to split the days in half. In the morning, one of us will take the ‘office’, anywhere the kids aren’t, while the other will sit or work with the kids. We swap in the afternoon or for important meetings. While it’s not ideal, we’ve managed to get by with this approach.

I take some comfort knowing I’m not alone in this experience. I often see a colleague pause a meeting to talk to their child or see the slightly frazzled face of another colleague after an afternoon with their two year-old.

While lockdown is beginning to ease and I start to entertain the thought that things may eventually get back to some kind of normal, I recognise that this may remain the experience for many of our distance and some of our campus students. 

With this in mind, some of the things I’ve most appreciated during this time are:

  • The importance of having a space away from distraction.
  • The ability to turn my camera off and mute the mic from time to time.
  • Captions on videos so I don’t have to have the sound on (a magnet for my children).
  • Patience of others in meetings when there are unexpected interruptions.
  • Asynchronous means of communication. For all its frustrations I’ve really appreciated chat through MS Teams.

These things will be much more present in my mind in the future.

If you have any questions about how you can make the best use of technologies for the autumn semester do contact tel@sussex.ac.uk and we’ll do our best to support you. 

Posted in Case Study

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We are the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team at the University of Sussex. We publish posts each week on using technology to support teaching and learning. Read more about us.

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