Mark Goldberg


www.mhgoldberg.com





A summer like no other

I have been busy this summer. In July and August, I wrote 21 blog posts. By way of comparison, last year I wrote just 7: 3 in July; and, 4 in August. Granted, last year summer I had some family distractions, but the summer of 2018 also saw similar total production of 7 posts: 5 in July; and, 2 in August. This year, I wrote 11 pieces in August and 10 in July.

A big part of the increased production is likely due to changes in the work environment driven by the stay-at-home response to COVID-19. Having worked from home for nearly 25 years, it was somewhat easy for me to get used to pandemic-induced isolation. But, there have also been a lot of telecommunications issues to write about this summer, coupled with the time to sit down and write.

It has been a summer like no other.

We didn’t have visitors and we didn’t go anywhere, despite a strong desire for both.

My brother likes to say I golfed almost every day: I almost golfed on Monday, I almost golfed on Tuesday… at the end of the day, I can say that no turf was harmed in the making of my summer of 2020.

I was never crazy about the week before Labour Day. I tend to get into a bit of a blue funk. I liked school, but I liked summer vacation even more.

I suspect I’m not alone in that feeling, but this summer has been very different. A lot of summer events didn’t take place. Travel plans were cancelled. Though video calls may be the ‘next best thing’, it just isn’t the same as being there. I’m not alone in missing the direct contact with family members and close friends. But it makes me wonder about the new school year for all levels of education, from primary school through university.

For families who have had kids at home for the past half year, many parents and kids may be looking forward to some time apart. Still, there must be anxiety over the potential increased risk of exposure at school. Distancing protocols in schools that are opening will result in changes that could have a lasting impact on students of all ages. As an example, will a kindergarten teacher be able to console a young student suffering separation anxiety?

It is going to be interesting to follow and study how boards of education and universities in various communities handle the fall term. In my family, we have a couple university students starting the year on-line, and we have young kids who started pre-school and first grade up close and personal.

As school gets started, whether in person or online, we should make sure we are watching and assessing progress and engagement in digital classrooms. As I wrote a few weeks ago, there is an opportunity for us to be “Using evidence to solve the digital divide”. Hopefully, researchers will use this opportunity to gather data and learn more about factors that impact adoption and use of digital technologies.

And speaking of education, there is a webinar coming up at the end of September that may be of interest to readers. The International Telecommunications Society (ITS) is hosting an online panel on COVID-19 Tracking and Tracing Apps. The workshop will address legal, regulatory and data protection issues related to corona virus tracking, tracing and testing applications, the role of Big Data in assessing the effectiveness of measures against COVID-19, and how joining forces of telecommunications and data companies can contribute to a more effective fight against COVID-19. Other issues to be discussed include interoperability of apps, mandatory use, central versus decentralized approaches, and the role of the GDPR which is both a strength and challenge for digitalizing medical services. It is intended that this webinar will compare insights and practical experiences from Asia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe and draw lessons for further development. For more information, see the webinar outline. The webinar takes place September 29 and registration is free.

There will be time for more of such serious issues next week. For now, I hope you get a chance to recharge and enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend, celebrating the end of summer.

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