Be cautious, COVID app, wild swimming, and distance education

The lockdown has mostly ended here insofar as much as it can end. Things won’t return to normal until there’s a vaccine but shops are allowed to open and people can go for holidays. Nevertheless our life hasn’t really changed. I’m still working from home. Ben is still working from home. The kids just finished the year with their online school last Friday and summer holidays have begun but as Ben and I are both working we have no plans to go anywhere.

I visited Marks & Spencer on Saturday morning as I have been doing for the past couple of months and it was noticeably busier. Union Street was busier too. We need to be extra cautious now. According to the latest COVID study symptom data new cases in the UK are no longer falling. The virus is still with us and transmission is likely to increase again if we’re not careful. We do not want to lockdown our economy again and the only way I can see to avoid this is to follow the South Korean model as much as possible.

I recommend downloading the COVID symptom tracker app if you haven’t already. The more data we have on this disease the better off we’ll all be. It only takes a few seconds to submit data to the app. I do it a couple of times a week. You can also submit data on behalf of someone else if you know someone who doesn’t have access to a phone. There are currently over 4 million people contributing to the study.

Most people in Scotland are wearing face masks now which is good to see. It’s really a very small price to pay for a functioning economy and if they can prevent future lockdowns they’re worth it. We should have mandated their use back in early March. I have got used to wearing mine now.

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I’m still running everyday. Last week I ran along the River Dee and was tempted to jump in for a swim. It looked clean and inviting but I have no idea what the water quality is like. Does anyone know? If not the River Dee, does anyone know of any good outdoor swimming spots in Aberdeenshire?

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I went for a little paddle. Next time I might take my togs and go for a dip.

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One of our friends sends her daughter to a private school in Aberdeen – the International School – and last weekend I got to hear all about her education over the past few months. I was very impressed. Back in February the school started to prepare for online learning. They saw what was happening in the world and made preparations in case schools had to close here. When schools did close the following month they were ready. The school closed on a Wednesday and any pupils who did not have access to a computer at home were given a Chromebook on loan the very next day. Online teaching began immediately and covered everything from wellbeing and social contact with teachers and other pupils as well as live lessons taught via video. They had four hours a day everyday of live online lessons with teachers except on Wednesdays which was designated a study day. Their education has not suffered as a result of the pandemic and this has created a gulf between state-educated pupils whose education has fallen drastically behind their private school counterparts. I am usually the biggest proponent of state education having gone through it myself but the failure of state schools to embrace technology and continue with the job of education has been a huge disappointment for me.

People may find online schooling frightening or maybe just a bit strange but if we think of it as a form of distance education it’s nothing new. Distance education has been an important part of Australia’s history because of its dispersed population over a vast geographical area. The first distance education began in 1909 in Australia and by 1931 1.5% of all primary school children were educated in this way.

Australia can claim to be the first country to have shown in a systematic way, and on a large scale, that it is possible to provide by correspondence a compete elementary education for children who have never been to school.

We are lucky today to have techonology which can provide a much richer and more interactive distance learning experience and the International School in Aberdeen has fully embraced this.

Schools are planning to reopen here after the summer break in August but it’s looking like it will be a third of the time with one group of students going on Monday – Wednesday, the second group going on Thursday – Monday, and then the third group going on Tuesday – Thursday, at which point it starts again with the first group. I think it would be much better for the pupils if schools fully embraced distance learning so that these children get a full-time education rather than just 1/3 of the time.

15 Replies to “Be cautious, COVID app, wild swimming, and distance education”

  1. We thought we were going to have to do it school in bursts but the English government is committed to having everyone back every day – we just have to keep them in groups of 240 or fewer. Each of our year groups is 180. We have followed the rules but the end result is a bit ridiculous, a lot of disruption and masses of students still coming into contact with each other.
    I drove for the first time for ages to go horse riding with Isabel and the traffic levels were pretty much back to normal, and then some more on top with roadwork traffic lights, so that I missed my lesson. I’ll know for next time to get back into the habit of leaving plenty of time. It also made me feel glad about staying at home this summer and not having to travel about.

    1. Yes, that’s part of the reason we’re also not keen to go away. I’m worried the tourist spots will be overly crowded and unpleasant. We tend not to go away over the summer for this reason anyway and prefer spring and autumn for a holiday.

  2. We’ve swam in the Dee a few times up past Peterculter. Perhaps a bit far for a run but not far by bike IIRC. It always seemed pretty clean and pleasant!

      1. Yeah, but I don’t remember exactly where 🙂 — I think there’s loads of good spots but it’s generally a bit nicer out of the city. Partly because of city dirt but also because it gets narrower and so flows faster == cleaner

      2. Was there any sand? I know there’s sand in parts which make it a bit nicer to enter the water.

  3. Downloaded the COVID-19 study app. Thanks for the recommendation.

    My youngest, who is 8, is at a state primary and had daily tasks set through Google Classroom. There was a teacher at the other end throughout the day to help if she struggled. It wasn’t a perfect system, and I don’t think she learned as much as she would have in the classroom- but it was okay. Hoping she can go back safely in September.

    1. My daughter’s school here also used Google Classroom to set work. But it was just used for the handing out of worksheets or tasks. This is quite different to having a live teacher in an interactive video conference going through new content with the class which is what the private school had.

  4. My youngest, who is 8, is at a state primary and had daily tasks set through Google Classroom. There was a teacher at the other end throughout the day to help if she struggled. It wasn’t a perfect system, and I don’t think she learned as much as she would have in the classroom- but it was okay. Hoping she can go back safely in September.

  5. Thanks for teaching me something about distance education in Australia, interesting 😊

  6. Wearing face masks is a must from today in England. Interesting, isn’t it? And thank you for the lovely article!

    1. Thank you! How’s it going with the facemasks two days in? Are people mostly complying with the rule?

  7. We have been very lucky in NZ with regards to Covid 19. In early February we were getting requests for masks, mostly from people who appeared to be from China. When our schools went into lockdown, our kids were lucky to have access to a computer each. My eldest daughter took part in a project that asked students to document what their lives were like due to the pandemic. The challenge was that it needed to be in a 2nd language of their choice! At level 3, children of essential workers were able to attend school. My husband is a community Mental health nurse and I am a pharmacist which made us fit into the essential workers. I had a really severe relapse of Depression in mid February, so I was at home right through. It was probably the best thing that it happened then though. By staying at home I was mostly constantly present for our kids and wasn’t bringing any illness home from exposure at work. I wasn’t worried about Covid 19 because recovery of my mental health was top priority. My kids therefore had some reassurance we’d get through. The kids did their studies, and I have tried to provide a good example of organising myself, so they can learn those skills. Kids learn more by seeing what their parents do, vs say! There were some really good things that came about from Covid practices that helped reduce transmission and improve health. People walked and cycled more, more frequent hand washing, safe distancing has remained at Dr’s surgeries, Click and collect shopping as well as grocery shopping provides economic and time saving benefits. Being at home with family and spending time connecting with each other helps us feel calmer. By concentrating on others we have a strong connection with, we can maintain strong friendships and keep our energy to maintain our wellbeing. Lastly, the power of kindness and the positive energy it brings about.

    1. Yes, I agree there have been some positives to come out of all of this and people walking and cycling more is one of them. It shows how much cycling we could have in our communities if the roads weren’t choked with cars. It’s good that you were able to say around for the children. Children are very resiliant and I think most of the kids in this part of the world have managed through it very well so far. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  8. There may be something about water quality on the SEPA site (Scottish Environment Protection Agency)? I’ve canoed it from the Linn of Dee down to Aberdeen and avoided nasty diseases, though it was a while back.

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