Hunger is Rising, COVID-19 Will Make it Worse

The economic crisis and food system disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic will worsen the lack of nutrition in women and children, with the potential to cost the world almost $30 billion in future productivity losses. As many as 3 billion people may be unable to afford a healthy diet due to the pandemic, according to a study published in Nature Food journal. This will exacerbate maternal and child under-nutrition in low- and middle-income countries, causing stunting, wasting, mortality and maternal anemia.

Nearly 690 million people were undernourished in 2019, up by almost 60 million since 2014. Nearly half of all deaths in children under age five are attributable to undernutrition and, regrettably, stunting and wasting still have strong impacts worldwide.

In 2019, 21 per cent of all children under age five (144 million) were stunted and 49.5 million children experienced wasting.The effects of the pandemic will increase child hunger, and an additional 6.7 million children are predicted to be wasted by the end of 2020 due to the pandemic’s impact.

The situation continues to be most alarming in Africa: 19 per cent of its population is under-nourished (more than 250 million people), with the highest prevalence of undernourishment among all global regions. Africa is the only region where the number of stunted children has risen since 2000.

Women and girls represent more than 70 per cent of people facing chronic hunger. They are more likely to reduce their meal intake in times of food scarcity and may be pushed to engage in negative coping mechanisms, such as transactional sex and child, early and forced marriage.

Extreme climatic events drove almost 34 million people into food crisis in 25 countries in 2019, 77 per cent of them in Africa. The number of people pushed into food crisis by economic shocks more than doubled to 24 million in eight countries in 2019 (compared to 10 million people in six countries the previous year).

Food insecurity is set to get much worse unless unsustainable global food systems are addressed. Soils around the world are heading for exhaustion and depletion. An estimated 33 per cent of global soils are already degraded, endangering food production and the provision of vital ecosystem services.

Evidence from food security assessments and analysis shows that COVID-19 has had a compounding effect on pre-existing vulnerabilities and stressors in countries with pre-existing food crises. In Sudan, an estimated 9.6 million people (21 per cent of the population) were experiencing crisis or worse levels of food insecurity (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) in the third quarter of 2020 and needed urgent action. This is the highest figure ever recorded for Sudan.

Food security needs are set to increase dramatically in 2021 as the pandemic and global response measures seriously affect food systems worldwide. Entire food supply chains have been disrupted, and the cost of a basic food basket increased by more than 10 per cent in 20 countries in the second quarter of 2020.

Delays in the farming season due to disruptions in supply chains and restrictions on labour movement are resulting in below-average harvests across many countries and regions.  This is magnified by pre-existing or seasonal threats and vulnerabilities, such as conflict and violence, looming hurricane and monsoon seasons, and locust infestations. Further climatic changes are expected from La Niña.

Forecasters predict a 55 per cent change in climate conditions through the first quarter of 2021, impacting sea temperatures, rainfall patterns and hurricane activity. The ensuing floods and droughts that could result from La Niña will affect farming seasons worldwide, potentially decreasing crop yields and increasing food insecurity levels.

The devastating impact of COVID-19 is still playing out in terms of rising unemployment, shattered livelihoods and increasing hunger. Families are finding it harder to put healthy food on a plate, child malnutrition is threatening millions. The risk of famine is real in places like Burkina Faso, north-eastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.

COVID-19 has ushered hunger into the lives of more urban communities while placing the vulnerable, such as IDPs, refugees, migrants, older persons, women and girls, people caught in conflict, and those living at the sharp end of climate change at higher risk of starvation. The pandemic hit at a time when the number of acutely food-insecure people in the world had already risen since 2014, largely due to conflict, climate change and economic shocks.

Acute food-insecurity is projected to increase by more than 80 percent – from 149 million pre-COVID-19, to 270 million by the end of 2020 – in 79 of the countries where WFP works. The number of people in crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) almost tripled in Burkina Faso compared to the 2019 peak of the food insecurity situation, with 11,000 people facing catastrophic hunger (IPC/CH Phase 5) in mid-2020.

For populations in IPC3 and above, urgent and sustained humanitarian assistance is required to prevent a deterioration in the hunger situation. It is alarming that in 2020, insufficient funds left food security partners unable to deliver the assistance required. For example, sustained food ration reductions in Yemen have directly contributed to reduced food consumption since March. Today, Yemen is one of four countries at real risk of famine.

Source: https://gho.unocha.org/

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Critics:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, food security has been a global concern – in the second quarter of 2020 there were multiple warnings of famine later in the year. According to early predictions, hundreds of thousands of people would likely die and millions more experience hunger without concerted efforts to address issues of food security.

As of October 2020, these efforts were reducing the risk of widespread starvation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Famines were feared as a result of the COVID-19 recession and some of the measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, the 2019–2021 locust infestation, ongoing wars and political turmoil in some nations were also viewed as local causes of hunger.

In September 2020, David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, addressed the United Nations Security Council, stating that measures taken by donor countries over the course of the preceding five months, including the provision of $17 trillion in fiscal stimulus and central bank support, the suspension of debt repayments instituted by the IMF and G20 countries for the benefit of poorer countries, and donor support for WFP programmes, had averted impending famine, helping 270 million people at risk of starvation.

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Smartphones are Powerful Personal Pocket Computers – Should Schools Ban Them?

When the UK took its first steps out of national lockdown in April and schools reopened, education secretary Gavin Williamson announced the implementation of the behaviour hubs programme. And as part of this push to develop a school culture “where good behaviour is the norm”, he pushed for banning smartphones in schools.

Williamson claims that phones distract from healthy exercise and, as he put it, good old-fashioned play. And he says they act as a breeding ground for cyberbullying. Getting rid of them will, to his mind, create calm and orderly environments that facilitate learning. “While it is for every school to make its own policy,” he wrote, “I firmly believe that mobile phones should not be used or seen during the school day, and will be backing headteachers who implement such policies.”

The difficulty that teachers face is that there are often conflicting assessments of the risks and benefits of the constant influx of new devices in schools. As we found in our recent study, guidance for educators on how to navigate all this is limited. And there is no robust evaluation of the effect of school policies that restrict school-time smartphone use and there is limited evidence on how these policies are implemented in schools. So how can teachers approach this controversial subject?

We believe the best way to start is to reframe the smartphone itself. Rather than just a phone, it is more accurately described as a powerful pocket computer. It contains, among other things, a writing tool, a calculator and a huge encyclopaedia.

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Suggesting that children use smartphones in ways that help them learn, therefore, seems hardly radical. The perennial debate about banning phones needs to shift to thinking about how best to help schools better design school phone policies and practices that can enrich their pupils’ learning, health and wellbeing. And for that, we can start by looking at the evidence on phone use by young people.

We know that most adolescents own a smartphone. When used appropriately and in moderation, they can provide multiple benefits in terms of learning, behaviour and connection with peers. There is also evidence that technology use in classrooms can support learning and attainment.

The operative word here, though, is “moderation”. Excessive use of smartphones (and other digital devices) can lead to heightened anxiety and depression, neglecting other activities, conflict with peers, poor sleep habits and an increased exposure to cyberbullying.

Then there’s everything we don’t yet fully understand about the impact – good or bad – that smartphone use may have on children. No one does. This has been reflected in recent research briefings and reports published by the UK government: they recognise the risks and benefits of phone use, and report that it is essential that schools are better supported to make decisions about their use in school with evidence-based guidance.

Playing catch-up

To investigate existing school positions on phone and media use, we interviewed and did workshops with more than 100 teenagers across years nine to 13, along with teachers, community workers and international specialists in school policies and health interventions.

We found that teachers tend to be scared of phones. Most of them said this was because they didn’t know how pupils are using their phones during school hours. Amid pressures regarding assessment, safeguarding and attendance, phones are simply not a priority. Issuing a blanket ban is often just the easiest option.

Teachers too recognise the benefits, as well as the risks, of smartphone use. But, crucially, they don’t have the necessary guidance, skills and tools to parse seemingly contradictory information. As one teacher put it: “Do we allow it, do we embrace it, do we engage students with it, or do we completely ignore it?”

Different approaches

This is, of course, a worldwide challenge. Looking at how different institutions in different cultural settings are tackling it is instructive. Often, similar motivations give rise to very different approaches.

The mould-breaking Agora school in Roermond, in the Netherlands, for example, allows ubiquitous phone use. Their position is that teenagers won’t learn how to use their phones in a beneficial way if they have to leave them in their lockers.

By contrast, governments in Australia, France and Canada are urging schools to restrict phone use during the day in a bid to improve academic outcomes and decrease bullying.

Teachers need a new type of training that helps them to critically evaluate – with confidence – both academic evidence and breaking news. Working with their students in deciding how and when phones can be used could prove fruitful too.

Accessing information

Academic research takes time to publish, data is often incomprehensible to non-experts and papers reporting on findings are often subject to expensive journal subscription prices. Professional development providers, trusts and organisations therefore must do more to make it easier for teachers to access the information they need to make decisions.

New data alone, though, isn’t enough. Researchers need be prepared to translate their evidence in ways that educators can actually use to design better school policies and practices.

The children’s author and former children’s laureate Michael Rosen recently made the point that “we are living in an incredible time: whole libraries, vast banks of knowledge and multimedia resources are available to us via an object that fits in our pockets”.

That doesn’t sound like something educators should ignore. Findings from our study add to the current debate by suggesting that new evidence and new types of teacher training are urgently needed to help schools make informed decisions about phone use in schools.

Authors:

Senior Lecturer in Pedagogy in Sport, Physical Activity and Health, University of Birmingham

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of Birmingham

Reader in Public Health & Epidemiology, University of Birmingham

Source: Smartphones are powerful personal pocket computers – should schools ban them?

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Critics:

The use of mobile phones in schools by students has become a controversial topic debated by students, parents, teachers and authorities. People who support the use of cell phones believe that these phones are essential for safety by allowing children to communicate with their parents and guardians, could simplify many school matters, and it is important in today’s world that children learn how to deal with new media properly as early as possible.

To prevent distractions caused by mobile phones, some schools have implemented policies that restrict students from using their phones during school hours. Some administrators have attempted cell phone jamming, but this practice is illegal in certain jurisdictions. The software can be used in order to monitor and restrict phone usage to reduce distractions and prevent unproductive use. However, these methods of regulation raise concerns about privacy violation and abuse of power.

Phone use in schools is not just an issue for students and teachers but also for other employees of educational institutions. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, while no state bans all mobile phone use for all drivers, twenty states and the District of Columbia prohibit school bus drivers from using mobile phones.[38] School bus drivers have been fired or suspended for using their phones or text-messaging while driving.

Cellphone applications have been created to support the use of phones in school environments. As of February 2018, about 80,000 applications are available for teacher use. A variety of messaging apps provide communication for student-to-student relationships as well as teacher-to-student communication. Some popular apps for both students, teachers, and parents are Remind and ClassDojo. About 72% of top-selling education apps on iOS are for preschoolers and elementary school students. These apps offer many different services such as language translation, scheduled reminders and messages to parents.

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The Health Benefits of Coffee

Americans sure love their coffee. Even last spring when the pandemic shut down New York, nearly every neighborhood shop that sold takeout coffee managed to stay open, and I was amazed at how many people ventured forth to start their stay-at-home days with a favorite store-made brew.

One elderly friend who prepandemic had traveled from Brooklyn to Manhattan by subway to buy her preferred blend of ground coffee arranged to have it delivered. “Well worth the added cost,” she told me. I use machine-brewed coffee from pods, and last summer when it seemed reasonably safe for me to shop I stocked up on a year’s supply of the blends I like. (Happily, the pods are now recyclable.)

All of us should be happy to know that whatever it took to secure that favorite cup of Joe may actually have helped to keep us healthy. The latest assessments of the health effects of coffee and caffeine, its main active ingredient, are reassuring indeed. Their consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of all kinds of ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, depression, suicide, cirrhosis, liver cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer.

In fact, in numerous studies conducted throughout the world, consuming four or five eight-ounce cups of coffee (or about 400 milligrams of caffeine) a day has been associated with reduced death rates. In a study of more than 200,000 participants followed for up to 30 years, those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day, with or without caffeine, were 15 percent less likely to die early from all causes than were people who shunned coffee. Perhaps most dramatic was a 50 percent reduction in the risk of suicide among both men and women who were moderate coffee drinkers, perhaps by boosting production of brain chemicals that have antidepressant effects.

As a report published last summer by a research team at the Harvard School of Public Health concluded, although current evidence may not warrant recommending coffee or caffeine to prevent disease, for most people drinking coffee in moderation “can be part of a healthy lifestyle.”

It wasn’t always thus. I’ve lived through decades of sporadic warnings that coffee could be a health hazard. Over the years, coffee’s been deemed a cause of conditions such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, pancreatic cancer, anxiety disorder, nutrient deficiencies, gastric reflux disease, migraine, insomnia, and premature death. As recently as 1991, the World Health Organization listed coffee as a possible carcinogen. In some of the now-discredited studies, smoking, not coffee drinking (the two often went hand-in-hand) was responsible for the purported hazard.

“These periodic scares have given the public a very distorted view,” said Dr. Walter C. Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Overall, despite various concerns that have cropped up over the years, coffee is remarkably safe and has a number of important potential benefits.”

That’s not to say coffee warrants a totally clean bill of health. Caffeine crosses the placenta into the fetus, and coffee drinking during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth. Pregnancy alters how the body metabolizes caffeine, and women who are pregnant or nursing are advised to abstain entirely, stick to decaf or at the very least limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams a day, the amount in about two standard cups of American coffee.

The most common ill effect associated with caffeinated coffee is sleep disturbance. Caffeine locks into the same receptor in the brain as the neurotransmitter adenosine, a natural sedative. Dr. Willett, a co-author of the Harvard report, told me, “I really do love coffee, but I have it only occasionally because otherwise I don’t sleep very well. Lots of people with sleep problems don’t recognize the connection to coffee.”

In discussing his audiobook on caffeine with Terry Gross on NPR last winter, Michael Pollan called caffeine “the enemy of good sleep” because it interferes with deep sleep. He confessed that after the challenging task of weaning himself from coffee, he “was sleeping like a teenager again.”

Dr. Willett, now 75, said, “You don’t have to get to zero consumption to minimize the impact on sleep,” but he acknowledged that a person’s sensitivity to caffeine “probably increases with age.” People also vary widely in how rapidly they metabolize caffeine, enabling some to sleep soundly after drinking caffeinated coffee at dinner while others have trouble sleeping if they have coffee at lunch. But even if you can fall asleep readily after an evening coffee, it may disrupt your ability to get adequate deep sleep, Mr. Pollan states in his forthcoming book, “This Is Your Mind on Plants.”

Dr. Willett said it’s possible to develop a degree of tolerance to caffeine’s effect on sleep. My 75-year-old brother, an inveterate imbiber of caffeinated coffee, claims it has no effect on him. However, acquiring a tolerance to caffeine could blunt its benefit if, say, you wanted it to help you stay alert and focused while driving or taking a test.

Caffeine is one of more than a thousand chemicals in coffee, not all of which are beneficial. Among others with positive effects are polyphenols and antioxidants. Polyphenols can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes; antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory effects, can counter both heart disease and cancer, the nation’s leading killers.

None of this means coffee is beneficial regardless of how it’s prepared. When brewed without a paper filter, as in French press, Norwegian boiled coffee, espresso or Turkish coffee, oily chemicals called diterpenes come through that can raise artery-damaging LDL cholesterol. However, these chemicals are virtually absent in both filtered and instant coffee. Knowing I have a cholesterol problem, I dissected a coffee pod and found a paper filter lining the plastic cup. Whew!

Also countering the potential health benefits of coffee are popular additions some people use, like cream and sweet syrups, that can convert this calorie-free beverage into a calorie-rich dessert. “All the things people put into coffee can result in a junk food with as many as 500 to 600 calories,” Dr. Willett said. A 16-ounce Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino, for example, has 51 grams of sugar, 15 grams of fat (10 of them saturated) and 370 calories.

With iced coffee season approaching, more people are likely to turn to cold-brew coffee. Now rising in popularity, cold brew counters coffee’s natural acidity and the bitterness that results when boiling water is poured over the grounds. Cold brew is made by steeping the grounds in cold water for several hours, then straining the liquid through a paper filter to remove the grounds and harmful diterpenes and keep the flavor and caffeine for you to enjoy. Cold brew can also be made with decaffeinated coffee.

Decaf is not totally without health benefits. As with caffeinated coffee, the polyphenols it contains have anti-inflammatory properties that may lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Jane E. Brody

 

 

Source: The Health Benefits of Coffee – The New York Times

Contents to read:

Four out of five people say that they suffer from sleep problems at least once a week and wake up feeling exhausted. Here’s a guide to becoming a more successful sleeper.

Stretching and meditative movement like yoga before bed can improve the quality of your sleep and the amount you sleep. Try this short and calming routine of 11 stretches and exercises.

Nearly 40 percent of people surveyed in a recent study reported having more or much more trouble than usual during the pandemic. Follow these seven simple steps for improving your shut-eye.

When it comes to gadgets that claim to solve your sleep problems, newer doesn’t always mean better. Here are nine tools for better, longer sleep.

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Critics:

Coffee is a brewed drink prepared from roasted coffee beans, the seeds of berries from certain Coffea species. All fruit must be further processed from a raw material—the fruit and seed—into a stable, raw product; un-roasted, green coffee. To process the berries, the seed is separated from the fruit to produce green coffee. Green coffee is then roasted, a process which transforms the raw product (green coffee) into a consumable product (roasted coffee). Roasted coffee is ground into a powder and mixed with water to produce a cup of coffee.

Coffee is darkly colored, bitter, slightly acidic and has a stimulating effect in humans, primarily due to its caffeine content. It is one of the most popular drinks in the world, and can be prepared and presented in a variety of ways (e.g., espresso, French press, caffè latte, or already-brewed canned coffee). It is usually served hot, although chilled or iced coffee is common. Sugar, sugar substitutes, milk or cream are often used to lessen the bitter taste. It may be served with coffee cake or another sweet dessert like doughnuts. A commercial establishment that sells prepared coffee beverages is known as a coffee shop (not to be confused with Dutch coffeeshops selling cannabis).

Market volatility, and thus increased returns, during 1830 encouraged Brazilian entrepreneurs to shift their attention from gold to coffee, a crop hitherto reserved for local consumption. Concurrent with this shift was the commissioning of vital infrastructures, including approximately 7,000 km of railroads between 1860 and 1885. The creation of these railways enabled the importation of workers, in order to meet the enormous need for labor. This development primarily affected the State of Rio de Janeiro, as well as the Southern States of Brazil, most notably São Paulo, due to its favorable climate, soils, and terrain.

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Organizations:

The Pandemic Revealed How Much We Hate Our Jobs

Until March 2020, Kari and Britt Altizer of Richmond, Va., put in long hours at work, she in life-insurance sales and he as a restaurant manager, to support their young family. Their lives were frenetic, their schedules controlled by their jobs.

Then the pandemic shutdown hit, and they, like millions of others, found their world upended. Britt was briefly furloughed. Kari, 31, had to quit to care for their infant son. A native of Peru, she hoped to find remote work as a Spanish translator. When that didn’t pan out, she took a part-time sales job with a cleaning service that allowed her to take her son to the office. But as the baby grew into a toddler, that wasn’t feasible either.

Meanwhile, the furlough prompted her husband, 30, to reassess his own career. “I did some soul searching. During the time I was home, I was gardening and really loving life,” says Britt, who grew up on a farm and studied environmental science in college. “I realized working outdoors was something I had to get back to doing.”

Today, both have quit their old jobs and made a sharp pivot: they opened a landscaping business together. “We are taking a leap of faith,” Kari says, after realizing the prepandemic way of working simply doesn’t make sense anymore. Now they have control over their schedules, and her mom has moved nearby to care for their son. “I love what I’m doing. I’m closer to my goal of: I get to go to work, I don’t have to go to work,” Kari says. “We aren’t supposed to live to work. We’re supposed to work to live.”

As the postpandemic great reopening unfolds, millions of others are also reassessing their relationship to their jobs. The modern office was created after World War II, on a military model—strict hierarchies, created by men for men, with an assumption that there is a wife to handle duties at home.

But after years of gradual change in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, there’s a growing realization that the model is broken. Millions of people have spent the past year re-evaluating their priorities. How much time do they want to spend in an office? Where do they want to live if they can work remotely? Do they want to switch careers? For many, this has become a moment to literally redefine what is work.

More fundamentally, the pandemic has masked a deep unhappiness that a startling number of Americans have with the -workplace. During the first stressful months of quarantine, job turnover plunged; people were just hoping to hang on to what they had, even if they hated their jobs.

For many more millions of essential workers, there was never a choice but to keep showing up at stores, on deliveries and in factories, often at great risk to themselves, with food and agricultural workers facing a higher chance of death on the job. But now millions of white collar professionals and office workers appear poised to jump. Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, set off a Twitter-storm by predicting, “The great resignation is coming.”

But those conversations miss a much more consequential point. The true significance isn’t what we are leaving; it’s what we are going toward. In a surprising phenomenon, people are not just abandoning jobs but switching professions. This is a radical re-assessment of our careers, a great reset in how we think about work. A Pew survey in January found that 66% of unemployed people have seriously considered changing occupations—and significantly, that phenomenon is common to those at every income level, not just the privileged high earners.

A third of those surveyed have started taking courses or job retraining. Pew doesn’t have comparable earlier data, but in a 2016 survey, about 80% of people reported being somewhat or very satisfied with their jobs.

Early on in the pandemic, Lucy Chang Evans, a 48-year-old Naperville, Ill., civil engineer, quit her job to help her three kids with remote learning while pursuing an online MBA. Becoming “a lot more introspective,” she realized she’s done with toxic workplaces: “I feel like I’m not willing to put up with abusive behavior at work anymore.” She also plans to pivot into a more meaningful career, focused on tackling climate change.

The deep unhappiness with jobs points to a larger problem in how workplaces are structured. The line between work and home has been blurring for decades—and with the pandemic, obliterated completely for many of us, as we have been literally living at work. Meanwhile, the stark divide between white collar workers and those with hourly on-site jobs—grocery clerks, bus drivers, delivery people—became painfully visible. During the pandemic, nearly half of all employees with advanced degrees were working remotely, while more than 90% of those with a high school diploma or less had to show up in person, CoStar found.

Business leaders are as confused as the rest of us—perhaps more so—when it comes to navigating the multiple demands and expectations of the new workplace. Consider their conflicting approaches to remote work. Tech firms including Twitter, Dropbox, Shopify and Reddit are all allowing employees the option to work at home permanently, while oil company Phillips 66 brought back most staff to its Houston headquarters almost a year ago. Target and Walmart have both allowed corporate staff to work remotely, while low-paid workers faced potential COVID-19 exposure on store floors.

In the financial industry, titans like Blackstone, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs expect employees to be back on site this summer. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon recently declared that remote work “doesn’t work for those who want to hustle-. It doesn’t work in terms of spontaneous idea generation,” and “you know, people don’t like commuting, but so what.”

There’s a real risk that office culture could devolve into a class system, with on-site employees favored over remote workers. WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani recently insisted that the “least engaged are very comfortable working from home,” a stunning indictment that discounts working parents everywhere and suggests that those who might need flexibility—like those caring for relatives—couldn’t possibly be ambitious.

Mathrani’s comments are yet another reminder that the pandemic shutdown has been devastating for women, throwing into high relief just how inhospitable and precarious the workplace can be for caretakers. Faced with the impossible task of handling the majority of childcare and homeschooling, 4.2 million women dropped out of the labor force from February 2020 to April 2020—and nearly 2 million still haven’t returned. Oxfam calculates that women globally lost a breathtaking $800 billion in income in 2020. Women’s progress in terms of U.S. workforce participation has been set back by more than three decades.

Despite Mathrani’s assertion, there’s little evidence that remote employees are less engaged. There is, however, plenty of evidence that we’re actually working more. A study by Harvard Business School found that people were working on average 48 minutes more per day after the lockdown started. A new research paper from the University of Chicago and University of Essex found remote workers upped their hours by 30%, yet didn’t increase productivity.

All this comes at a moment when business and culture have never been more intertwined. As work has taken over people’s lives and Americans are doing less together outside the office, more and more of people’s political beliefs and social life are defining the office. In thousands of Zoom meetings over the past year, employees have demanded that their leaders take on systemic racism, sexism, transgender rights, gun control and more.

People have increasingly outsize expectations of their employers. This year, business surpassed nonprofits to become the most trusted institution globally, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, and people are looking to business to take an active role tackling racism, climate change and misinformation.

“Employees, customers, shareholders—all of these stakeholder groups—are saying, You’ve got to deal with some of these issues,” says Ken Chenault, a former chief executive of American Express and currently chairman and managing partner of General Catalyst. “If people are going to spend so much time at a company, they really want to believe that the mission and behavior of the company is consistent with, and aligned with, their values.”

Hundreds of top executives signed on to a statement that he and Ken Frazier, the CEO of Merck, organized this year opposing “any discriminatory legislation” in the wake of Georgia’s new voting law. Yet those same moves have landed some executives in the crosshairs of conservative politicians.

That points to the central dilemma facing us all as we rethink how we work. Multiple surveys suggest Americans are eager to work remotely at least part of the time—the ideal consensus seems to be coalescing around three days in the office and two days remote. Yet the hybrid model comes with its own complexities.

If managers with families and commutes choose to work remotely, but younger employees are on site, the latter could lack opportunities for absorbing corporate culture or for being mentored. Hybrid work could also limit those serendipitous office interactions that lead to promotions and breakthrough ideas.

Yet if it’s done correctly, there’s a chance to bring balance back into our lives, to a degree that we haven’t seen at least since the widespread adoption of email and cell phones. Not just parents but all employees would be better off with more flexible time to recharge, exercise and, oh yeah, sleep.

There’s also a hidden benefit in a year of sweatpants wearing and Zoom meetings: a more casual, more authentic version of our colleagues, with unwashed hair, pets, kids and laundry all on display. That too would help level the playing field, especially for professional women who, over the course of their careers, spend thousands of hours more than men just getting ready for work.

There are glimmers of progress. During the pandemic, as rates of depression and anxiety soared—to 40% of all U.S. adults, quadruple previous levels—a number of companies began offering enhanced mental-health services and paid “recharge” days, among them LinkedIn, Citigroup, Red Hat and SAP.

Some companies are offering subsidized childcare, including Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Home Depot. More than 200 businesses, along with the advocacy group Time’s Up, recently created a coalition to push for child and eldercare solutions. It’s essential that these measures stay in place.

We have an unprecedented opportunity right now to reinvent, to create workplace culture almost from scratch. Over the past decades, various types of businesses have rotated in and out of favor—conglomerates in the ’60s, junk bonds in the ’80s, tech in the ’00s—but the basic workplace structure, of office cubicles and face time, has remained the same.

It’s time to allow the creative ideas to flow. For example, companies are stuck with millions of square feet of now unused office space—sublet space soared by 40% from late 2019 to this year, CoStar found. Why not use that extra space for day care? Working parents of small children would jump at the opportunity to have a safe, affordable option, while having their kids close by.

Now would also be a good time to finally dump the 9-to-5, five-day workweek. For plenty of job categories, that cadence no longer makes sense. Multiple companies are already experimenting with four-day workweeks, including Unilever New Zealand, and Spain is rolling out a trial nationwide. Companies that have already tested the concept have reported significant productivity increases, from 20% (New Zealand’s Perpetual Guardian, which has since made the practice permanent) to 40% (Microsoft Japan, in a limited trial).

That schedule too would be more equitable for working moms, many of whom work supposedly part-time jobs with reduced pay yet are just as productive as their fully paid colleagues. Meanwhile, the 9-to-5 office-hours standard becomes irrelevant, especially when people don’t have meetings and are working remotely or in different time zones.

While we’re at it, let’s kill the commute. Some companies are already creating neighborhood co-working hubs for those who live far from the home office. Outdoor retailer REI is going a step further: it sold its new Bellevue, Wash., headquarters in a cost-cutting move and is now setting up satellite offices in the surrounding Puget Sound area. Restaurants might get in on the act too; they could convert dining areas into co-working spaces during off hours, or rent out private rooms by the day for meetings and brainstorming sessions.

Some of the shortcomings of remote work—the lack of camaraderie and mentoring, the fear of being forgotten—may ultimately be bridged by new technology. Google and Microsoft are already starting to integrate prominent remote-videoconferencing capabilities more fully into meeting spaces, so that remote workers don’t seem like an afterthought. Augmented reality, which so far has been used most notably for games like Pokémon Go, could end up transforming into a useful work tool, allowing remote workers to “seem” to be in the room with on-site workers.

There are plenty of other ideas out there, and a popular groundswell of support for flexibility and life balance that makes sense for all of us. Will we get there, or will we slide back into our old ways? That’s on us. Companies that don’t reinvent may well pay the price, losing top talent to businesses that do.

“We aren’t robots,” Kari Altizer says. “Before, we thought it was impossible to work with our children next to us. Now, we know it is possible—but we have to change the ways in which we work.”

By Joanne Lipman

Source: COVID-19 Changed Work Forever | Time

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References

Assessing Maker Education Projects

assessment

Institutionalized education has given assessment a bad reputation; often leaves a sour taste in the mouths of many teachers, students, and laypeople. This is primarily due to the testing movement, the push towards using student assessment in the form of tests as a measure of student, teacher, principal, and school accountability.

Educators should be clear about why they include assessment in their instruction; be strategic and intentional in its use. For me, assessment really should be about informing the learner about his or her performance so that increased learning and future improvement result for that learner.

Assessment is the process of gathering and discussing information from multiple and diverse sources in order to develop a deep understanding of what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge as a result of their educational experiences; the process culminates when assessment results are used to improve subsequent learning. (Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses: Shifting the Focus from Teaching to Learning)

As Hattie, Fry, and Fischer note in Developing “Assessment Capable” Learners:

If we want students to take charge of their learning, we can’t keep relegating them to a passive role in the assessment process.

When we leave students out of assessment considerations, it is akin to fighting with one arm tied behind our backs. We fail to leverage the best asset we have: the learners themselves. What might happen if students were instead at the heart of the assessment process, using goals and results to fuel their own learning? ((http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb18/vol75/num05/Developing-%C2%A3Assessment-Capable%C2%A3-Learners.aspx)

Maker Education and Assessment

As maker education infiltrates more formal educational settings, there’s been and will continue to be efforts to include assessment as part of its implementation. It is important, though, to keep in mind the characteristics of maker education and the role assessment has within it.

Making innately provides evidence of learning. The artifact that results, in addition to the process that a student works through, provides a wealth of evidence, indicators, and data of their learning. Overall, though, assessing making comes back to the original (and difficult) question of what learning outcomes we’re seeking. Assessment is critical for understanding the scope and impact of learning, as well as the associated teaching, environment, culture, and content. (https://www.edutopia.org/blog/assessment-in-making-stephanie-chang-chad-ratliff)

Being a teacher, you’re constantly faced with having to assess student learning,” said Simon Mangiaracina, a sixth-grade STEM teacher. “We’re so used to grading work and giving a written assessment or a test. When you’re involved in maker education it should be more dynamic than that.” Part of the difficulty is that, in evaluating a maker project, teachers don’t want to undo all of the thinking that went into it. For instance, one of the most important lessons maker education can teach is not to fear failure and to take mistakes and let them inform an iterative design process — a research-informed variation of “guess and check” where students learn a process through a loop of feedback and evaluation.  (https://rossieronline.usc.edu/maker-education/7-assessment-types/  from USC Rossier’s online master’s in teaching program)

I have my gifted students do lots maker activities where I meet with the 2nd through 6th graders for 3 to 5 hours a week. Since I do not have to grade them (not in the traditional sense as I have to write quarterly progress reports), I don’t have to give them any tests (phew!). I do ask them, though, to assess their work. I believe as Dale Dougherty, founder of MAKE Magazine, does:

[Making] is intrinsic, whereas a lot of traditional, formal school is motivated by extrinsic measures, such as grades. Shifting that control from the teacher or the expert to the participant to the non-expert, the student, that’s the real big difference here. Dale Dougherty

Christa Flores in Alternative Assessments and Feedback in a MakerEd Classroom stated:

In a maker classroom, learning is inherently experiential and can be very student driven; assessment and feedback needs to look different than a paper test to accurately document and encourage learning. Regardless of how you feel about standardized testing, making seems to be immune to it for the time being (one reason some schools skip the assessment piece and still bill making as an enrichment program). Encouragingly, the lack of any obvious right answers about how to measure and gauge success and failure in a maker classroom, as well as the ambiguity about how making in education fits into the common standards or college readiness debate, has not stopped schools from marching forward in creating their own maker programs.

If the shift of control is given to the students within maker education settings, then it follows that the students should also be in charge of their assessments. One of the goals of maker education should be self-determined learning. This should include learners engaging in their own personal and personalized form of assessment.

Student self-assessment involves students in evaluating their own work and learning progress.

Self-assessment is a valuable learning tool as well as part of an assessment process.  Through self-assessment, students can:

  • identify their own skill gaps, where their knowledge is weak
  • see where to focus their attention in learning
  • set realistic goals
  • revise their work
  • track their own progress
  • if online, decide when to move to the next level of the course

This process helps students stay involved and motivated and encourages self-reflection and responsibility for their learning. (https://teachingcommons.stanford.edu/resources/teaching/evaluating-students/assessing-student-learning/student-self-assessment)

Witnessing the wonders of making in education teaches us to foster an environment of growth and self-actualization by using forms of assessment that challenge our students to critique both their own work and the work of their peers. This is where the role of self-assessment begins to shine a light. Self-assessment can facilitate deeper learning as it requires students to play a more active role in the cause of their success and failures as well as practice a critical look at quality. (Role and Rigor of Self-Assessment in Maker Education by Christa Flores in http://fablearn.stanford.edu/fellows/sites/default/files/Blikstein_Martinez_Pang-Meaningful_Making_book.pdf)

Documenting Learning

To engage in the self-assessment process of their maker activities, I ask learners to document their learning.

We need to integrate documenting practices as part of making activities as well as designing, tinkering, digital fabrication, and programming in order to enable students to document their own learning process and experiment with the beauty of building shared knowledge. Documentation is a hard task even for adults, but it is not so hard if you design a reason and a consistent expectation that everyone will collect and organize the things they will share. (Documenting a Project Using a “Failures Box” by Susanna Tesconi in http://fablearn.stanford.edu/fellows/sites/default/files/Blikstein_Martinez_Pang-Meaningful_Making_book.pdf)

Documenting their learning can include one or a combination of the following methods:

  • Taking notes
  • Talking to a fellow learner or two.
  • Making sketches
  • Taking photos
  • Doing audio recordings
  • Making videos

(For more information, see Documenting Learning https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/documenting-learning/)

The folks at Digital Promise have the following message for maker educators regarding documentation:

Make the documentation an organic and expected part of the process. When documentation feels like it is added without reason, students struggle to engage with the documentation process. Help students consider how in-process documentation and reflection can help them adapt and improve the project they are working on. Help them see the value of taking time to stop and think.(http://global.digitalpromise.org/teachers-guide/documenting-maker-projects/)

Documenting learning during the making process serves several purposes related to assessment:

  1. It acts as ongoing and formative assessment.
  2. It gives learners the message that the process of learning is as important as the products of learning, so that their processes as well as their products are assessed. (For more information on the process of learning, see Focusing on the Process: Letting Go of Product Expectations https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2017/12/17/focusing-on-the-process-letting-go-of-product-expectations/)

Maker Project Reflections

Because many students haven’t had the experience of reflection and self-assessment, I ease them into this process.  With my gifted students, I ask them to blog their reflections after almost all of their maker education activities. They take pictures of their makes, and I ask them to discuss what they thought they did especially well, and what they would do differently in a similar future make. Here are some examples:

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Teacher and Peer Feedback

The learners’ peers and their educators can view their products, documented learning, and reflections in order to provide additional feedback. A culture of learning is established within the maker education community in that teacher and peer feedback is offered and accepted on an ongoing basis. With this type of openness and transparency of the learning process, this feedback not only benefits that individual student but also the other students as they learn from that student what worked and didn’t work which in turn can help them with their own makes.

The Use of Assessment Rubrics

As a final thought, there has been some thoughts and efforts into using rubrics as assessment tools. Here is one developed by Lisa Yokana and discussed in Creating an Authentic Maker Education Rubric 

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I think rubrics, such as this, can be of value in assessing student work and/or having them assess their own work, but I prefer more open ended forms of assessment so the learners can but more of their selves into the process.