Utilizing a “distributed cognition” (Hutchins, 1995) approach to the course, the interdisciplinary teaching team invited a range of guest speakers to explore various approaches to complex issues that have resulted in, been shaped by, or aggravated by COVID-19.
The interactive presentations focused on (among other topics) language access through Spanish/English interpreters in medical settings, on-the-ground engagement with the Navajo Nation, nonprofit organizations’ local responses to the crisis, “vaccine nationalism”, and other local and international case studies highlighting systems thinking and “wicked problems.”
“What I’ve learned from this course is weirdly positive,” says International Policy and Development student Rose Thompson MAIPD ’21. “It’s kind of like shining a light on a dark room that’s scary. The more you know about it, the more angles you can see it from, the less frightening and the more solvable problems seem.COVID is ever-evolving and this course taught me how to think about this change. But it also taught me to be more observant in the present, and to focus more on tangible tasks I can tackle now.”
Students worked on projects such as a critical discourse analysis of media representations of prison populations, the impact of COVID-19 on fisheries in two locales, on gender inequality, created high school lesson plans, and performed an analysis of different countries’ leadership approaches during the pandemic. “The collaborative pedagogical approach to the ongoing course development process,” says Professor Avineri, ”student reflections, and in-class engagement sought to foster students’ ability to draw from their own experiences while critically analyzing complex issues from a distance.”
Raider Fowler MAIEM ’21 really appreciated how diverse the projects were. “I think the biggest insight for me about COVID-19 that I learned from these projects is how important interdisciplinary approaches are for future challenges - and wicked problems in general.”
Translation and Localization Management student Grizelda Ambriz MATLM ‘21 says they particularly appreciated the format of the course. “There was a sense of collaboration, communication and critical thinking towards each subject through the course and this space really allowed or each individual to take part in the conversations we might not have been able to have with others.”
Cassandra Agyemang MATLM ’21 says that before taking the class most conversations she engaged in about the corona virus were negative. “But in our class, I liked that it was more of in a positive light. We’re talking about ways to address the problem and different ways that we can solve it.”
Professor Baimyrzaeva says that one of the goals of the course was to use COVID-19 as an example of a complex problem and provide students with methods “to wrap their heads around and be able to navigate and influence change in some way. The future is full of complex problems, so this gave students tangible ways to understand the intricacies of complex problems and to be productive in engaging with finding solutions.”
What is the social impact of language learning apps? What is the role of technology in the classroom? Middlebury Institute Professor Gabriel Guillén publishes research on challenges and benefits of incorporating the digital world into the language class.