Collaborating online at times of crisis

As we write this we are in the middle of a pandemic that has huge numbers of people around the world grappling with uncertainty, disruption and anxiety. The spreading of the COVID-19 virus means that millions of people are having to self-isolate or are in lockdown in many countries. It is a difficult and troubling time for everyone, everywhere, and one the world is struggling to cope with.

As academics we are privileged in that much of the work we do can also be done through the use of online technology. This is something that is not an option for many people, and livelihoods are at stake. However, for those of us able to work online, there is now a wide range of tools available and, while online work requires a different set of skills and strategies from those needed for face-to-face teaching or researching, there is still a lot we can do to keep going.

Our friends and colleagues in the Gaza Strip know all too well what it feels like to be ‘locked away’, to have your movement and social interactions curtailed, as a nation and as individuals. They have, for many years, invested in online technologies as a means to escape isolation and to carry on functioning and interacting despite living in a prolonged state of crisis and precarity.

The Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) has established a large number of international online collaborations over the past few years, collaborations which span most subjects, and which make use of several languages. Through these partnerships, IUG has been able to share knowledge and skills with international partners, and these benefit academics, students and the whole of Gazan society. A range of these collaborations are the subject of the forthcoming book “Multilingual Online Academic Collaborations as Resistance. Crossing Impassable Borders”, published by Multilingual Matters. Below is a shot of the book’s cover, with a photograph of a very Scottish-looking Palestinian seascape (or is it a Palestinan-looking Scottish seascape? What do you think? 🙂

Front cover

There is a lot that Gaza’s academics can teach us about lateral thinking, problem-solving, resilience and online working in challenging situations, and this new book illustrates and discusses some of the ways in which this is done. To pre-order a copy of our book, click here

Hopefully the COVID-19 pandemic will pass soon, and we will all be able to go back to our normal face-to-face learning, researching and teaching. What we are learning now about online collaboration, however, will stay with us and hopefully make us more flexible and creative. We sincerely hope that freedom from isolation will also soon be true for our friends in the Gaza Strip, that borders will be open and that meeting and working online can become a choice for all, rather than a necessity.

Be well, everyone!

Happy Arabic Language every day!!

Yesterday was Arabic Language Day, and people around the world celebrated this beautiful language.

Last year we put together a little video to celebrate the Arabic language and to remind people that the Islamic University of Gaza has a range of Arabic language courses for all levels that can be taught online by trained teachers (and wonderful human beings) based at IUG’s Arabic Center. The courses available include the Online Arabic from Palestine course, which we designed specifically for beginner learners who want to learn Arabic with a Palestinian flavour.

Below is our Arabic language day video again for you to enjoy

We wish you Happy Arabic language every day!!

Miracles happen!!

A while ago we were writing about our friend and colleague Nazmi, and his awful non-trip out of Gaza. Since then he tried several times to leave the Strip, but the double-whammy of erratic visa regulations and of exit permits meant that the right paperwork-time combination that would allow him to travel did not happen. Each time Nazmi invested lots of energy, time and money only to be disappointed and frustrated, over and over again. Months and months have passed, and he had to give up several opportunities to meet his colleagues in person to discuss the many international projects he’s engaged in, to take up invitation to talk about his work at conferences and to do all the other things people in academia take for granted. He had to make do with online meetings, with webinars and telecollaborations. But Nazmi is not a person to give up very easily and, at the 7th attempt, he made it!!

So here he is, finally with us in person, delighting us with his energy and the sheer happiness that comes from being able to move freely, to catch a train or a plane without being questioned or harassed, to meet us and his many other colleagues and collaborators in the UK, Norway, Finland, Germany. We all smile with him, because miracles happen.