Being thankful during COVID-19 for technology and the people who support it

Posted on October 9, 2020 by

As we head into Thanksgiving there is so much going on in higher education, not the least of which is the question: should I go home for Thanksgiving or not? For some students and their families it will be an easy decision, for others it will be filled with anxiety and uncertainty.

At times like this it is good to step back and think about what we are thankful for. Today, on CBC Metro Morning, the hosts discussed this question, and one individual shared that they were thankful for the technology we have. Being in technology, my ears perked up immediately. Frequently, we treat technology as a commodity and we really take it for granted until something goes wrong.

We have heard a lot during COVID-19 about comparing what we are going through to events like the Great War or the Spanish flu epidemic in the early part of the 20th century. I do think we are considerably better off than during those events and if we take that as true maybe the question is: why are we better off?

Imagine if we didn’t have the internet and weren’t able to communicate with others in a very immediate way. We can easily start a discussion on Teams or Zoom session with colleagues or loved ones (and see their faces). The contact is immediate, and it can happen in most places in the world. (I do appreciate the digital divide and that could be another whole discussion). This ability certainly comes with some baggage, especially as it relates to social media, but it also builds and maintains relationships at a time when they are probably more important. I wonder how many people will have virtual Thanksgiving dinners this year. Interesting idea, and I hope I hear about how that goes. But getting back to the point, imagine going through COVID-19 without technology. I struggle to imagine how impactful that would be on our quality of life and our mental health.

At the end of the day, I am thankful for the technology we have and especially the people at the University of Toronto who support this technology. They have put in long hours and solved huge problems with sometimes unrealistic expectations and most of the time with a smile on their face. I am also thankful to the people at places like Microsoft, who created and manage our Office 365 environment. I can’t imagine what this would have been like without them working tirelessly to scale up and deliver a robust solution.

This weekend let’s all reflect on what we are grateful for. Happy Thanksgiving!