What a Global ‘Corona Diaries’ Project Reveals About Education During the Pandemic

Apr 16, 2020

A project released this month hopes to capture audio diaries from around the world of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a sampling of these human stories shows how much disruptions in education are changing daily life.

The audio project is called Corona Diaries, and it consists of a simple but elegant website that invites visitors to record a short audio clip answering one of three prompts: How was your day? How has your life changed? What’s troubling you right now?

The site is still in beta, but already they’ve had more than 60 people from eight countries contribute powerful and intimate moments.

Even though people could talk about any aspect of their lives during COVID-19, a large percentage of the clips come from either parents struggling to homeschool their kids while schools are closed, or educators trying to make sense of this time.

So, with blessing from the site’s organizers, we’ve stitched together highlights of these Corona Diaries that touch on education for a bonus episode of the EdSurge Podcast.

The site was created by recent participants in the Nieman fellowship for journalism based at Harvard University. (I participated in this same fellowship five years ago, which is how I heard about the effort.)

Listen to this week’s podcast on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play Music, or wherever you listen to podcasts, or use the player below. Or read the partial transcript, which has been lightly edited for clarity.

EdSurge: The first Corona Diary clip we included comes from just outside of Boston, and it captures a parent’s perspective on how strange it is to mark occasions like birthdays with classmates when no one can gather in person.

[Parent near Boston] “It was my son's eighth birthday the other day earlier this week, and it was pretty sad because we couldn't have a party for him, but he didn't seem to be as upset as he might've been, which was good. His grandparents came over and we kind of stood at opposite ends of the yard and delivered presents in a very careful, sanitary kind of way. But that was the extent of the family excitement. But what did happen, which we thought was pretty fun, was that on the daily Zoom call with his second grade class at school, they all sang happy birthday. And I wouldn't say it was a musical masterpiece, but it was pretty cute, and he got pretty excited about it. He said after [that] it sounded like a bunch of cows singing, which, yeah. You know, I think he liked it.”


This week’s podcast sponsor is Emporia State University’s online Elementary Education program: designed for career changers interested in becoming elementary teachers.

Know anyone who might be a good fit? Let us know here.


But even though Zoom and other video platforms are bringing people together just now, they can also get old.

[Parent in Maine] “We're just stuck in our homes and going through the motions of our life. And my life is extremely circumscribed by my daughter and her homeschooling … and my attempt to keep her life as normal as possible while moving forward and her education and both of our wellbeing. This means getting outside, cooking, trying to stay off of devices—which is absolutely impossible. I find myself enjoying phone calls now because I'm so tired of looking into a camera [from all the Zoom meetings].”

Many of these Corona Diaries that strangers have sent in capture how lonely it is to be stuck and isolated from each other. That's especially the case for folks living by themselves.

[Student in Brooklyn] “Life has changed for me [because] school has been interrupted. I guess that was the way for me to not only get out of the house and see the city of New York, but also to socialize in some way, to go to classes, to see my classmates. And now it's been very lonely. It's been very quiet, [without] the white noise of the city. It's allowing me to hear a lot of my thoughts, and I didn't realize how much stuff goes through my mind—many thoughts that I have, questions and concerns. … I don't think I've experienced so much solitude and loneliness before. So that's been the challenge.”

These aren't just in the U.S. The Corona Diaries has received submissions from around the world, and most people that participated all seem like they're in a similar lockdown restriction no matter where they are. One educator in London described the same kinds of concerns about a digital divide and its impacts on remote education that we're hearing and writing about in the U.S.


This is a partial transcript. To hear the rest of the voices (this one works better as audio), listen to the podcast episode.


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