Teaching Responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic: Academic Perspectives

Here’s a quick share.

I came across this freely available research digest that ought to be very useful for educators, both regard to the specific topic of education’s response to the pandemic, but also for wider access to academic materials on teaching and learning.

This first link takes you to a collection of 35 academic articles in the Journal of Technology and teacher Education, all related to the teacher responses to the pandemic:
learning and Technology Library – Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

The second link, from the same source is an E-book of ‘Stories from the field’ about how educators responded to needs for emergency remote learning support:
Learning and Technology Library – Teaching, Technology, and Teacher Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Stories from the Field – Ebook
(In both cases above, simply click on the link to have it open in a separate tab or window)

 

Learning Resources – Black Lives Matter

The current demonstrations, anger and demands for change flowing from the ‘;Black lives Matter’ movement following the harrowing and awful killing of George Floyd and other black people in America have spread across the world. Young people feel inclined to raise their voices, but also they, and many adults, feel the need to be far better informed, to understand the issues, the depth of the anger and the history that has brought the issues to their current point.

Many teachers recognise in such events phenomenal ‘teachable moments’ and opportunities to help and guide learners as they build understanding and arrive at informed perspectives on the issues. However, it can be daunting to know quite where to start.

Here are two resource repositories that i think can be very useful, even if as starting points, though they represent quite a lot of resources.

The first is a google drive collection for Black History Month:
Black History Month – google drive
(Click on the link above for the drive folder to open in a new window or tab. Then, double click on any of the folders to open and explore the resources)

The second is the Smithsonian Institute’s Open Access Link for the National Museum of African American History and Culture:
Smithsonian – NMAAHC Collection
(Click on the link above to open the collection in a new tab or window)

“New Normal” Webinar

New Normal

I’ve got my plans sorted for Saturday afternoon!

Will be talking about issues of how schools move forward after the pandemic. Details above for those who wish to attend. Please note that the timing is Dubai/ Gulf time, so those in other locations will need to make the adjustments.

I’m looking forward to this.

 

Character Lesson Material

Just sharing a quick link – a series of 12 lesson material downloads based on different aspects of character that are specifically designed for home lessons. Each character trait is approached through a separate plan, based on the experiences of a particular person who exhibited that trait:

Character at Home Lessons – Northampton Academy
(To  open in a separate tab or window, simply click on the link above)

As these are the product of someone’s hard work, appropriate to attribute them if you should choose to use some or all of them.

 

 

Reinventing School

 

Sharing here another great resource for educators who want to stimulate their own and their team’s minds in considering where we are now – thinking about the most effective ways to approach education now and in coming months.

Above is the first of three episodes that have been issued so far. There are more to come through the remainder of May and June. They can either be accessed through the Youtube channel or through the dedicated website:

Learning Revolution – Reinventing School
(Clicking on the link above will open the web page either in a new tab or a new window)

I like the idea in the panel discussions that they’ve tried to draw in the viewpoints of some students. All the students included in the first three episodes are erudite and highly intelligent, but i do still wonder whether they come across a little like rabbits caught in car headlights when posed with challenging questions that require quite a lot of insights in to education and the factors that shape it today.. The viewpoints and perspectives of some parents might also be valuable.

I believe, in this moment as I have generally over the last 10-15 years that, as educators, we need to be very cautious about just talking among ourselves. Somewhere, we need to be investing far more time and effort in talking with parents, students and the wider community about our beliefs for where education should go.

I’m finding increasingly in recent months when talking with other educators that we may all be saying that we never want things to go back to the old normals when it comes to how school education is done. However, if, when schools reopen, frustrated and anxious parents meet relieved stressed teachers  the impulse and temptation will be to want to replicate as much of what we used to have as possible, as quickly as possible. This is especially the case because those of us who have long wanted change haven’t really spent enough time and energy talking in the language of the public about why they should not want anything like what they were getting before for their children. We need to invest the time and effort with both teachers to help them to see the visions we see for what the future can be and why it will be better and more worth having for all concerned.

Learning Resources for Remote Learning

Learning Keeps Going

The sudden sweep of the coronavirus across the world has brought about the most phenomenal and amazing shift in how schools, teachers and pupils operate. Within weeks millions of children across the world moved from learning with teachers in classrooms to a scenario whereby the relevance of the school as a physical location evaporated and all moved to various forms of remote learning.

Important here to acknowledge that, almost completely, what children are currently experiencing is remote learning and not online learning. It’s important to differentiate that the latter is designed very specifically for the online arena, harnessing the unique and special advantages offered by online learning. To greater or lesser extents, schools have rushed to train and equip their teachers to deliver remote learning in various synchronous or asynchronous ways.

The urgency of the situation has led to an outpouring of sharing, collaboration and flexibility on the part of technology companies, edtech companies and those producing/ developing educational content (particularly online content).

So, with all of that in mind, I was really keen to share a vast resource that I came across. Edsurge 9s a US-based platform that incorporates a number of newsletters, a podcast and a valuable collated source of knowledge and up to date information for what’s happening in education. Whilst it’s US-oriented it also pays a lot of attention to what’s happening all over the world. Their reporting includes updates on the big deal making around the world in edtech. A few months ago they were the story as much as the reporters as they were taken over by ISTE.

In response to the covid-19 pandemic they’ve set up a separate portal site called  – “Learning Keeps Going” In it they’ve collated a vast collection (I believe it’s close to 900 resources!). The site can be found here: It covers the whole range from pre-school through to tertiary education.

Learning Keeps Going Portal
(To open, click on the link above  – the portal should either open in a new window or a new tab)

At the top right of their homepage are a number of links. One leads to a section containing a growing selection of webinars and podcasts related to educators’ responses to the covid pandemic. There are past recordings and details of forthcoming online events.

The most useful headings for teachers and school Heads are ‘Free Tech for Learning’ and ‘Teachers and Leaders’.

In the first, it’s very easy to filter to find what you want or might be interested in. One of the interesting features is to see whether a resource is offered free for the longer term, or if it’s only being offered free for a limited time. You can sort by the age group of students, subjects or topics. An important filter for all educators outside America is the last on the left – where the resources are available for use in regions of the world outside the US.

The teachers and Leaders tab has resources related to training teachers for remote learning facilitation, Teacher professional development (that shouldn’t grind to a halt at this time) and other resources of value as those in leadership roles seek to carry out their roles remotely.

BBC – The Learning Revolution

 

BBC LearningThere are many educators around like me (we have ways of identifying each other 🙂 ) who have spent years seeking to find ways to bring real, significant change in school education, but needing to surreptitiously nibble around the edges.

There are probably few areas in life that have greater inertia against change than education. Even major influences like Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk about education stifling creativity have been watched by millions, but have brought really very little change. However, suddenly, now, this massive black swan event that is the coronavirus has turned the world of children’s learning upside down.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a colleague from 8-9 years ago, remembering conversations at that time. In the school Group where i was Director in the space of a couple of weeks we had two special sets of circumstances that came up. Firstly, there was a student who was recovering from a course of chemotherapy for cancer. He was doing well and recovering well, but couldn’t risk leaving his home. He missed his classmates and was bored with just receiving worksheets etc sent home for him to study. Then, another young boy, a promising soccer player was invited to go on a long 3-month training camp away from home. His parents had approached the school to ask in what ways we might continue to support his learning during these months away.

I challenged my leadership team – we don’t take a fee from parents to provide a physical place, but to support their child to learn. Shouldn’t we be able to harness available technology to support their individual learning needs and requirements regardless of their physical location./ What followed was some encouraging creativity that enabled some skype sessions. These were appreciated by the two students and their parents, but didn’t really open up significant innovation around how learning could be impacted on a bigger scale.

What’s happening now is messy – it came about so fast that it couldn’t really be anything else. However, in this sudden and enforced change lie the seeds of major and significant change that may yet see the biggest shifts in mass education in well over 100 years. What children are receiving right now isn’t really remote learning, but covid learning under intense circumstances where teachers, parents and the students themselves all have high degrees of anxiety.

As the debates go on it’s vital that educators clarify what we want to see come out of this. Certainly, those who talk in terms of just getting through this short term aberration before ‘return to normal’ are missing vital points – including the fact that the old normal wasn’t working very effectively. We’ve also seen the evidence laid bare that it lacked equity and fairness of opportunity.

In coming weeks I’ll be writing and talking about the possibilities for what that future can look like. Out of this tragedy can come some thing good and exciting if we are bold, brave and ready to think creatively about what we want to see.

As a contribution, here’s a very good three part radio series made by BBC Radio 4.  Alex Beard explores the considerations and issues that will need to be foremost in our minds. The three half hour sessions explore – knowing, teaching and learning.

BBC – Radio 4 – The Learning Revolution
(Click on the link above to open the page in a new tab or window. From here, you can access all three episodes)

The Science of Hand Washing

 

For parents or educators working with young children can easily rely on a pretty high degree of automatic, unquestioning obedience. So, “wash your hands properly,” is largely accepted at face value and children will pay adequate attention to the instructions on how to do so. After that, it’s largely a matter of constant repetition to get them to build a sound and effective habit.

However, sadly, we all know that a very unhealthy proportion of adults don’t practice good and effective handwashing habits, even after they’ve used the toilet. We’ve all had the experience of not wanting to touch door handles etc. after witnessing the numbers of people moving out from public toilets in restaurants, bars etc either without washing their hands or after the most cursory flick under a tap without soap.

So, we know that the good intentions and the efforts taken with young childrren wear off and the habits get dropped somewhere along the way. Mostly, this seems to be when they reach later childhood, when nobody is telling them or reminding them any more and their distracted minds are on so many things that seem so much more important.

One of the challenges is that, like getting people to wear face masks, the reason or the “why” is probably more about our duty of protection towards others, rather than keeping ourselves safe. The key lies in that “why.” My suspicion is that if you were to ask most adults why they are supposed to wash their hands properly with soap and water, especially during this time of coronavirus pandemic, their answer would be some vague one about killing germs, washing away dirt and safety.

This is where I believe this short video by Ted Ed is so valuable and important (for adults as well as older students). It provides an in depth, but very understandable, science lesson on the process of hand washing, what it achieves and why it’s important. It also fits in as well an explanation of the different process that happens when using hand santizers. After seeing this, all would understand why the quick flash of the hands under a running water tap isn’t enough.

Well worth sharing and I encourage teachers to find a way to slip it in to lessons in the coming days. Especially with older students – “do it because we say so.” is very poor and ineffective. Until now, many teachers might have struggled to give better, more scientific explanation of why it matters. This video does the job.

The Front Line?

Around a month ago I was blown away by the logic and sense in this facebook post from a member of medical staff here in Malaysia:

Facebook Post – Dr Michelle Au
(Click on the link above to open the facebook page either in a new tab or a new window)

At that time we were adjusting to being locked down at home under the Movement Control Order. As more and more countries locked down certain language started to be used more and more often. One phrase was to talk about medical and essential workers being on ‘the front line’ in the battle/ war (I’m going to talk about that in a separate post!).

Dr Au’s point is a very simple but poweerful one – one that might have brought about a bit more self-discipline from some if acknowledged. In short she said it’s not her but us who are the front line. If we put ourselves in the way of this virus by not observing sensible isolation and distancing, then more of us will catch the illness. Some may be lucky, asymptomatic and unaffected, but others may suffer very severely. Incidentally, as an asthmatic with COPD I’ve had pneumonia a number of times. I know well what it feels like to struggle for each breath, for the breath that’s going in to your lungs to be inadequate and then for your lungs to fail to extract adequate oxygen from it. There’s a sense of drowning inside your own body – a slow, inexorable suffocation.

From Dr Au’s perspective the medical professionals are not on the front line, but they are, in fact, the last line of defence – when all else has failed, when in the worst of situations your own body has been assaulted by this virus or some other condition and cannot solve the situation, but must be put in to their hands for them to fight and battle to save you. Their roles in battling to save people’s lives as the last line of defence are harrowing, mentally challenging and ultimately physically dangerous for them (and their family members) . We have very sadly, seen many of them pay the ultimate price as they are faced with impossible conundrums and challenges to decide who may survive and who may die. Beyond them, there are no more defences. They are not the front line – we are – we serve our role by complying with the scientifically determined rules on distancing, isolating ourselves and taking every necessary step to keep ourselves safe.

There are some other people who, during this virus crisis are also described as being ‘on the front line’ – essentially being all those deemed to be employed in essential services who are therefore continuing to travel to work whilst the vast majority of populations live in lockdown, quarantined in their homes. Going beyond doctors, nurses and other medical staff there are the police and military, those involved in refuse collection and other municipal services, all those engaged in logistical services to get essential food and materials to where they need to be.

Ecommerce warehouse

There’s an issue that’s been troubling me more and more as the weeks of lockdown have gone on. There are quite a number of companies that send me emails encouraging me to buy their products. The fact that they have continued to send these indicates that at least some of their customers are buying. However, it’s quite possible this particular customer might never buy from them ever again.

In addition, i’ve seen news reports from both US and UK concerning both big and small online retailers where warehouse and packing staff have contracted the covid-19 virus (and even passed it to family members). Alongside, I’ve seen various people, celebrities or otherwise parading their new purchases acquired through ecommerce websites. It seems, for some, the consumerist – “I shop, therefore I am,” ideology doesn’t give way just because of a pesky virus.

Does your desire for a new barbecue, some fancy home dumbells or the latest ring light so that you look beautifiul on screen when you zoom conference justify the potential risk or even death for the hard working, under-paid warehouse and sorting staff or the delivery personnel? Is this really what they should be risking their lives for? I’m sorry, but to me it’s not acceptable. There are countries (I’m aware of India for sure) that have mandated that ecommerce companies may only take orders for and arrange deliveries of essential products. I’m also aware that when India imposed that rule the world’s biggest ecommerce company tried to argue with them! Shame on them, I say.

I’ve also seen in recent weeks two prominent writers who were due to publish new books. Despite the virus and all its implications they went ahead with their campaigns to persuade maximum numbers of people to buy their books (in hardback form) with various incentives etc. These are writers who consider themselves great thinkers about the lives of men. They’ve probably both lost my respect and my readership for ever. All because they couldn’t see beyond their own personal desires to make the New York Times bestseller lists with their books.

They had other options;

  1. Delay the launches of the books – it would have been legitimate to tell their readers that they were doing this for responsible reasons,
  2. To take the orders for the books, with an understanding that the hard copy books would only be despatched later when it’s safer, but in the short term providing ebook electronci copies of the book for their loyal readers who want to buy now.

There are people doing critical jobs to whom we owe enormous gratitude. These people are risking their lives to keep the vital functions of cities working, to maintain law and order and ensure the logistic channels for ESSENTIAL goods, such as food. They should not be joined by those who are forced to work to pander to people’s wants (rather than needs).

If the shoppaholic who isn’t faced with crippling fear of job and income loss feels the need to indulge in wilful spending I’m sure there are plenty of organisations in their areas doing vital work to feed the hungry, make protective clothing for medical staff and face masks for those doing essential work who would have been very glad of their support.

When so many are doing phenomenal selfless things for the good of all, it is saddening that greed and thoughtlessness can still stand outin its insensitivity.

Mindfulness and SEL for Educators

Educators’ ability to meet the heightened social and emotional needs of their pupils right now are critically dependent upon their own wellness and attention to their own needs.

Here’s a very good webinar shared recently by the Awake Network that explores what that entails and shares some good practical thoughts on how to ensure that educators are addressing these self care needs.

%d bloggers like this: