The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19 as the illness the virus causes is called, has drastically changed life for countries, governments, businesses, families, children, and educators.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. For some people who become ill, the symptoms are mild, sometimes no more troublesome than a regular cold. For others, however, the symptoms are much more severe, requiring them to be taken to the hospital for intensive treatment, put on a ventilator, or even causing death.
Others who have health conditions such as fibromyalgia or lupus that lower their immunity, those who are receiving chemotherapy treatments that lower their body’s immunity or who have received those treatments in the past, and still others have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, COPD, and more that increase the chances that a case of COVID -19 will be deadly.
This is why entire countries and governments have essentially shut down and required people to shelter at home, work from home, and stay away from school.
First, someone who isn’t showing symptoms can still be contagious—the more people they encounter, the more people are likely to become infected. COVID-19 spreads easily through the population, even more easily than the common flu it has been compared to; this is known as community spread, which becomes exponentially more dangerous as people don’t know where or how they became infected, or that they are infected at all. Those who don’t know they are sick may infect someone else the same way and the cycle continues.
However, when someone is infected with COVID-19, they are the most contagious when they are the most ill (when symptoms are the most obvious). When someone with the infection begins feeling the symptoms, the level of viral shedding increases. This means that the virus has successfully reproduced enough to send new virus back out into the world. When those with high levels of viral shedding touch a person or thing, they can leave smears of the virus on that person’s skin or clothing. If they sneeze or cough, they spread the virus in this way as well.
Because COVID-19 is so new in humans, all information on its spread, its infectiousness, and the severity of symptoms people develop is new. Statistical workups can only predict probabilities for the spread of the illness; the final numbers will only be known once everyone who became ill is counted.
Schools all over the country have closed. Some have set tentative return dates, only to later announce that the semester will not resume as normal. Social distancing has been extended to April 30 by the federal government. Stay-at-home orders in individual cities or states have led to forced school closures. Up to 55.1 million students have been affected by these closures.
To flatten the curve of COVID-19’s spread, some have suggested that schools and businesses may need to stay closed between 8 and 20 weeks; the shorter period may not have the desired flattening effect, meaning a new cycle of infection could begin if we lift the restrictions too early.
This means that students in many states are now remaining at home. Some may be resuming classes virtually, while others are receiving homework packets that help them to keep up with their classes. Even standardized testing requirements, one of those things that seems as certain as taxes, are being reduced so schools don’t feel pushed to bring their students back.
Of course, social isolation will only work if adults and children don’t gather in crowds. In some cities, groups have continued to congregate, helping the virus to spread through new victims all across the country. If adults are mainly the ones who are gathering and meeting in groups larger than 10 or 50 people, they are taking the virus home to their families, including their children.
How Illnesses Spread
Germ theory didn’t gain popularity and begin being taught until the end of the 19th century, when Robert Koch discovered the tiny organisms (germs) that cause illnesses. Koch was experimenting with anthrax. Under a microscope, he looked at the blood of cows who had died from anthrax. Finding thin, rod-shaped microorganisms in the blood, he wondered if they caused anthrax. Infecting mice with the anthrax-infected blood, he knew he was right when the mice also developed these new cells.
Today, parents and teachers are doing their best to teach young children about the germs that make them sick. Parents and teachers can use this time to provide a strong understanding of germ theory, and make sure children understand the tiny germs that can get into our bodies without us even knowing it.
It’s important to also note that people who are sick can protect those around them. By covering their mouths and noses when they sneeze or cough, they keep the germ-laden droplets from landing on people or objects. By washing their hands after using the bathroom, sneezing, coughing, or blowing their nose, they can slow the spread of illness.
Here are some materials specifically meant to help teach children about how sickness spreads:
Washing your hands is one of the best ways to stop germs and viruses from making you and your family sick. You should wash your hands after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing, or changing a baby’s diaper. You should also wash your hands before you prepare food, during and after preparation, before you eat, and before and after you take care of someone who is sick, as well as before and after you treat a cut or any other type of wound.
You can teach your students or children how to wash their hands for 20 seconds, singing “Happy Birthday” in their minds, or any of the other dozen songs that have come along to make it easier for children and adults alike to wash their hands correctly. Baby shark anyone? You’ll always be able to tell they’re doing it right when you hear that belted out.
Without hand washing, germs, viruses, and bacteria can survive for hours on your hands. It’s easy to transfer those germs to food or drink and others. Some studies say that, if everyone washed their hands with simple soap and water, we could decrease deaths from illness by as much as 50%. That means one million deaths each year could be prevented. Washing hands lowers the risk of respiratory illnesses by 16%. Using an alcohol hand sanitizer also lowers absenteeism in schools from infections by 19.8%.
While using warm water and soap is much preferred over using hand sanitizer, there are times when you don’t have water and soap around so you can wash. In these instances, a hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol can still help you prevent illness.
Hand sanitizer is ineffective at removing Clostridium difficile and norovirus bacteria, and they don’t work to remove harmful chemicals, like pesticides, but they can render germs and microbes ineffective — if they are used correctly. One of the biggest problems with hand sanitizer is that people don’t always use enough to really clean their hands. You should be putting enough on your hands to really coat both the front and back of each hand. You also need to leave it on until it fully dries, that means no wiping it off your hands – at all if you’re doing it right. Letting the sanitizer dry fully gives it the chance to really get your hands clean, and then there’s nothing to wipe off.
Another important thing to remember is that hand sanitizer won’t do anything if your hands are muddy or greasy. If there is a lot of gunk on your hands, you need to find yourself a sink and give them a thorough scrub. That’s the only way to get through all the dirt and really get rid of the germs.
Coughing and Sneezing
Good etiquette for coughing and sneezing includes covering your sneezes and coughs whether you have a cold or the flu or not. The best time to get into this habit is before you get sick so that, when you are sick, it’s second nature to cover up when you cough or sneeze.
Depending on what has made you sick, you may spread whooping cough, flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), or COVID-19; all of which are dangerous to some extent to various populations.
Here are some materials meant for teaching the importance of coughing and sneezing etiquette:
Staying Home When Sick
If it’s true that COVID-19 is spread like the flu, then it’s possible that just breathing may help to spread the illness. As you breathe, the virus is expelled through your mouth and nose, and those microscopic particles can hang around, literally, in the air, possibly for several hours. This is one way that the flu gets around so easily, pushing incidents of the illness and its peak upward every year.
This proves the case for staying at home and self-quarantining until you have recovered. Ideally, you should continue to isolate yourself for a few days, just to make sure you are no longer contagious to others. If you live with your family, you may want to confine yourself to one room of your home and use one bathroom exclusively so that you don’t spread the virus.
While the numbers are too small to conclusively prove this, the data does suggest that some virus can be shed as you breathe, and recent studies suggest that the COVID-19 virus could be partially airborne, adding to its ability to infect those around you. Scientists and researchers still need to address gaps in the current knowledge.
Social/Physical distancing is a practice that is meant to keep people from interacting with those who may be infected. Put bluntly, it keeps those who are sick with COVID-19 from coming into close contact with people who don’t have this illness.
The CDC and WHO have heavily promoted social distancing as a way of flattening the upward curve of infections. By staying further away from family members, friends, and the public who may have health conditions or compromised immune systems, you and others can help to keep them healthy.
However, it’s important to understand that we aren’t saying everyone should be isolated in a single room of the house and you should never interact even with your family. You aren’t being told not to hug your children. Instead, it’s best to find a small group who are not connected to anyone else, perhaps you and your immediate family (in your home) and your parents or a sibling may occasionally interact with you. As long as they are not also a part of any other “bubble” interaction is not a threat. It’s only when these small bubbles of family groups start interconnecting and interacting that the spread becomes an issue again. Remember, don’t act like you are trying to keep from getting it, act like you have it and you don’t want to get anyone else sick.
With schools all across the country closed, students still need to learn. Due to isolation requirements, teachers can’t physically be with their students. This is where tele-teaching steps in.
This is an interactive teaching/learning experience that relies heavily on computers and the internet. In short, this is distance learning. In neighborhoods and communities where internet access at home is not possible, some communities and even states are converting school buses to become mobile or parked hot spots, allowing children in the area to receive needed access to online classes. In the Miami-Dade County public schools, students receive instructional materials online, by grade level. They have supplementary and mandatory materials – students with exceptional needs are also included. Here, the school district actually provides mobile devices available for checkout by students to use in their homes. California is also arranging online access to digital tools for students who don’t have them.
Crossing the digital gap to provide access is just one side of the tele-teaching story. It’s also important for teachers to learn how to most effectively use these tools to provide for each of their students. Maintaining a good understanding of where each student is on their learning journey, and what help they require to get where they’re going, will be vital as teachers try to uphold the standards of their district.
Now that education in most areas around the US has migrated online, teachers need to understand how to choose and use todays mobile apps, many of which exist to help make their work easier as they teach their students and communicate with them.
Education-related mobile apps help teachers to add to the educational benefits their students receive. Both educators and students can benefit, because apps enable teachers to engage their students in ways that other methods may not. Apps mean that a teacher can stop relying on paper assignments. Note-taking, lesson plans, and even storage systems make the life of an educator easier.
Social media platforms allow students to take part together in group projects, even if they are spread throughout the district. Digital whiteboards allow educators to “pass out” quizzes or new assignments. The well-made ones are easy to browse and navigate. Teachers easily flip back and forth through other apps to deliver lessons.
Here are some suggestions for apps that teachers have put to good use both before and since the beginning of this crisis:
The Digital Access Gap
Some students don’t have access to the internet at home. Nor do they have a mobile device. Their parents may not be earning very much, or a single parent may be devoting child support to other necessities. While students remain at home due to social isolation, they need to be able to connect online with their teachers and fellow students. If they don’t have connectivity or mobile devices at home, how do they do this?
Short of giving up and facing the risk of failing the semester, they need to know that cities, school districts, and even individual schools are devising workarounds that will allow them to connect, along with their more-privileged fellow students.
Lower-income families and black and Hispanic families are statistically less likely to have an internet connection in the home, let alone enough devices to allow all students access to their classes. This puts teens in these groups at greater risk of falling behind or dropping out of school altogether. School districts must work with the state, the community, and the families to find ways around this issue.
It’s inevitable during social distancing requirements. You or your kids may be competing for a computer and keyboard so everyone can complete course work. Does your family own multiple mobile devices? If so, then one person can use the computer while someone else uses a tablet and someone else could use a laptop or smartphone. As long as each device is connected to a Wi-Fi account, then this is a much more productive way of dealing with device gridlock – where more than one person needs to use a single device.
As more than one child in a family needs to read homework, complete assignments or quizzes, then submit everything, having several family devices may become useful if not necessary. Even though smartphones are small, they can be useful, allowing students to watch any required videos or do their readings, though they will likely need a computer to write essays or turn in other online homework.
Accessing the Internet
In our world, we rely on technology and the internet for just about everything. From work to communication, teaching and entertainment, the internet figures heavily in our lives. Today’s students will have a much easier time if they are able to use the internet, especially as their assignments may require internet research and with many needing to complete an entire semester without attending their physical school.
For students who don’t have easy access to the internet, they may need to come up with creative ways to gain access, especially now that schools are closed. They could ask a friend if they can use their Wi-Fi signal from outside, in the car, still distancing, so they can get their work done. If libraries in their community are open, they should also be able to log in and do their work from an uninhabited back corner or table. Some internet providers have been offering short-term free or low-cost access during school shutdowns and isolation.
While your school district may have locked doors of your school, forcing students and teachers to stay and learn or teach at home, the school year will come to an end soon. Depending on what state you live in, shelter at home orders may continue into the summer.
Since you’re stuck at home anyway, and you may not be able to go out to attend classes in-person anytime soon, now is a great time to return to school online so that you can earn some CEUs or even start earning your master’s or doctorate degree. You know the benefits of an advanced teaching degree and, if you were planning to earn one, now is the perfect time to get started.
Now that you are teaching from home, this may also be the perfect time to gain even more knowledge in online teaching, as a concept and as a specialty. Teaching from a distance is different from teaching students who are physically in your classroom. Colleges and universities, as well as certificate granting MOOCs, offer courses that will let you learn the concepts behind teaching online and distance education, as well as where the technology is headed. You may find a course that focuses on reviewing pedagogy, or you may decide to take courses on how to create effective online instruction for your students.
The first MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) were offered by professors at Stanford University. More than 160,000 students from everywhere around the world enrolled; 20,000 successfully finished the course. The main focus of MOOCs at that time was to take advantage of the ability to reach and educate a much larger class of students than it was about student-to-student interactions.
In 2012, one of the professors started a MOOC company by the name of Udacity. This company began creating and offering MOOCs free of charge. Two other professors from Stanford founded Coursera, which began to work together with universities to develop and offer MOOCs to students who were interested.
edX used to be known as MITx, which offered MOOCs from the classrooms of MIT; in partnership with Harvard University, the company was renamed edX. Today, edX, which is a consortium, counts more than 30 university partners offering MOOCs to interested students.