Positivity

5 Positives to come out of COVID-19

Entry 10

Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of  some kind. The goal is to find it. Buddha | Buddha quote, Words, Quotes to  live by
Quotesgram.com

November 1st

As 2020 winds down, we should all reflect on the people we lost, the loved ones we cannot visit, and the events we had to cancel. It is okay to feel sad about these things, but as we look to the future, it’s important to remember the positives that came out of the pandemic. When I look back at this year, I think about the vacation to Barcelona I missed, the fact that I was evacuated to Canada for four months, and that I had to switch from entirely in-person teaching to online teaching, without much warning. Having said that, I know I am one of the lucky ones. I have my health, my family and I got to stay together, when many were separated, and Barcelona will still be there when it is safe to travel again.

When thinking about the pandemic, a lot of innovation came out of this time. Teachers, and other professionals quickly learned about useful apps to allow them to keep working despite the lockdowns. Through trial and error, teachers found creative new ways to keep students engaged, and to create connections, regardless of physical proximity. Some teachers and students have found they actually prefer online teaching and learning. We need to be able to harness the teaching methods and connection made now, and incorporate them into our teaching in the future. When we finally have a vaccine and we can return to teaching full time in person, will that happen? Will we go back to “normal?” Let’s not forget the lessons we learned from staying inside and being forced to slow down.

Appreciation for Front-Line and Essential Workers

During 2020, we learned how important and valuable front-line and essential workers are to our lives. People have been tuning in to see the advice of infectious disease experts and Provincial and Public Health Officers. Prior to the pandemic, I don’t think anyone could name their Provincial Health Officer. Some of these experts are even becoming household names, like Dr. Bonnie Henry, Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Isaac Bogoch to name a few. It seems to me that the Coronavirus has given us some perspective into who is actually worthy of our admiration. At 7:00 P.M., I was eager to participate in banging pots on my balcony to support hospital workers. This is surely something health care professionals had not experienced before. Teachers have also been elevated in the eyes of many parents, especially those parents who have had to act as teachers. I personally know one family who has rearranged their working hours so both parents can be home to help their two kids, because it was overwhelming for one parent to do it alone. I hope the good will continues, and teachers continue to be highly valued by the students, parents and the community at large.

Hybrid Learning

So many students I have spoken to, including my own son, absolutely love hybrid learning. He finds that the days he is at school, the teachers can focus on instruction, and then he has a lot of independent time to work on his assignments at home. He is provided with guidance and Zoom calls to check in, on the days he is working remotely. This method, however, is not for everyone, as the student needs to have a strong work ethic to do their assignments independently. My husband also prefers working from home two days a week. The lockdown has necessitated that some people work from home, or at least limit their time in the work place. Some employers are wanting their employees to continue to work from home as many have reported increased productivity, and it can offer certain cost savings. It will be interesting to see if schools continue to offer this option to students and teachers. Could hybrid teaching and learning become the new normal?

Adaptability Between Home and School

It’s important to listen to our students to ensure the type of apps we choose are working to meet their needs. The feedback from my students is that Google Classroom meets all of their needs. They can access their assignments and messages in one place. They can use the platform to ask questions and to upload their work. When my child was in primary school, he liked using Seesaw to share his work and it was a great communication tool for parents as well. Toddle is something new my child’s school is using this year, designed for the IB School Primary Years Program, and they are planning to launch the Middle Years Program next year. My students have suggested we continue using the app even when we are back to in person teaching, if that happens. The beauty of continuing with Google Classroom for posting and receiving assignments, is that it allows us to pivot to online teaching without much effort. I now plan all my lessons as if learning is being done remotely, so I don’t have to make major changes down the line.

Slowing Down

Before COVID-19, many children were rushed around from soccer practice, to violin, back home for dinner and homework before bed. Other children were spending every free moment at the dance studio or the rink. I know a lot of them are suffering right now because they miss their favourite sport, but having this time to slow down, to bring out the board games, to read a book for pleasure, has been a blessing. I think a lot of us have noticed that slowing down can have a positive effect on our mood. While getting fresh air and exercise is important, now we can do it for pleasure and not only on our way to somewhere else.

Access to culture without Having to Travel

Want to “visit” the Sistine Chapel? Are you interested in the Egyptian Antiquities at the Louvre? Now you can visit these amazing places and more, virtually. Zoos, aquariums, art galleries and historical sites are offering virtual experiences for free, during the pandemic. Some people can only dream about visiting these amazing places. Now, in the comfort of your own home, you can immerse yourself in a place a world away. My family and I got to know Fiona, a hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo. It is amazing how soothing it can be to focus on learning about and watching a hippo, instead of focusing on your anxiety.

Here is a link to an article by Trip.com Magazine for more great animal and cultural experiences for you to enjoy:

https://www.trip.com/blog/home-travel-coronavirus-live-stream-museums-and-arts/

Like Father, Like Daughter from Fiona the Hippo: A Love Story in 2020 |  Fiona the hippo, Baby hippo, Hippo
Fiona

2020 has changed the way most of us live our lives. We are approaching 2021 without a vaccine, so not much is likely to change anytime soon. The news is very depressing, but the positives of this situation cannot be overlooked. We have a new appreciation for those who are working to help the rest of us. People have started thanking truckers, grocery store employees, teachers, nurses, doctors and Public Health Officials. New heroes are emerging from the pandemic. We have found novel ways of operating, such as remote working and learning. We have perhaps tried new tools and apps to make our lives easier and keep us connected. Some of us have taken advantage of the free tools and experiences offered to us by companies and organizations in this time of great turmoil. The most valuable experience for me personally, has been slowing down. As Socrates wrote, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” That feels particularity true to me right now. The pandemic has totally changed my life. I used to commute to work, I had Embassy functions in the evenings, and since I am living in Europe, we were traveling every chance we had. Now, I truly understand the joy of curling up with a good book, without feeling guilty, and I have enjoyed playing board games and watching movies at home with my family. COVID-19 has made me appreciate my friends more, and we have been regularly connecting on Zoom. Since over 10 000 Canadians have died of Coronavirus so far, I feel gratitude for my health, and appreciative of all those people who keep working and innovating to make our lives tolerable, during this dreadful time.

Sources:

Amazing Free Virtual Zoo Tour & Free Museums Online on Your Couch (July, 2020). Retrieved from: https://www.trip.com/blog/home-travel-coronavirus-live-stream-museums-and-arts/

Photos:

Buddha elephant image.Quotesgram.com. https://images.app.goo.gl/HCAqPH28vkcT8XXr5

Thank you Teacher image. Unicef.org. September, 2020.https://unicef.org/coronavirus/thank-you-teachers

Dr. Theresa Tam image. Adrian Wyld. The Canadian Press via AP. April, 2020. https://images.app.goo.gl/Syy6VtHPWA6vjp1v8

Sarah Silverman banging pot image. JustJared.com. April, 2020. https://www.justjared.com/photo-gallery/4453793/sarah-silverman-cheering-on-healthcare-workers-05/fullsize/

All the Things we have Lost

Entry 9 -October 27th

The purpose of schools is often under debate. Should young people become educated in order to enter the workforce and contribute to society or is it more about gaining a foundation that is focused on social, cultural and intellectual development, so students can become engaged citizens? Can’t it be both? Can’t we want students to enter the workforce and want them to become socially engaged citizens who challenge the status quo?

Regularly missing in this debate is all the non-academic ways in which schools help children become who they are. The teams they join, the instruments they play, the friends they make. Students can gain so much confidence in the activities they choose to pursue. Students may join the yearbook club and learn about deadlines and design. Students that are elected to student council learn to use their communication skills to organize and lead. Most of the activities that are seen as “extra” right now have been postponed or greatly reduced.

Collaboration in general is currently reduced or missing from our schools. Teachers who are used to working together have had to limit their contact, and may find themselves working alone. Students who were used to gathering together to study or work on projects, have found themselves isolated.

According to Sabrina Gates: “Collaborative learning has been shown to not only develop higher-level thinking skills in students, but boost their confidence and self-esteem as well” (Gates, 2018).

How do we promote collaboration, and learning from others, when that, to some degree, has been limited? The Coronavirus has reduced our ability to enjoy social events such as dances, plays and International Night. Many team sports have been cancelled and collaborating with others in person has also been severely limited. How do we promote team building, when there are no teams?

The power of collective capacity is that it enables ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things—for two reasons. One is that knowledge about effective practice becomes more widely available and accessible on a daily basis. The second reason is more powerful still—working together generates commitment” (Fullan, 2013).

Schools can provide students with much more than intellectual endeavours. Schools can teach us about bullying, about how important it is not to be a bystander and how to navigate friendships through the years. Schools can teach us about the importance of being physically active and how to prepare nutritionally balanced meals. Students participating in the production of a play can deepen valuable skills like communication, problem solving, creativity, and it can develop a sense of confidence in their abilities. Without these aspects to school, we have narrowed the focus of what a school and schooling is.

Collaboration of course can still be done virtually, but there is no doubt that we may miss important lessons by not socializing and working together in person. To offset this loss, we can remind ourselves of the importance of being safe and knowing that what we do now can have an impact on our lives in the future. Staying safe must be our number one focus right now, but this too shall end. There will eventually be a vaccine, and we may be in a position to resume some of our normal activities.

We have been forced to be creative and innovate during this difficult time which teaches our students resiliency. We may continue to use some of these innovations long after the epidemic ends. Let’s hope that when we do get back to some sense of normalcy, that we do not take for granted the all the opportunities that schools can provide.

Sources:

Fullan. M. (2013). The new pedagogy: Students and teachers as learning partners. Learning Landscapes, 6(2), 23-28.

Gates, S., 2018. Benefits of Collaboration. National Education Association. https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/tools-tips/benefits-collaboration

Innovations in Education

Entry 8

How are Creativity and Innovation Related? - Journalism Online
October 25

It is hard to believe that anything positive could come out of 2020, but like much of innovation in the past, our current situation necessitated it. While not all innovation requires a problem to fix, but seeing a problem, could be the very inspiration to create something new, or improve upon existing systems.

“The hardest part of learning something new is not embracing new ideas, but letting go of old ones.”  Todd Rose

Since the start of 2020 and the global pandemic, tech companies, educators, school boards and nearly every business and institution has tried to find creative new ways of operating during a pandemic. The initial solution was for everyone to stay at home. While this was successful for a while to keep the infection rate from climbing, it did not help the economy or help our students learn. Schools tried to pivot to an online model of education with mixed results and some companies figured out that many of the jobs that “couldn’t be done from home,” suddenly were being done from home. A number of companies stepped up to offer their services for free or to provide donations during the first few months of the pandemic. Crocs donated 10, 000 pairs of shoes to frontline workers in the U.S. as part of their “A Pair for Healthcare” program. U-haul provided 30 days of free self-storage to college students in Canada and the U.S. who were impacted by the Coronavirus. Adobe Computer Software provided free access to their Creative Cloud Desktop apps to help facilitate distance learning for teachers and students.

What are some innovations that have come out of 2020?

Innovation is the process of adding value to an existing product or idea, through modification or applying novel, creative solutions to pre-existing problems. Innovation requires and open-mind and managed risk taking. Innovation is the implementation of creative ideas that lead to positive, effective change.

There have been some creative high and low tech innovations to come out of 2020. Here are just a few:

High Tech Solutions

IMSH 2018: Year of the VR – A Breakdown of New Virtual Training  Opportunities From the Exhibit Floor | HealthySimulation.com

A university in Tokyo is proving the opportunity for students to view surgeries using virtual reality. Prior to COVD-19, students had to peer over a surgeon’s head. Now they can watch surgeries with an uninterrupted view using VR. While only two students can currently watch the surgery in real time, the university plans to expand their capabilities. Also, the surgeries are being recorded and can be shared locally or globally and for use in conferences. This innovation may prove to be a superior way to learn going forward.

A high-tech light unto the nations | Todd L. Pittinsky | The Blogs

Two engineering students from India won the Code19 Hackathon for creating a virtual classroom to enable uninterrupted learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their winning entry, iClassroom, connects students with teachers through a social media-type interface. Students and teachers can interact with each other, answer questions, mentor others and conduct online classes. iClassroom was created by 19-year-old Abhinand C and 20-year-old Shilpa Rajeev, both students at Government College of Engineering in Kannur. According to Shilpa Rajeev, the platform will enable learning communities to interact with each other, share resources and keep track of progress in selected courses, without the need to use multiple communication tools.

Low Tech Solutions

Not all innovation needs to be high tech to improve our lives. Simple, but practical low tech solutions can make it possible for students to return to the classroom. Here are two examples:

Tent Classrooms can allow students to safely return to school. Pop-up teaching spaces can be erected on the playground or next to the school to provide opportunities for students to learn in a socially distanced way. Some countries, including Denmark are considering adding these pop-up classrooms into their future school design to allow for outdoor learning.

School Desk Sneeze Guard

Schools without the ability to adequately space students due to class size or physical classroom space, have opted for Plexiglass work stations for their students. Students can still see their teachers and classmates, and safely learn behind the barrier. This low cost, low-tech solution in combination with masks wearing, can provide an extra layer of security for teachers and students.

Many tech tools showed us that we do not physically need to be in the same space to learn from one another and communicate. Hybrid learning and working has also proven to be an effective way to keep students engaged. When we finally leave the Corona Virus behind, let’s hope the innovations and good will we gained through dealing with a pandemic endure.

Sources:

Springwise. (2020, July). Top Five Education Innovations In Response to Coronavirus. https://www.springwise.com/innovation-snapshot/education-schools-coronavirus

Caruso, C., 2020. 9 Companies Stepping Up to Do Good Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic. Global Citizen. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/companies-stepping-up-to-do-good-coronavirus/

Educational Inequality

Entry 7

Has Higher Education Become an Engine of Inequality?

October 20

Image may contain: text that says 'now We isolate gather again So when we No one is missing'
Meira Marom

A friend of mine posted this haiku on Facebook and there were numerous comments about privilege, depression due to isolation, and youth suicide. It struck me that a short, three line poem can evoke such strong emotions in so many people. It is true, there is privilege in being able to stay home. Not everyone has that luxury, and not everyone functions well when faced with social isolation. It really got me thinking about inequality in society, and how that lends to inequality in education, especially during a pandemic.

Prior to COVID-19, students had access to teachers, counsellors, books, computers, the internet, and in some cases schools even provided food. When schools were forced to shut down in many regions in March or April, friends of mine asked for my opinion on whether kids would fall behind. I told them that kids are resilient, and as long as they were reading, they would be fine. I’m not so sure I believe that now. Without schools operating as they once were, the gap between educational equality seems to be widening, or perhaps the pandemic is just shining a spotlight on it.

Some school boards in Canada are operating with full-time classes, some have adopted a hybrid learning model and others are completely online.Since I have one son, who owns a laptop with high speed internet, and goes to school 2.5 days a week, he is thriving. He receives instructions at school, and he has independent learning tasks at home, with supplemental Zoom meetings when he is not at school. He has regular contact with teachers and friends in a safe, highly engaging environment. In speaking with friends and former colleagues, we realize how very fortunate we are.

What happens if you have more than one child? What if you have four children working from home? Does everyone have access to a laptop? If not, how does a family manage to get their child to a Zoom meeting, when another child has one at the same time? How do you make those tough decisions? What if a parent or parents are also working from home? What if you don’t have a laptop, or internet at your home? What are your options?

While some of these issues are socio-economic, others have to do with geography. Not every community has access to the internet, and satellite internet or cellular connections can be spotty or unreliable. In the Spring when schools were closed, one rural community in Alberta was creating packages for their students, which were delivered and picked up again by the bus drivers. I was impressed with this creative idea, since it allowed bus drivers to continue to work, when they normally would have been laid off. The problem is, since the packages are in response to no internet or limited internet, they are often full of busy work. There wasn’t much room for independent study or collaboration within these packages.

Even when students have access to laptops and the internet, they may still experience inequality. My friend in Vancouver had a very unfortunate situation at the start of remote learning which I relaid in one of my comments. Her son was asked to set up his work station as his only assignment for his first week. During his second week, he was asked to think of two stars and a wish. Keep in mind, he is in Grade Seven. I understand that many schools and teachers were caught off guard, but this was unbelievable and unacceptable, in my opinion.

I worry, due to no fault of their own, many students will be left behind or will give up in frustration. How do we overcome these disparities? How do we ensure that all students regardless of socio-economic status, or geography have access to high quality education? As cases of COVID-19 are increasing in many parts of the world, including Canada, we need to reflect on our preparedness for a possible return to online teaching. Are there ways we can provide rich learning experiences for our students which allow them to develop the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary to thrive in a modern world? What are the implications if this is not possible? What are the long term effects of inequality in education? These are questions I ask myself as the cases of COVID are again on the rise.

Mental Health and the Wellbeing of Teachers

Entry 6

10+ Health And Wellbeing Quotes - QuotesTodays.com
October 17

Since Mental Health week was just last week, and frankly, anytime is a good time to discuss mental health, I thought I would continue with my theme of wellness, this time for teachers. As teachers, we tend to put ourselves last. When we have time, and even when we don’t, we mark assignments, write lesson plans and contact parents. We must keep in mind that we are no good to our students our families or friends when we are depleted and lacking focus. We need to remember to put ourselves first and take time to exercise, get out in nature or do whatever feeds your soul.

I had the opportunity to visit the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains this week. It was the perfect mix of adrenaline rush, including a mountain roller coaster and a zip line, followed by a refreshing pool and a warm sauna. We went on hikes, we sat by the fire and played games and we sat through a raging storm and we experienced the first snowfall of the year. It was the perfect mix of getting out in nature and relaxing.

Carpathian Mountains Video

During COVID-19 I’m not recommending travel, unless it can be done safely. We rented a private chalet and practiced social distancing, including eating outdoors and we wore our masks when around others. It was the shoulder season, so there weren’t too many people visiting the mountains. Even if you cannot safely travel right now, getting out in nature, or taking time to read a book for pleasure can help you gain some perspective, and focus on something you love to do.

If you are able to get out in nature or participate in activities you normally like to do, and yet you are not able to experience joy, it may be time to seek help. Many School Boards offer counselling sessions to their employees, which may have to be virtual due to COVID, but could be potentially helpful to have a trained professional to talk to.

Keep in touch with people when possible. It can be hard to stay connected when the very message from doctors is to stay apart. I have started reaching out more socially on Zoom with friends and family in Canada. Even if you only have fifteen minutes to connect, it can really brighten your day.

How to Cope with Loneliness During Social Distancing | Martha Stewart

As a teacher, I like to collaborate with other teachers and hear about their triumphs and challenges and see if we can help or learn from one another. Talking through issues or sharing tips can help you to know others are going through the same thing you are. Feeling connected is a struggle right now, but worth the effort to find ways to meet such as in the parking lot at school, on FaceTime, or Zoom if there are a few of you, or simply calling. Even just sending a text checking in on a friend can provide a much needed pick me up.

10 Honest Text Responses to 'How Are You?' | The Mighty
calm

In recent years there have been a wealth of wellness apps on the market. While I haven’t tried any myself, I know friends that swear by Calm. It was named by Apple as the 2017 iPhone app of the year. Calm provides people experiencing stress and anxiety with guided meditations, sleep stories, breathing programs, and relaxing music.

Happify - Apps op Google Play

“Need a happy fix? With its psychologist-approved mood-training program, the Happify app is your fast-track to a good mood. Try various engaging games, activity suggestions, gratitude prompts and more to train your brain as if it were a muscle, to overcome negative thoughts. The best part? It’s free!”

In this stressful and uncertain time, our well-being is so important. Make putting yourself first a priority. When that simply is not possible, try again the next day. Make and keep connections with others, even if it is just a text, or an email. Reach out to a professional if you feel like you need help or someone to talk to. There are many mental health programs and apps you can access for free or the premium versions for a monthly fee. If you need additional resources, you can access the Mental Health Commission of Canada at: https://mhfa.ca/en/general-resources

MHCC Logo

Mental Health and Wellbeing of Students During a Pandemic

Entry 5

Look After Your Mental Health During Coronavirus, Experts Predict Rise In  Cases Of Anxiety And Panic | Coronavirus Outbreak

October 14

This past year has been hard on most people in the world. It really is striking to think about that. There is likely not a person alive who has not been impacted in some way by COVID-19. There have been other events in history such as WWI, WWII, the Spanish Flu and The Black Death which have impacted a large part of the world. The negative impacts of the current pandemic may range from health problems and financial difficulties to disruption and isolation. The silent but potentially deadly consequence of COVID-19 is the damage to our mental health.

Living in limbo is not easy on anyone. I was living my life in Kyiv, Ukraine when the pandemic hit, and my family and I were given a choice to stay put, or to evacuate back to Canada. We chose to stay. The numbers in Ukraine initially were much lower than in Canada, and it seemed safer than flying and spending time in airports. In the end the decision was taken out of our hands and we had to fly back to Canada. The medical system in Ukraine was deemed to be substandard in comparison with Canada, and for our protection, we were asked to fly home. We booked ourselves into a cottage in the woods in Havelock-Belmont-Methuen, Ontario for two months. We figured we wouldn’t be there the whole two months, but we wanted to ensure we had a place to stay. Every week we would have a Zoom call with our Ambassador and wait anxiously for any news. No news ever came. We would hear rumours from other colleagues that next week we would hear something and then the next.

We finally had to book another month, this time in Toronto. We again thought we would leave before the end of the month, but that date came and went, all the while still having weekly Embassy calls in the hopes we would get some news. All toll we were in Canada for 4 months. For anyone who lives in Toronto or was keeping up with COVID-19 updates in Canada, it was one of the last places to open up businesses and restaurants. Our daily lives were not easy. My son was continuing with his remote schooling, but his timing was off and he had to switch to asynchronous learning, when he had been used to live Zoom sessions throughout the day. As a result, he did not get to see his friends. My husband had to keep working, but again, most of his meetings were with people in Ukraine, so trying to collaborate with others was difficult due to the time change. I was able to conduct my lessons online, but our internet was satellite based at the cottage in the woods and that proved a challenge to maintain a good connection.

We were safe, we had food and we were together. Overall we were quite lucky, but still I struggled with my mental health. I am a planner, and it was killing me not to know when or if I would ever go back to Kyiv. The way I kept myself sane was to remember that we were lucky, and that there were people much worse off than we were. My son also handled the situation so well, that he inspired me to try to live in the moment and focus on the positive things that were happening.

Global mental health in the time of COVID-19 - Harvard Health Blog -  Harvard Health Publishing

“The fear of the unknown is possibly the most fundamental fear of human beings. From an evolutionary perspective, humans have been able to survive because we’re able to plan. We’re socialized from childhood to believe that “there’s a predictable universe” and order in which things should happen” (Antshel).

How are our students handling life and schooling during the pandemic? Overall, mental health services are lacking in most regions of Canada. Needing access to services during COVID-19 is proving especially difficult, due to social distancing requirements. While Zoom sessions may be an option for some, others are finding themselves on a waiting list. Many students who are struggling are suffering in silence and not letting others know their pain.

“The Covid-19 pandemic may worsen existing mental health problems and lead to more cases among children and adolescents because of the unique combination of the public health crisis, social isolation, and economic recession” (Golberstein, Wen, Miller).

For students who are attending school online, they may miss out on mental health services that are provided at school. “A major concern the researchers point to: Since most mental health disorders begin in childhood, it is essential that any mental health issues be identified early and treated. Left untreated, they can lead to serious health and emotional problems. In the short term, video conferencing may be an effective way to deliver mental health services to children” (Golberstein, et.al).

Mental health and academic achievement are linked, research shows. Chronic stress changes the chemical and physical structure of the brain, impairing cognitive skills like attention, concentration, memory, and creativity. “You see deficits in your ability to regulate emotions in adaptive ways as a result of stress,” said Cara Wellman, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University. In her research, Wellman discovered that chronic stress causes the connections between brain cells to shrink in mice, leading to cognitive deficiencies in the prefrontal cortex. 

Not all students are dealing with pandemic in the same way. For some, their lives continue mostly as it was. For others, their lives have been turned upside down and they have had to isolate at a time when they need people the most. COVID-19 will have lasting repercussions for children, and it is important for them to get timely access to mental health services. Intervening early can help lessen the negative impacts on learning and help students find techniques to help them cope with school and life in an uncertain time.

Sources:

Golberstein E, Wen H, Miller BF. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and Mental Health for Children and Adolescents. JAMA Pediatr. 2020;174(9):819–820. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.1456

Terada, Youki, 2020. COVID-19’s Impact on Students’ Academic and Mental Well-Being. Edutopia. Retrieved from:http://www.edutopia.org/article/covid-19s-impact-students-academic-and-mental-well-being.

Stieg, Cory, 2020. The Psychological Toll of Uncertainty and Not Knowing What’s Coming Next. Make It. Retrieved from:https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/17/coronavirus-psychology-of-uncertainty-not-knowing-whats-next.html?__source=sharebar|email&par=sharebar

How Has Teaching and Learning Changed Due to COVID-19?

Entry 4-October 9th

Family Feedback

Reflections/Feedback – Information Literacy Spaces

Returning to the communication topic from my last post, I want to now examine family feedback, and how crucial it can be in general, but specifically during a pandemic. Parents always want to know how their children are doing academically, but now that being on campus can be a matter of life and death, parents have numerous questions about the health and safety of their children. My son’s school, Pechersk School International (PSI), has put a lot of time and effort into modifying their campus, and putting in regulations to safeguard the students and staff. In the summer, all families received a Back to School Guide and accompanying video to take parents through the important decisions that were made, and the expectations of staff, students, and families going forward. Attached to the Back To School Guide, is a Google Document, which allows parents to continually ask questions which are answered by the Director, the school doctor, a CDC consultant, or one of the principals. Not having any direct experience with other schools, to search for norms, I can say with great confidence that PSI is exemplifying gold-standard measures for safety, communication, and for focusing on emotional wellbeing. To help students adjust to their hybrid learning situation, an advisory program has been established in the secondary school to ensure social-emotional learning is emphasized during this time of uncertainty. This class allows students time for questions, for games and for reflection.

Even with all the steps PSI has taken, and all the information they have sent out, the questions continue. Speaking to some of my friend’s who are teachers, they are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of emails they are receiving from parents. How do we ensure we are offering a sufficient amount of feedback, without experiencing teacher burn-out?

Ways to Provide and Receive Feedback from Students and Families

Please take 'return to school' parent survey, closes June 12 -  Berne-Knox-Westerlo Central School District
Surveys

Surveys let you know if the information you are providing is having the desired effect. Surveys also let you quickly see a graph or a tangible number to confirm or contradict your assumptions about parental satisfaction. There are several survey apps which make sending and receiving results quick and easy.

Video assessment killed the clip art star | The Scientific Teacher
Videos

Sometimes parents can get bogged down in all the newsletters, classroom information, or district e-mails. Just like students, it helps to cater to all types of learners in your community. One way to make parents feel at ease, especially if they are not allowed on campus is to make a video showing the measures you or your school has in place to keep them safe.

Eastern Michigan University to host virtual town hall, 'Empowering  Communities in Responding to the Challenges with COVID-19' - EMU Today
Virtual Town Hall

At PSI we have weekly town hall meetings which are recorded to ensure all parents can stay informed regardless of their schedule. This is another great way to impart information, but also for parents to ask or text questions and receive answers live. This way you may receive an answer to a question you didn’t realize you had!

Document Clipart Google Doc - Google Docs Logo Png , Free Transparent  Clipart - ClipartKey

You can start a Google Document to allow parents to ask any questions and then the answers will remain to allow for any parents to easily retrieve information that has already been posted. This can save time and allow a place for ongoing communication.

Keeping parents in the loop and providing them with a consistent place to ask questions will ease tensions throughout the year. Having said that, you do need a time to switch off. Clearly state to parents your communication policy. If you do not answer emails during school hours or after 9:00 P.M. for example, make parents aware of this:

“Teachers who sense scrutiny from parents and administrators during this time when their struggles are observed have more difficulty coping. Teachers who perceive collegial support, who set limits on their time and who practice self-understanding are more successful in recovering efficacy and coping” (Guerin, 2020).

Source

Guerin, C. 2020. How to Prevent Teacher Burnout During the Coronavirus Pandemic. The Conversation. Retrieved from: https://theconversation.com/how-to-prevent-teacher-burnout-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic-139353.

How Has Teaching and Learning Changed Due to COVID-19?

Entry 3

Am I Making Myself Clear?

CASE : How to communicate more clearly while solving problems? - Start2BU

October 7th

Being able to communicate effectively is arguably our most important life skill. During COVID-19, this can be a real challenge. Whether you are teaching in person, in a hybrid setting, or online, effective communication is clearly necessary, but more difficult during this time. When discussing communication, we often see it examined in seven parts, as the seven Cs of Communication:

Effective communication in the workplace: 4 Effective communication -  OpenLearn - Open University - COM_1
Open.edu

I think it is important to re-look at these seven Cs through the lens of COVID-19, and evaluate whether we need to change or enhance our methods of communication.

Clarity: For those who are teaching in an asynchronous environment, or responding to emails, tone in the written word can be tricky. When trying to be funny or lighthearted, our messages can come off as odd or clunky and leave our students confused. When communicating, we need to be clear about our goals and try to avoid sarcasm, or cryptic messages. We need to be explicit, and state exactly what we want our students to do or know. Wearing a mask can also make it hard for some students who are used to reading lips or taking in facial cues like smiling, frowning or pausing. While some people smile with their eyes, it may be helpful to express what is going on under your mask, i.e., “I’m thinking right now.”

We need to be concise. When we introduce an assignment in person, students can get overwhelmed in the details. While it may seem important to include every detail at once, often students need time to sit with, or start the assignment before actually knowing what questions they may have. Breaking down the assignment into parts can help students get a handle on what you are asking them to do. Try to eliminate unnecessary information at the outset, and allow questions you receive to guide your instructions, once students have been provided with a hard or soft copy of the assignment.

Complete: While this may seem like the opposite of the advice just offered, having all relevant information in writing, makes the information available to check and recheck as a student works through their assignments. Have all the relevant information such as the due date, the expected length of the assignment, a rubric, and a clear, consistent place for students to be able to ask questions. Whether this is your email address, a Google Document a Zoom meeting, etc. Students need to be able to clarify instructions and have the ability to ask and have their questions answered. Communication is a two way street, and allowing a public place to ask questions can not only help that student, but allow others to benefit from their questions and your responses.

Correct: Double check your information before sending it out, as having the wrong dates on assignments, can cause a lot of confusion. Check your written assignments and messages for grammatical and spelling mistakes, and especially for the correct spelling of student names. Some students are used to teachers spelling, or pronouncing their names wrong. Make a real effort to get it right. My name is Leah, but people often pronounce my name as Leia (like Princess Leia). I usually just ignore it or roll with it, but it can go along way to building a positive atmosphere with your students if you make an effort to get the spelling and pronunciation right.

Courteous: During this uncertain time, having all students logging on to your class at the correct time, or wearing their masks properly when they arrive can seem like the only priority to worry about, but focusing on being courteous can go a long way in reducing stressful situations. Being friendly, and emphatic can allow your classes to run more smoothly and it allows you to model respectful communication even when under pressure.

Coherent: If you are new to online teaching or speaking through a mask, you may want to practice by video taping yourself to check for proper pacing, enunciation, and to see how many filler words you use. When becoming a teacher, we were constantly being taped to see what what we actually looked like or sounded like. My filler word was, and often still is, “okay.” Filler words are often unavoidable, but students may get caught up in these filler words and it may make focusing more difficult. My Grade 10 Social Studies teacher would clear his throat if we got an answer wrong. I can still hear him making the “er-h-r-m,” noise, even today!

Concrete: Providing students with a clear picture of what you are asking of them may need examples, like student work from a previous year, a photo, or a video to allow them to know what to expect. When proving an image, a story or example, this may make this abstract idea come to life.

Connected: Having reviewed the seven Cs and discussed the importance of effective communication, my focus for this year is to make it eight Cs and add “Connected ” to this list. Feeling connected is so important right now. Like many of you, I am feeling disconnected from friends, from family, from students and my way of life in general. Making students feel connected by checking in, offering remote collaborative experiences, and going beyond the course content to ensure everyone feels connected is what is needed right now.

“Humans are social creatures and have a deep biological and neurological need for interaction, so it follows that research has found that positive relationships in children’s lives play an important role in students’ ability to learn and cope” (Prothero, 2020).

“We know that kids learn best when they feel safe and secure; when they feel anxious and aroused and uncomfortable, learning stops,” said Laura Phillips, a neuropsychologist with the Child Mind Institute. “If we want to maximize the school year, we need to help kids start out feeling safe and connected to the people with whom they are interacting (Prothero, 2020).

There have always been differing views on the purpose of education, but in my view, feeling connected in a time where that is scarce, is my top priority. Everyone will remember 2020, but hopefully we can create opportunities for students to feel connected in an uncertain and unprecedented time.

Sources

Image Source: Open.edu

Prothero, 2020. How to Build Relationships With Students During COVID-19. Education week. Retrieved from: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/09/03/how-to-build-relationships-with-students-during.html?intc=eml-contshr-shr-desk.

How Has Teaching and Learning Changed Due to COVID-19?

Entry 2

October 3, 2020

Learning Curve

Keeping that learning curve steep | Dealer Support

In my last post, I stated that our response to change is key. We cannot spend time lamenting about the way things were or spending time resisting change. We therefore, need to address the learning curve during this pandemic. Some of us have known that our lessons would be solely online and have planned for this; some of have prepared our lessons for hybrid learning and still others have planned to deliver in person learning all year. No matter what your situation is, the way we teach and learn is different. There is no way around this fact. Even if you are teaching in person, you and your students will likely be wearing masks, or you may be seeing your students through plexiglass shields. You may not have access to shared materials and collaboration between students may be limited.

Although teaching and learning is different, the main goal should be the same. “The goal of any type learning system, regardless of the delivery is to promote learning, therefore, before any learning materials are developed, educators must tacitly or explicitly know the principles of learning and how students learn. This is especially true for online learning, where instructors and learners are separated. The development of effective online learning materials should be based on proven and sound learning theories. The delivery medium is not the determining factor in the quality of learning per se; rather, course design determines the effectiveness of the learning” (Rovai, 2002).

“To select the most appropriate instructional strategies, the online developer must know the different approaches to learning. Strategies should be selected to motivate learners, facilitate deep processing, build the whole person, cater to individual differences, promote meaningful learning, encourage interaction, provide relevant feedback, facilitate contextual learning, and provide support during the learning process” (Anderson, 2011).

For those teaching online, there are a number of valuable insights I have gleaned through reading up on delivering lessons remotely. Here are some of my main takeaways:

  • Practice your lesson before you deliver it. Practice retrieving files, having relevant tabs open and ensure you know which documents you will need and close those tabs that you won’t need.
  • Clarity is king. Ensure you deliver clear expectations and provide plenty of opportunities for questions and confirmation of assignments.
  • Ask students for feedback. This information will be invaluable to you in finding out if your microphone occasionally cuts out, if you are speaking too quickly, or if students have trouble finding where to find homework assignments, for example.
  • Provide a camera-off period to allow those students who feel anxious or uncomfortable answering questions to take a break from being “on.”
  • Create opportunities for students to teach. Students will gain confidence in their presentation skills, and it allows for students to learn from one another.
  • Involve families where appropriate. If you are teaching school aged children, ensure you provide opportunities for families to understand the expectations of their child, which can alleviate stress on both sides. When parents feel valued and informed, they will be more willing to collaborate with you and help enhance learning for their child. In my son’s school we have weekly town hall meetings to offer information and to allow parents to ask questions of the principal.

Sources:

Anderson, T. (2011). The Theory and Practice of Online Learning 2nd edition. Edmonton, Alberta: Library and Archives Canada.

Seltzer, K. (2020). Engaging Students in Virtual Instruction With the Camera Off. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/article/engaging-students-virtual-instruction-camera

Terada, Youki, (2020). 5 Research-Backed Tips to Improve Your Online Teaching Presence. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/article/5-research-backed-tips-improve-your-online-teaching-presence.

PME 811 – How Has Teaching and Learning Changed Due to COVID-19 – Entry 1

Quotes about Strong survive (59 quotes)

September 29th

Be Prepared for Change

As of September, some teachers have been working full time in a classroom, some are working from home and still others are doing a mix of both. All of those scenarios come with positives and negatives. Even though some of us would prefer to teach or learn in person, it does not mean that this is possible right now. We need to adapt and become “responsive to change.” COVID-19 is here for the foreseeable future, and to protect one another we have to understand that some changes are necessary for the common good. My son’s school is doing a fantastic job of protecting staff and students within a hybrid model, but this week they are back to online learning due to a COVID case which has put too many staff in quarantine to offer in person learning. Staff and students have to adapt to an evolving situation and learn to be prepared for a variety of scenarios.

I was extremely disappointed when I found out all my classes would be online. I did not want to teach remotely. I like socializing with my colleagues and I like the down time with my students. I enjoy our greetings, our chit chat throughout our lessons, and that is something that is now missing. I am still struggling to create some atmosphere in my classes. I should mention that I teach English as an additional language and for anyone who has taught or learned a language, working remotely can present specific challenges in terms of sound quality and the possibility of missing sounds or words. Although this can happen in all online teaching, missing words or making mistakes needs be corrected promptly before errors are ingrained. With that being said, working online is certainly efficient and streamlined. There isn’t the downtime, so there is actually more time for learning, which is a positive.

Online learning is not new and there have certainly been a lot of studies dedicated to researching the efficacy of remote learning.

Neuhauser (2010): Online learning is as effective as face-to-face learning

Johnson, Aragon, & Shaik (2000): Online learning is as effective as face-to-face learning for graduate students

The majority of the studies have concluded that online learning is as effective as in person learning, but it can depend on what aspect you are looking at. For example, online learning is less expensive than in person learning, but there are upkeep costs to consider, which can add up in ways not always anticipated. (Strother (2002) 

Just because online learning is effective and usually less expensive, doesn’t mean it is ideal for everyone. Some students definitely do better with in person learning, as the physical act of walking into the school indicates it is time for work, where some people have a harder time switching to learning mode in their homes. There are always other distractions such as gaming, eating, texting and napping to name a few.

I have been seeking out articles to help me better engage with my students. Here is one such article from Edutopia: 5 Research-Backed Tips to Improve Your Online Teaching Presence
http://www.edutopia.org/article/5-research-backed-tips-improve-your-online-teaching-presence.

Thinking back to the Darwin quote, our reality has changed. My goal, like many other people is to rise to this challenge. We need to find new ways to connect, to communicate and build relationships and communities, despite our physical separation.

Conceptions of Curriculum

Questions: Why do some conceptions of curriculum continue to be used over time or are considered to be mainstream approaches, while others are not?

Scholar AcademicsSocial Efficiency IdeologyLearner CentredSocial Reconstruction
Believe in teaching the accumulated, important, cultural knowledge from our pastDevelop competencies necessary for functioning members of society
in workplace and home
Learner-centred ideology
Focused on growth of the individual
School is Enjoyable
Unique individual results for each student
Concerned with creating a more just and equitable society
Human experience is primarily shaped by cultural factors
Teachers should be scholars who a have a deep understanding of the subject matter they teachTeachers should aim to create an “educated” person through change by creating and sequencing learning experiences to reach the desired effectsTeachers must provide opportunities for students to reach their capabilities as they make meaning for themselves through interactions with othersTeachers help guide students by exploring social issues, presenting alternate view points and facilitating plans of action
Here is a snapshot of 4 conceptions of curriculum as defined by Schiro (2013)

It can be difficult to define the term “Curriculum” without adding a judgment to the definition, since it can mean different things to different people depending on their philosophy or philosophies of education. Begg (2005) stated that curriculum is “all planning for the classroom.” I thought this is the most concise and non-judgmental definition I have come across. Perhaps the definition is not as important as who decides what should be taught and what material should be taught. According to Brown (2006):

“Defining what should be in curriculum plans for the classroom requires answering two questions: (1) Who should determine what is taught?; and (2) What material should be taught? It would appear that there are a limited number of options available to curriculum developers in answering these questions. Who determines the curriculum can only be one or more of the following: (a) students’ needs or wants; (b) teachers’ knowledge and expertise; or (c) government’s policies in response to society’s problems or issues. The options for determining the substance of curriculum relates to either (a) important content, such as the chemical make-up of water, or (b) important processes, such as knowing how to learn.”

The reasons that some conceptions of curriculum remain over time is that no educator is falls purely into one category. Educators and curriculum developers draw from a variety of orientations at once, thus filling a need and keeping those conceptions in use. Pressure from various stakeholders from parents to politicians, demanding certain skills, traits and mind sets can be very powerful. Social change and unrest cannot be overlooked, especially during times of radical shifts and major world events. It will be interesting to see what happens as a result of the Black Lives Matters Movement and Covid-19. I find myself looking at the world through a new lens, and that is really significant since the onset of this radical change only took place at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. I find myself more critical of media coverage, for example, would this be reported on differently if this person were white? I find myself less connected to friends, family and my students, which is having a major impact on my life, especially since I have been evacuated. Although technology has been a godsend in keeping us all connected, I have realized I interact with others better in person. On-line, there are too many possibilities for not hearing everything that was said and misunderstandings, especially with ESL learners. Since there is not one “right” or agreed upon type of curriculum, we will continue to draw on the strengths of many conceptions to serve those in the best way we know how at any given time.

Explain your interpretation of conceptions of curriculum and how you can use them as tools or frameworks to analyze planning, instruction, and assessment within your specific context of practice.

I definitely draw from a number of conceptions when planning for my classroom activities. I am constantly reflecting on ways I was successful in order to improve and try new things. Teaching a variety of grade levels also has an impact on the way I plan, teach and assess. My start in education was with very young students and I became aware of Joseph Froebel, the “Father of Kindergarten,” of Vygotsky and his Zone of Proximal Development, and of Pestalozzi and his idea of “Life itself educates.” This has greatly impacted me and I am more concerned with fostering learning in the individual child at a level where they can thrive. I try to incorporate nature when possible and allow students to experience real world situations when relevant. During the readings, I was thinking about the different Program of Studies I have worked with, and the variety of stakeholders and who ultimately decides what should be included and when and how curriculum gets changed. I once read a quote that “Moving a graveyard is easier than changing a school” (Woodrow Wilson). I also read a related quote that no one cares about a graveyard, until you try to move it. These quotes highlight the difficulty in changing and implementing new curriculum. People are adverse to change, and some educators worry that new, may mean more. As our society changes, we owe it to our students to find ways to teach in order to maximize learning opportunities.

Great Learning Resources for Teaching Outside - The Green Parent

Al Mousa, N. (2013). An examination of CAD use in Two Interior Design Programs from the Perspectives of Curriculum and Instructors, pp. 21-37.

Brown, G. (2006). Conceptions of curriculum: a framework for understanding New Zealand’s curriculum framework and teachers’ opinions. 2, 164-181.

Eisner, E., & Vallance, E. (Eds.). (1974). Five conceptions of the curriculum: Their roots and implications for curriculum planning. Conflicting conceptions of curriculum (pp. 1-18). Berkeley, CA: McCutchan Publishing.

McNeil, J. D. (2009). Contemporary curriculum in thought and action (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley. Pages 1, 3-14, 27-39, 52-60, 71-74.

Ornstein, A. C., & Hunkins, F. P. (2013). Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson. Read part of Chapter 1, pp. 1-8.

Schiro, M. S. (2013).  Introduction to the curriculum ideologies.  In M. S. Schiro, Curriculum theory: Conflicting visions and enduring concerns (2nd ed., pp. 1-13). Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage.

Sowell, E. (2005). Curriculum: An integrative introduction. Pearson, Upper Saddle River, NJ. 3. 37-51.