There is no question that for many students the virus has exacted a learning cost. It has disrupted routines, resulted in isolation, created fear and distractions, and slowed the pace of learning progress. Educators are working valiantly to help students to cope and continue learning despite the challenges.
However, the pandemic does not have to be a complete distraction or have an exclusively negative impact. In fact, the virus is creating myriad opportunities for real time, authentic learning. Volumes of data are being produced that can be studied and analyzed. New ways to display and explain information are being developed. Changes in society are emerging that may or may not be permanent. Each of these elements and others offer rich opportunities for learning if we choose to leverage them.
Of course, we need to be mindful of political perspectives and personal sensitivities surrounding the virus and its impact. Nevertheless, with care and planning there is much to be mined for learning.
Here are twenty ideas you can use to stimulate your thinking, adapt for your students, and move their learning forward, while remaining in alignment with important curricular goals and standards. Feel free to add your own ideas and design additional learning opportunities.
- Investigate what is known about how the virus is transmitted and what steps and strategies hold the greatest promise for protection.
- Explore ethical issues related to vaccination prioritization and distribution and who should be first.
- Explore how the medical community decides who should receive priority health care support when the system becomes overloaded.
- Research why some parts of the population appear to be more vulnerable to the virus than others.
- Research and develop models showing how unprotected coughing can aid in spread of the virus and germs in general.
- Explore the role of air quality and circulation, and research local efforts to manage air quality. Measure and analyze air circulation and quality in school and at home.
- Research how the latest vaccinations differ from the way vaccinations have been developed and tested in the past.
- Analyze and compare how modern society is responding to the virus compared to how societies have responded to global viruses in the past.
- Track how what is known about the virus has shifted and grown throughout its existence and how advice related to the virus has changed.
- Explore how the pandemic has led to increased mental health issues and what might be effective strategies to address them.
- Review, analyze, and construct graphs and infographics to capture the presence, spread, and impact of the virus.
- Construct mathematical models to explain the of direction, scope, and intensity of virus spread.
- Explore how to sort and verify various beliefs, rumors, and facts about the nature of the virus and its mutations.
- Research the implications of science and politics becoming intertwined.
- Analyze the effectiveness of various public policy initiatives and propose alternative policies with promise.
- Explore how the virus has improved the general population’s understanding of science and how it may have led to confusion.
- Research which communication messaging strategies have been most effective in helping people understand the virus and what made the messaging effective.
- Research the factors that make some information sources more credible than others.
- Identify information about the virus that is not yet known and needs to be learned.
- Explore which behavior changes necessary during the virus are likely to remain once the virus in contained.
While the virus is presenting many unforeseen challenges, it also offers a wealth of authentic opportunities to learn. We need not allow such an interesting crisis go to waste.