Actively Learning about COVID-19

The global pandemic that is ‘COVID-19’ has changed the world overnight.  The education systems of K-12 and Higher Ed are ALL being impacted by social distancing, that is requiring remote and/or ‘online’ education to be implemented immediately.  It is my hope that all educators use this upheaval as a opportunity to rewire and reimagine the failing ‘traditional’ education that most of us seem to be stuck in over the past 50+ years.  Standard memorization intensive education needs to be ruthlessly eliminated and replaced with ‘active student-based education’ (inquire-based, project-based, student guided, peer-to-peer emphasis, etc….).  coronavirus_structure_details1

Okay, enough sounding like an academic preaching about the need for change.  I have 5 kids in junior high and high school in Gilbert, AZ (Casteel Junior High and High School), who are now being asked to stay at home for their education.  Hence, maybe this is just what all parents, including myself, need to get off our asses and take a more active role in the education of our kids.

Everyone needs to educate themselves about COVID-19 and its often a huge mistake that people don’t do their own research and actively learn about a topic.  Instead they rely on one source, like their favorite TV show to tell them what to think about a topic.  So, I am challenging my kids to actively learn about COVID-19.  Use ANY and ALL resources to learn about this virus.  Use ANY and ALL resources to gain the background you need to understand what a virus is, how it replicates, how it infects, etc.  Use this research to actively learn!!  How?  A few suggestions are listed below.  However, this is only meant to provide inspiration.  There are a TON of ways to use the research information in an active learning process or project.

  • Reporting or Journalism is about researching the facts from as many angles and perspectives and sources as possible and then distilling the information and communicating it clearly and unbiasedly.  So, research some aspect of this complex and multifaceted topic and report your findings as either a blog post or a video/screencast that can be posted on YouTube.  For example, two of my children are type 1 diabetics.  I have encouraged them to research and report on the question: “Does the ‘underlying medical condition’ of being a Type 1 Diabetic Impact a Child’s Risk of Contracting COVID-19 or its Severity.”  Report your unbias fact-based findings in a blog post or 5-10 min YouTube video.  As an example, see the CNBC report below from a diabetic.
  • Most people rely on others to ‘crunch the numbers’ for them and explain the statistics in simple terms with simple interpretations.  This is often oversimplified and leads to most people having opinions that are based on information that they really have no direct knowledge on.  Its really just parroting the opinion and knowledge of someone else.  All the data and tools to ‘crunch the numbers’ yourself are freely available and ‘relatively’ easy to use.  Especially, if you use this as an active way to learn some data science.  So, lets do it!! Crunch your own numbers from the freely available data on COVID-19 and use it to predict the number of infections and health issues in your specific area.  In the case of my children, this should be Arizona or maybe even more specifically the great Phoenix metropolitan area in which we reside.   There are lots of different ways to ‘crunch the numbers’ and even more ways to communication your finds to the rest of us.  Be creative!!  As a starting place, some of my favorite examples of people who have crunched or simulated data on COVID-19 and presented it in really compelling ways are provided below.
  • South Korea and the USA reported their first case of COVID-19 on the same day.  However, these two countries handled all aspects of the pandemic much differently.  Use the freely available data over the past 3+ months from these two countries to communicate something factual and significant about COVID-19 and ‘what works’ and ‘what doesn’t work’ with regards to ___________________________ (filling the blank with whatever most interests you.  For example, ‘mitigating the spread of the virus’).

I think three example ‘project assignments’ is enough to give people the notice that there are lots of different active learning projects that could be based on COVID-19 and most educational subject areas.  I am just excited to see what my 5 kids actively learn and communicate to us about the COVID-19 pandemic.  Getting the perspective from the younger generation and their concerns are something I feel we need more of.

Below are some good resources for data, graphs and general information about the Coronavirus Pandemic in Spring 2020:

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