Tuesday 17 March 2020

Interesting times...

Today, the stats on the COVID19 pandemic are 182,834 infected, 7174 dead and 79.885 recovered (from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries) working out to about 8% mortality rate on average (despite the fact that most of these deaths are in China, Iran and Italy. It is worrying a lot of people, causing panic among others (toilet paper panic buying - I mean, why??)

Image result for coronavirusOne of the positive things that has come out of this from an educational point of view is that many of the big educational apps are giving their best tools away for free or reduced rates to schools and students where closures had been put in place or are threatened. It has also been positive seeing the way educators are stepping up and offering to help others that have less experience in distance learning. The overarching message is that we are all in this together, which is more than can be said for the idiots that are stocking up on everything in the supermarkets leaving nothing for those that really need them.

I am busy compiling a list of tools for local schools in case we have to go into the distance learning mode. We are all crossing fingers hoping it doesn't happen, but NZ has had quite a rise in cases in the last few days (50% increase) and our first school student (not at my school!) is now in a self-isolation situation due to their father testing positive for COVID-19.

All big sports, music and cultural events are cancelled or postponed, and we are all waiting for the day the Ministry of Health tells us we have to consider shutting down. In the meantime, we have posters around about social distancing and hand washing and are operating on a day-to-day basis.

Trying to keep a lid on misinformation and reducing concern are also becoming daily issues; easier for me as a former virologist (I used to work with all sorts of viruses including coronaviruses). Students and staff are understandably uneasy, especially as we have international students who are concerned about their families back home (as well as not knowing if they are going to be sent home early, or even able to fly at all).

There could be some opportunities arising from all of this. It may open up more options in terms of making learning more flexible, allowing teachers to create different learning experiences, not necessarily confined to the classroom. We, as educators have to rethink the way we are teaching in the face of this pandemic. It has all happened rather quickly so we haven't had a lot of time to get ready for online learning, but as the saying goes, necessity can be the mother of invention and it may be the time to innovate like crazy to meet the challenges of continuing working in this situation.

These are interesting times we are living in, and mildly scary. Keep safe everyone, wash those hands, keep social distancing, no physical contact and we'll get through this. Be kind to one another and stop hoarding toilet roll!

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