Showing posts from May, 2020

Could the Philippines Afford a Year Without School?

Philippines president Duterte recently stated that he will not allow schools to be opened this coming school year without a vaccine against the novel corona virus. Of course, without a vaccine in sight for at least 18 months from now, this suggests that schools may be closed for the entire school year. Distance learning is likewise not feasible since a large number of students do not have access to laptops and the internet. So, perhaps, the Philippines can use this time to reboot its educational system. After all, the past years have shown that basic education in the Philippines has been failing miserably.

The COVID-19 situation in the Philippines, like in most countries in the globe, does not look promising. Testing is obviously not widely available in the Philippines so it is not known how widespread COVID-19 really is. As of today, less than 0.3 percent of the population have been tested and about 5 percent of those who have been tested turned positive. This is certainly much better…

Are Children Being Left Behind?

Achievement gaps already exist even before school closures due to COVID-19. With online learning, it is our obligation to check if these gaps are increasing. With great likelihood, learning is probably even more skewed at this point. The data are not yet available but schools at this point may already have rough numbers on attendance and participation. My son's algebra class may provide a brief glimpse of the current situation. He is currently enrolled in Algebra I in a middle school where only about one in four students is enrolled in this course. Here is an update I have just received from his teacher.

During the first couple of weeks, just with this class, the average score is less than fifty percent. During the past week, the class average has reached 90%. My son is ahead in this class since we have been working on these topics before the county's online learning commenced. The first two topics are foundational work on solving quadratic equations while vertical motion is a…

With Schools Closed, What Are Children Doing Online?

In place of the traditional classroom, children are now keeping in touch with their teacher and classmates through online meetings via either Zoom, Google Meet, or Blackboard Collaborate. In addition to outdoor activities like biking, hiking or skateboarding, children still find additional time to explore and experience social media. The following is another guest post from my daughter. It is another article that she wrote for her school's newspaper. It is about TikTok.

What is TikTok? TikTok is an app for people to learn and post. Some of you may know that TikTok has dances. But that is just one part of it, there are many other things to do on TikTok, for example, comedy, art, and sports. TikTok is a way to express yourself with a post. TikTok can be for ages 10 and older. But if you are not 12 or older there are minor changes, your account would be private, and you would not be able to see some videos.
What do you do on TikTok?   TikTok can be used for a lot of things. TikTok can be…

The Coronavirus: Playing Your Part

The following is a guest post from my 10-year old daughter, Amelia. This is an article she wrote for her school's newspaper where she also acts as one of the editors.

Whatisavalidwaytohelpothers,andyourself,withthecoronavirus?Well,thatiswhatIwillbetalkingabout.There aremany ways to help yourself, and others, but the most important one, in my opinion, is washing hands, because it is great at preventing the coronavirus. Here are more ways to keep safe and helpothers.
Wearing Masks Masks are something that we need. But I should inform you, it does not protect you from others. The reason why our Governor and other government officials are recommending masks is because most people who have the coronavirus don’t showsymptoms.Thatiswhyeveryoneshouldwearamask.Becauseyoucouldhavethevirusatthisvery second andnoteven know! So, to be clear, the mask is not there to protect you, it is there to protect others if they do not have the coronavirus. You see, the virus travels through moisture in the a…

Can We Now Open Schools?

There is a great emphasis on social distancing when it comes to controlling the spread of the novel corona virus. What is baffling is that we often see photos depicting proper social distancing in open spaces, on a sidewalk, for instance, near the entrance of a store. A study in Japan, not yet peer reviewed, states, "The odds that a primary case transmitted COVID-19 in a closed environment was 18.7 times greater compared to an open-air environment (95% confidence interval [CI]: 6.0, 57.9)". Another study, also not yet peer reviewed, concludes, "All identified outbreaks of three or more cases occurred in an indoor environment, which confirms that sharing indoor space is a major SARS-CoV-2 infection risk." With this is  mind, opening schools presents a great risk. An indoor environment like a school not only confines air, but also provides places or objects touched by many individuals. Schools, however, have reopened in Denmark. How can Denmark afford the risk?

One c…

Infection and Testing Rates for COVID-19

There is no denying that our current picture of COVID-19 cases is grossly incomplete. We are not performing mass testing. Only those that meet a number of criteria are tested. Data from the Diamond Princess cruise ship indicate that half of the individuals who tested positive for corona virus are asymptomatic. Therefore, the large number of individuals not exhibiting symptoms combined with the lack of testing will surely lead to an under counting of infections. The confirmed cases will be much lower than the actual number. What should also be considered is that as we look at our daily reports, we must keep in mind that we are in fact looking at significantly delayed reports. We will miss the rapid growth and peak in cases. We will likewise miss the time the infection rate starts to drop. The following graph from Worldometer for the state of Virginia demonstrates this analysis based on the work by the IHME COVID-19 health service utilization forecasting team:

The number of daily tests …

Uncertainty in Data and Trends

We are certainly going through an unusual time. What we know and what we can learn during this time requires that we recognize the circumstances we are presently facing plus the uncertainty in all of what we observe. Science is often tedious and time-consuming. Before an article gets published in a peer-reviewed journal, it often takes months. On the other hand, both social media  and 24/7 news broadcasting are operating at light speed. It is not surprising then to hear and read so many conflicting stories. And most of the time, we often miss the fact that we are actually just reading an opinion. Opinions are not necessarily false. The difference lies in how one can extend and apply something that is visibly true for oneself to others. Schools are forced to take distance learning during this pandemic. Whether this is good or bad for learning can be a matter of opinion. However, to apply a finding universally, one must apply statistics.

Our students are currently in distance learning n…