As Hawaiʻi schools transition to distance learning, a virtual tsunami of resources has been generated and broadly circulated to help teachers, students and parents promote quality education within an ongoing global pandemic. This highly curated document from the ʻĀina-Informatics Network targets life sciences teachers with a specific subset of resources that can be useful in teaching genetics, genomics, SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19, and bioethics, especially in distance learning settings. Unless specified, many of the resources below have been crowd-sourced from or tested by other educators and are suggested as starting points for your own curriculum development.
This guide is not intended to provide guidance on distance learning in general, as these resources already exist. Some innovative local examples follow below:
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked in students both a newfound curiosity and a very real anxiety towards many topics generally covered in biology and health sciences curricula. The ongoing epidemiology provides both a rich, real-world dataset and a compelling narrative through which genetics, evolution, immunology and public health can be taught.
For some students, this information may be empowering during a crisis, as they begin to comprehend in more depth the decisions that are being made around them as well as those they must make for themselves. For other students, these topics may trigger the opposite response, depending on the precarity of their individual or family's condition. It is advisable to take into account your students' particular situational contexts when approaching these topics.
Exploring COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 Data
SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 Video Content from the Experts
Open Access Coronavirus-Related Lessons
Place-based Perspectives on Disease Outbreaks (Readings)
Pandemics shine a light on numerous bioethical issues, including equitable medical care, animal testing, the possibility of bioterrorism, and heritable gene-editing in humans. Not enough educator resources exist at this intersection of science and society, despite rapidly increasing knowledge production in the bioethicist academic space. For a curated sample of these texts, see ʻĀina-Informatics's curriculum resource for teachers: Genetic Ethics in Hawaiʻi.
Tackling what can often be complex dilemmas together when physically apart can be difficult. One platform for asynchronous, structured debate/consensus-building that can help students weigh in on these issues is Kialo Edu. Teachers can create open-ended boards tackling multiple aspects of a single ethical or moral dilemma in which students responses can be self-curated via upvotes.
Who doesn't love free online curriculum resources? Below are some of the platforms and portals which provide some of the best genetics and genomics content for distance learning available.
Though not a replacement for in-person lab instruction, simulations and games can help to fill the gap in interactive, hands-on instruction while distance learning.
It's a lot. Tagging in a helping hand might help to ease the strain of this new normal. Fortunately, scientists all over the world who might otherwise be occupied in the lab have been forced to work from home, creating a unique moment in time where they have enhanced bandwidth for engaging in science communication.
NOTE: I am also happy to zoom into your class to talk story about any number of genetics, genomics or bioethics topics. In addition, I can also leverage our network to help connect your class to a local scientist who has expertise in topics relevant to your lesson plans.