Coronavirus pushes classroom online leaving teachers to find new ways to connect with students

Virtual learning creates difficulties for ESL students

For non-native speaking English students, trying to get good grades while learning a new language can be challenging at the best of times, but as classes turn virtual some students are being left behind.

With the coronavirus mounting a resurgence in areas across the U.S., schools not already using a hybrid schedule to teach students may look to begin virtual learning in their districts. But by moving lessons online, teachers will lose the in-person connection they have with some students, which could make it difficult to pick up on cues regarding mental health.

“Teachers are translators of emotion,” Dr. Isaiah Pickens, a clinical psychologist who works with teachers and educators to identify and address racial inequality issues and mental health problems in students, told Fox News. “They are able to see students as an individual and in the context of the classroom.”

HEALTHY YOUNG PEOPLE MAY WAIT FOR CORONAVIRUS VACCINE UNTIL 2022, WHO OFFICIAL SAYS

Losing the physical classroom, however, doesn’t mean teachers have to lose the connection with their students. Pickens said teachers will still have plenty of information coming their way from students that could signal a larger issue is going on.

“If there’s a change in mood, there’s less engagement, hearing things as the student learns from home like arguments, etc., these allow educators to perk their ears up,” he said.

And while the safety of the physical classroom may be gone, there are many ways educators can provide support to their students virtually that might even be more helpful than before.

“The virtual world gives multiple modes for communicating, so there are multiple ways you can communicate something that you are experiencing,” Pickens said, adding that a chatroom, an email, or a video chat might actually make it easier for a student to approach a teacher with an issue rather than doing so in-person.

Others, however, may feel at a disadvantage to teaching their students remotely, especially those who never had the chance to meet their students in person to establish a baseline for their mood, demeanor or work habits. For those teachers, Pickens recommends looking for the universal signs that could mean emotional distress such as feelings of hopeless, incomplete assignments, low levels of engagement, or not participating in class activities online, or being a disruption like arguing with students in online chats.

“Teachers don’t need to be social workers, but what [recognizing these emotions] does is it normalizes that one, we’re all going through something right now and two, it’s OK to share parts of ourselves in virtual space to use that foundation to continue to connect and open up in many ways,” he said.  

Being direct when communicating with the student can help bolster their emotional being or let them know there is help available. Teachers should reach out directly to the student to let them know they notice a change in attitude, Pickens said.

“Being direct allows students to feel seen,” Pickens said. “Communicating that they are not a burden, whether virtual or in a private chat, saying ‘I’m wondering what it is that has you feeling whatever feeling they are feeling,’ it helps the kids have language to communicate. Think about who is the best ongoing support for the child, it might be a parent, or it might be a peer who can help make the kid feel less lonely – and sometimes it might be professional support.”

On the flip side, Pickens said virtual learning has helped teachers notice students who may have previously slipped through the cracks due to shyness or lack of confidence in the classroom, and those students are starting to blossom through online platforms. It’s also helping to identify students who might need more academic support.

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“One of the things teachers have been really praising is multiple ways to engage in class – students are engaging a lot more and it’s very easy to be a student by just participating in the chat,” he said.

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Preliminary results find COVID-19 vaccine candidate based on inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus is safe

A Chinese COVID-19 vaccine candidate based on the inactivated whole SARS-CoV-2 virus (BBIBP-CorV) is safe and elicits an antibody response, findings from a small early-phase randomised clinical trial published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal have found.

A previous clinical trial reported similar results for a different vaccine that is also based on inactivated whole SARS-CoV-2 virus, but in that study the vaccine was only tested in people aged under 60 years.

The latest study included participants aged between 18 and 80 years, and found that antibody responses were induced in all recipients. Participants aged 60 and over were slower to respond, taking 42 days before antibodies were detected in all recipients compared with 28 days for participants aged 18-59. Antibody levels were also lower in those aged 60-80 years compared with those aged 18-59 (Mean neutralising antibody titre 42 days after receiving a 8μg vaccine dose was 228.7 for people aged 18-59, and 170.9 for those aged 60-80).

The trial was not designed to assess efficacy of the vaccine, so it is not possible to say whether the antibody responses induced by the vaccine, called BBIBP-CorV, are sufficient to protect from SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Professor Xiaoming Yang, one of the authors of the study, from the Beijing Institute of Biological Products Company Limited, Beijing, China, said: “Protecting older people is a key aim of a successful COVID-19 vaccine as this age group is at greater risk of severe illness from the disease. However, vaccines are sometimes less effective in this group because the immune system weakens with age. It is therefore encouraging to see that BBIBP-CorV induces antibody responses in people aged 60 and older, and we believe this justifies further investigation.”

There are currently 42 vaccines for COVID-19 in clinical trials. These vary in type and include DNA plasmid vaccines, inactivated virus vaccines, adenovirus-vectored vaccines, RNA vaccines, protein subunit vaccines and virus-like particle vaccines. Some of these have already been shown to be safe and to elicit immune responses in early phase clinical trials.

The BBIBP-CorV vaccine used in the study reported here is based on a sample of the virus that was isolated from a patient in China. Stocks of the virus were grown in the lab using cell lines and then inactivated using a chemical called beta-proprionolactone. BBIBP-CorV includes the killed virus mixed with another component, aluminium hydroxide, which is called an adjuvant because it is known to boost immune responses.

The first phase of the study was designed to find the optimal safe dose for BBIBP-CorV. It involved 96 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 59 years and a second group of 96 participants aged between 60 years and 80 years. Within each group, the vaccine was tested at three different dose levels (2μg, 4μg and 8μg, 24 participants per group), with two vaccinations administered on day 0 and 28. A fourth group within each age group (24 participants in each age group) were given two doses of a placebo vaccine. In total, in phase 1 of the study, 144 participants received the vaccine and 48 received the placebo.

The second phase of the study was designed to identify the optimal timing schedule for vaccination. 448 participants aged between 18 and 59 years were randomly assigned to receive either one 8?g shot of vaccine or placebo, or two shots of 4μg vaccine or placebo (at 0 and 14 days, 0 and 21 days or 0 and 28 days). In this second phase, there were 112 participants per group, with 336 receiving the vaccine, and 112 receiving the placebo.

Participants were asked to report any adverse events for the first seven days after each vaccination and these were verified by the research team. Thereafter, participants recorded any adverse events using paper cards for the following 4 weeks. During phase 1, laboratory tests were carried out after the first and second vaccinations to assess kidney function, liver function and other organ functions. Blood samples were taken to test antibody levels for SARS-CoV-2 before and after vaccination.

No serious adverse events were reported within 28 days of the final vaccination. The most common side effect was pain at the injection site (phase 1 results: 24% [34/144] of vaccine recipients, vs 6% [3/48] of placebo recipients). A small number of participants reported experiencing a fever (phase 1 results: 4% [5/144] of vaccine recipients, vs 6% [3/48] of placebo recipients). There were no instances of clinically significant changes in organ functions detected in laboratory tests in any of the groups.

The greatest antibody responses were elicited by two 4μg doses of the vaccine at either days 0 and 21 or 0 and 28 (Mean neutralising antibody titres 28 days after second vaccination were 282.7 for two 4μg injections at day 0 and 21, and 218.0 for two 4μg injections at day 0 and 28).

Professor Xiaoming Yang said: “Our findings indicate that a booster shot is necessary to achieve the greatest antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 and could be important for protection. This provides useful information for a phase 3 trial.”

The authors noted some limitations with the study, including the short duration of follow up at just 42 days. They also highlighted that the study did not include children and adolescents aged under 18. Trials with these groups will be carried out when the full analysis of data from adult groups is completed, the researchers say.

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Researchers find potential treatment for Rett Syndrome

An experimental cancer drug can extend the life of mice with Rett Syndrome, a devastating genetic disorder that afflicts about one of every 10,000 to 15,000 girls within 6 to 18 months after birth, Yale researchers report June 10 in the journal Molecular Cell.

In addition, the drug JQ1 also restores the cellular function of neurons in human models of the disease. Rett Syndrome causes severe deficits in language, learning and other brain functions and eventually leads to death, often during teenage years.

The Yale team—led by senior author In-Hyun Park, associate professor of genetics, and a researcher at Yale’s Child Study Center and Stem Cell Center—wanted to know how a mutation in gene MECP-2 causes the severe disruption to neuronal functions in the cortex of Rett Syndrome patients.

They created a human brain organoid containing this mutation from embryonic stem cells and found severe abnormalities in multiple brain cells. A type of brain cell called interneurons, which regulate the brain’s excitatory neurons, was particularly impacted by the mutation.

The lab then screened a variety of compounds and found that one drug, JQ1, corrected abnormalities found in interneurons of the Rett Syndrome model. The drug has been investigated in several experimental trials as a potential cancer treatment.They then tested the drug in mice models of Rett Syndrome and found that the treated mice lived about twice as long as those not receiving the drug.

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Chris Hemsworth Is 'Constantly Trying to Find Balance' as a Working Dad

A work in progress! Chris Hemsworth is still figuring out how to be present for his three children as a successful actor.

“I’ve spent probably 15 years in what felt like a marathon, a constant workload,” the Thor star, 36, told GQ Australia in his May cover story, published Tuesday, May 5. “So much of my energy has been geared towards that, and then having kids at the same time, I’ve been constantly trying to find the balance. I’ve really yearned for more stillness and felt a definite need to slow down. Not having a schedule in front of me [during the coronavirus pandemic] has made me reposition my values and what’s important, and I think most people are having those kinds of thoughts right now.”

The Australian star admitted that it has been “harder and harder” to be away from daughter India, 7, and twin sons Sasha and Tristan, 6, as they’ve gotten older.

“For a little while, you don’t think the kids notice and then you realize they do,” Hemsworth explained to the magazine. “I absolutely want to continue to make films that I’m proud of, but that can also wait. Now what’s more important is my kids are at an age I don’t want to miss. And I’d hate to look back in 20 years and go, ‘Right, let’s get to work as a parent’ and I’ve missed it all.”

In June 2019, the Rush star announced that he was taking an acting break to spend more time with his children and his wife, Elsa Pataky.

“This year, I probably won’t shoot anything,” Hemsworth told Australia’s Daily Telegraph at the time. “I just want to be at home now with my kids. They are at a very important age. They are still young and they are aware when I leave more than before.”

Despite his roles in hit movies, including Avengers: Endgame and The Cabin in the Woods, Hemsworth “couldn’t be less cool” in India, Sasha and Tristan’s eyes.

He explained on Tuesday: “I get a kick out of it when they actually enjoy my movies, but there’s also an equal share of eye-rolls. … It’s nature’s way of telling me the truth. You can fall into a false sense of self-importance on a film set, where you feel you’re special, so it’s good to remind yourself that it’s not the case. And kids certainly drive that home.”

Hemsworth and Pataky, 43, tied the knot in December 2010.

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