Hyper-innovation: COVID-19 will forever change the way we teach kids

The institutional barriers that have often held creative teaching back are being knocked down by the coronavirus era.

  • Long-held structures in the education system, like classroom confines and schedules, have held back innovation for a long time, says education leader Richard Culatta.
  • In the coronavirus era, we have been able to shake some of those rigid structures loose, making way for creativity and, ultimately, a more open mindset.
  • When creativity and technology combine, learning can become so much more than delivering content to a student. Culatta gives two stunning examples: one of a biotech class, and another involving a student discovering a star.
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How to shut down coronavirus conspiracy theories

The larger the stakes and scope, the less likely a conspiracy theory is to be true.

  • During times of high anxiety, not unlike the situation we find ourselves in now, there is a rise in conspiracism. Conspiracy theories provide comfort where there is uncertainty.
  • As author Michael Shermer points out, history has shown that this way of thinking is sometimes warranted, but not in the case of coronavirus. One factor that has helped recent coronavirus conspiracy theories grow, he says, is the shrinking political middle and an increased polarization to the far left and far right.
  • "The further out you go in the extreme nature of a conspiracy theory the less likely the theory is to be true," says Shermer. Actual conspiracies happen on a more localized, more narrowly-focused level.

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Preparing your pet for the end of quarantine

Someday, presumably, we'll go back to our lives. Our furry buddies will wonder where we went.

Image source: Charles Diluvio/Unsplash
  • It's great we're getting to enjoy so much more time with our animals, but we may be setting them up for heartbreak.
  • Dogs and, yes, even cats may experience separation anxiety when we finally leave our homes at the end of lockdown.
  • Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has some suggestions for preparing our pets for that transition one day.

The good thing about quarantine is that it forces us to spend more quality time with our loved ones. That includes our pets, who must be wondering why we never leave anymore. Still, all the extra contact, affection, and cuddling are probably making our pets happier than ever.

One day, though, this will come to an end, and something resembling normal will reassert itself. Off we'll go back to our jobs, leaving our sweet companions to wonder where everyone went.

Dog behavior specialist Janelle Metiva notes, "Most pets don't like sudden and abrupt changes. Instead, try starting now to get your pet ready and ease them back to your previously 'normal' routine more easily."

Metiva works for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which has put together some advice on how to prepare our pets for the inevitable separation anxiety that will one day, someday, surely come. It's something to think about now, before our lockdowns end.

We'll have to work out our own separation anxiety.

What would this separation anxiety look like?

Image source: BoulderPhoto/Shutterstock

Telltale signs of separation anxiety might be:

  • Unwarranted barking, howling, or whining, particularly for longer than 30 seconds, when you leave
  • Scratching or chewing at entrances and exits, including doors and windows
  • Destructive behavior when the pet is left alone
  • Over-grooming or other self-harm or obsessive behaviors
  • A change in appetite.

Advice for dog owners

Image source: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

If only the average person were as nice as the average dog. Sigh. In any event, Metiva suggests a handful of things you can do top prepare your soft-hearted bud for your departure.

  • Create a safe, comfortable place where they can have peaceful, relaxing alone time. This could be a crate or a separate room. Just make sure it's in the quietest part of the house.
  • Provide them with enrichment that can be enjoyed independently, such as hidden treats in boxes, food puzzles, stuffed Kongs, etc.
  • Play soothing music such as reggae, smooth jazz, or classical, or turn on stations like the BBC or NPR while you're gone to keep them from being startled by outside noises. You can also try a white-noise machine.
  • Reward your dog for calm, independent behavior (especially if they're usually clingy). We tend to pay attention to dogs only when they're active or even misbehaving. They should be rewarded for being calm and chill.

It's also a good idea to practice when you go out on an errand or for exercise. If:

  • your dog shows signs of panic, decrease the amount of time that you leave, even if for just a few seconds.
  • your dog barks or paws at the door when you leave, come back only when they're quiet.
  • your dog has trouble being alone for even brief periods of time, consult a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT) who may be able to help via a virtual consultation.

Advice for cat owners

Image source: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

We wouldn't go so far as to say cats' typical seeming indifference is an act, quite, but it can be misleading — and it's exacerbated by their lack of facial expressions. They do care, and if they're often not obvious in their affection, it's no coincidence that they tend to somehow quietly always stay close by. We're not telling most cat owners something they don't already know here.

As Best Friends' cat behavior specialist Samantha Bell puts it, "Despite stereotypes that say otherwise, many cats form very close bonds with their humans and can become quite stressed when apart." In general, she says, "Practicing confidence-building activities and having an enriching environment can help prevent this."

Bell suggests trying the following to help your feline adjust to your absence:

  • Engage your cat with a wand toy, shown above, at least once a day. Allowing your cat the opportunity to hunt, catch and kill with an interactive toy will help build their confidence and strengthen their bond with you in the healthiest way possible.
  • Ensure that whatever adjustments you've made to their routine while you're home are sustainable when you go back to work. If you've started feeding your cats four times a day while you're home, start cutting it back to what is doable when you're not working from home.
  • If you're not already using them, introduce puzzle-feeders to your cat. Cats instinctively want to forage for their food and puzzle-feeders satisfy that instinct while providing fantastic enrichment during alone time.
  • Cats feed off from people's emotions. So, when it's time to go back to work, making a big, sad, dramatic scene as you leave is only going to make them feel more stressed. A happy, light tone, and a little treat as you leave will keep their spirits up.

Addicted to love

More time with our pets is for many of us a real gift, an opportunity to shower them with all the attention we don't normally have the time to bestow. We get as much out of it as they do. Love, however, also means caring about someone else's welfare. A little extra thought now can help ensure that this period of closeness leaves our animals happier even after we've gone back to our usual daily nonsense.

Ask a Chemist: How does handwashing kill coronavirus?

The physical action of handwashing plus the properties of soap is a one-two punch for the virus.

  • A common recommendation from experts to help protect against coronavirus is to wash your hands often, but why? It turns out that each time you do it is an effective two-pronged attack.
  • As Kate the Chemist explains, the virus has a weak outer membrane. By using the proper handwashing technique, you're actually breaking through that membrane and ripping the virus apart.
  • Soap is an important part of the equation because of its two sides: the hydrophobic side (which grabs onto the virus), and the hydrophilic side (which grabs onto the water). Washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds allows the virus to be rinsed away.

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How Apple and Google will let your phone warn you if you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus

Apps that warn about close contact with COVID-19 cases can help relax social distancing rules.

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

On April 10, Apple and Google announced a coronavirus exposure notification system that will be built into their smartphone operating systems, iOS and Android. The system uses the ubiquitous Bluetooth short-range wireless communication technology.

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