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  1. Abstract

    COVID-19 creates an opportunity for science classrooms to relate content about viruses to students’ personal experiences with the pandemic. Previous researchers have shown that students are interested in crisis situations like disease outbreaks; however, they primarily acquire information about these events through internet sources which are often biased. We argue that it is important to understand student interest, concerns, and information-seeking behaviors related to COVID-19 to support science classroom learning and engagement about the virus and other potential outbreaks. We surveyed 224 high school students and analyzed their responses to six open-ended questions. We found that students expressed the most interest in topics related to the origin of COVID-19 and vaccines. Their greatest concerns included contracting the virus or someone they know contracting the virus and vaccine distribution. Of our sample, only 6.7% reported using their teachers as their source of COVID-19 information. Science classrooms have the potential to pique students’ situational interest by discussing COVID-19 topics that are important to students, which can increase their academic performance, content knowledge, attention, and engagement in learning about viruses. Moreover, classroom instruction about COVID-19 by teachers has shown to alleviate students’ stress and anxiety. We provide key areas of student interest about COVID-19 to help educators address students’ questions and improve curricular resources on viral pandemics.

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  2. null (Ed.)
    Issue-based learning is a pedagogical approach that features learning opportunities contextualized in compelling, societal issues that face students in their lives beyond school. COVID-19 is a global health emergency and represents the kind of societal challenge that can serve as the basis for issue-based learning. In this project, we facilitated teacher professional development in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic with the aim of collaboratively designing instructional activities to teach about COVID-19. We used videoconferencing technologies to carry out the professional development in the wake of school and university closures. Breakout rooms within the videoconferencing platform and an online collaborative space were particularly important for the successful enactment of this program. The group was able to design four instructional activities each of which incorporates different forms of technology. These activities include a computational simulation, tools for perspective taking, a mathematical model created through a spreadsheet, and media and information literacy tools. Implications for similar forms of professional development include teacher recruitment decisions, flexibility in the face of evolving circumstances, focusing on affordances of technology platforms, and responding to teacher concerns. 
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