It was tough enough to pivot quickly to distance learning in March as nearly every school in the country closed its campus. Many schools struggled to make the remote programs work while students lacked equipment to connect to the internet or to do work. Many families had insufficient bandwidth, or multiple children shared a device. In the months since, the pandemic has also caused a shortage of key parts because production has been slowed or halted, and the tensions on trade with China have further complicated the issue.
Furthermore, reopening schools for in-person classes — or starting via distance learning — meant that the traditional back-to-school supply list of pencils, glue sticks and binders looked different this year.
- Fanny packs are the new backpack: How the pandemic is reshaping back-to-school shopping (The Washington Post): “With many schools opening virtually, parents are putting off purchases of shoes, clothing and backpacks but are loading up on electronics like laptops and headphones. Even in places where schools are reopening, supply lists look markedly different: Students are asked to bring water bottles (because water fountains are turned off), beach towels (so they can hold classes outside) and fanny packs (for essentials like face masks and hand sanitizer).”
- US Faces Back-To-School Laptop Shortage (Associated Press): “Schools across the United States are facing shortages and long delays, of up to several months, in getting this year’s most crucial back-to-school supplies: the laptops and other equipment needed for online learning, an Associated Press investigation has found.”
- Supply chain disruptions, sanctions threaten school shortage of 5 million laptops (Axios)
- Trying to buy a desk or a chair? As more kids go to school virtually, there’s a COVID-19 fueled desk shortage (USA Today): “From July 11 to Aug. 15, [analytics company] Profitero found the search rank on Amazon for “desk” rose 600% to the No. 2 spot coming in behind face mask. The term “kids desk” rose 3783% and “computer desk” is up 257% on Amazon, according to Profitero.”
- What is your school’s plan for ensuring students have access to online components of classes?
- Did a shortage of equipment affect the plan for teaching and learning?
- What problems have students experienced? These could include inadequate bandwidth/speed, software incompatibility, shared resources and more.
- How was back-to-school supply shopping different this year? Did families spend more or less? What was easy or hard to find, and what was just skipped? What were some unexpected items on the list?
- How did teachers reconsider what was essential and what might be needed in various contingencies?
Students and families to share their experiences, teachers, school technology director, school budget administrator, managers of retail stores that sell traditional supplies or computer technology equipment
- Comparison of 2020-21 and 2019-20 supply lists, possibly with prices/amount spent, which could be compared among grade levels as well
- Shopping list / receipt for expenses for back-to-school supplies
- Case study: One student’s/family’s experience on shopping and finding (or not finding) needed items
- Case study: How did students make do with missing, inadequate or shared items?
- Explainer for the causes of the changes and/or shortages
- Q&A with school technology director about how the school fulfilled needs, didn’t fulfill needs and/or changed plans to get by
- Quotation collection: “I always buy ___, but this year I had to buy ___.”
A group of Satan-worshiping pedophiles plotting against Donald Trump? The online conspiracy theory QAnon has moved from the dark edges of the internet to the mainstream. While it has existed in a space that was easy to ignore or dismiss, its adoption — or at least acknowledgment — by mainstream candidates and leaders make it a timely topic that can be explored in student media.
This could be a package all on its own, or it could be one example of a larger exploration of why people believe conspiracy theories (or why they believe certain sources and it’s difficult to change their mind). Of course you also want to treat sources with respect, so avoid coverage that demeans or ridicules people. When exploring a topic like this that is intertwined with a political issue, be careful to avoid perpetuating misinformation, and use language that places assertions and unproven statements in appropriate context.
A definition from The Washington Post: “Born in the aftermath of the Pizzagate debacle with two cryptic, anonymous posts published to the controversial message board 4chan in October 2017, QAnon has grown into a large and nebulous belief system. Its ‘leader,’ known only as Q, is ‘a purportedly high-ranking government official.’ At its heart is the baseless notion that President Trump is secretly working to bring about a ‘Great Awakening’ to expose an elite cabal of child sex abusers — including prominent political figures in Washington — that has been concealed by intelligence agencies, or ‘the deep state.’” Now, supporters of these theories have gained mainstream attention and at least one is likely headed to Congress.
- What Is QAnon, the Viral Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory? (The New York Times): “QAnon is the umbrella term for a sprawling set of internet conspiracy theories that allege, falsely, that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against Mr. Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring. … According to QAnon lore, Mr. Trump was recruited by top military generals to run for president in 2016 in order to break up this criminal conspiracy, end its control of politics and the media, and bring its members to justice.”
- The Prophecies of Q (The Atlantic): “In the face of inconvenient facts, it has the ambiguity and adaptability to sustain a movement of this kind over time. For QAnon, every contradiction can be explained away; no form of argument can prevail against it.”
- The Week QAnon Went Mainstream (The New York Times): “For almost three years, I’ve wondered when the QAnon tipping point would arrive — the time when a critical mass of Americans would come to regard the sprawling pro-Trump conspiracy theory not merely as a sideshow, but as a legitimate threat to safety and even democracy.”
- The QAnon Candidates Are Here. Trump Has Paved Their Way. (The New York Times): “More than two years after QAnon, which the F.B.I. has labeled a potential domestic terrorism threat, emerged from the troll-infested corners of the internet, the movement’s supporters are morphing from keyboard warriors into political candidates. They have been urged on by Mr. Trump, whose own espousal of conspiracy theories and continual railing against the political establishment have cleared a path for QAnon candidates.”
- QAnon-supporting congressional candidate embraced 9/11 conspiracy theory (The Hill): “Marjorie Taylor Greene, who became the Republican nominee in a deep-red Georgia congressional district after a Tuesday primary, expressed support for conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.”
- Asked about QAnon, Trump declines to denounce the conspiracy theory (The Washington Post): “Most presidents, it’s safe to assume, would have offered some cautionary words discrediting the theory, particularly if the theory suggested that the president himself was involved in its machinations, as QAnon suggests about Trump. He could also have offered a bold endorsement of the movement, which was the least likely option. Instead, Trump took the middle road of ignoring the question.”
- Why do conspiracy theories gain traction and spread among the population?
- How do these theories impact people’s beliefs and actions in other ways?
- How is the QAnon conspiracy theory having an impact on the 2020 election and on American society?
- What are some cautions people should keep in mind when encountering conspiracy theories? How can people avoid being misled by inaccurate or false information?
University professors or other practitioners who are experts in human behavior or political science; students and others in the community who can share how they encountered these theories and why they choose to believe or not believe them
- One person’s opinion about QAnon, conspiracy theories in general, the impact of these on politics or society
- Quotation collection about conspiracy theories
- Listing of conspiracy theories that can be debunked
- Listing of actions to take to verify information
- Timeline of QAnon incidents from “Pizzagate” to this summer’s primary elections
- Glossary of terms related to conspiracy theories and misinformation