Measles…..or what are you waiting for?

Hamilton is in the grip of a measles “pandemic”.  Well let us not exagerate;

dictionary definition of the word pandemic


Advertising Campaign poster 1940s by H E Bateman showing people in a railway carriage with someone coughing and not using a handkerchief
Advertising Campaign poster 1940s by H E Bateman

The total cases in Hamilton on 18th June as reported in the New Zealand Herald was 60.  However, the panic that has resulted may well be described as “pandemic” as schools scramble to accrue evidence of immunisation from students and staff and, I suspect, but only have anecdotal evidence, that Dr’s surgeries are scrambling to get supplies of the MMR vaccine to administer to those who are currently unimmunised.

However, I am being flippant because measles is a very unpleasant disease – I do know that because I remember suffering from it as a child in the 1960s, and it is a killer.  And it is spread very easily especially in busy places where “coughs and sneezes spread diseases” such as classrooms, hospitals, conferences, cinemas, in fact wherever we go to lead our daily lives.  Already two schools in Hamilton have sent staff and students home who are unimmunised, reduced their timetables, cancelled all sporting fixtures and withdrawn groups from cultural competitions.

So what can we do if we have a measles outbreak and students, or even you, are stuck at home in quarantine?  I wrote this handout for our staff at school and thought that it would be useful to reproduce as a blog – who knows where measles will go next given that the trend has been, over the last few years to either choose not to have our children immunised or to be in a marginalised section of society where access is not easy.


There are many staff with young children who may not yet be fully immunised and if the pre-schools and primary schools that they attend are hit they may well find that they have to stay at home with children who need looking after. There are possibly also some staff who are vulnerable because of the time they were born when the MMR vaccine was not yet universally offered, and if we have an outbreak of measles, they will possibly have to stay at home.  Not just teachers either, think of the ground staff, the cleaning staff, the administrative staff; schools may well have to close for at least two weeks but we still have a responsibility to provide opportunities for learning for all those students.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options for providing work to students whether you are in school or at home but  unfortunately, they will require some extra effort on your part and on the students’ part. Here are some suggestions of what we can do. I think it is important that departments pull together on this so that the load does not fall on individual teachers.

Google Docs

If you are already using Google docs and your classes are set up then you can provide all your resources to those students who are quarantined.  You can upload photos of notes on the whiteboard into your Google docs or save pdfs of smartboard notes. Students can continue to work on coursework and you can provide feedback using the comments function or if you would like to use verbal feedback try using the Kaizena add on.

You can see how the students are getting on by creating quizzes using Google Forms which you can grade using Flubaroo.  Goobric is a great way of providing formative feedback.

If you are feeling brave have a go at using Screenr or Jing to create videos of key teaching points and upload them to your Youtube channel and share them with students. Keep them short though; research shows that students lose interest or don’t even start watching if the video is more than eight minutes long.


Some people are using Edmodo which is a great way of communicating with students and sharing resources. You can set up quizzes and assignments and share all your Google docs and videos from one place. Make sure that you share your docs as View only if you don’t want students to edit an original.  If you want students to write on a document remind them to make a copy of the doc, name it and share it back to you.

Google Sites

Google sites are relatively easy to set up but you need to think through how you want to structure it. I have created a template which you can find in the template gallery called “Creating a Google Site” to help you think things through. The Google help sheets are relatively straightforward if you are happy following instructions and have enough time to experiment.


In the short term using and intranet might be the easiest option for sharing resources if most of your current resources are Word docs or ppts. Of course these do not have the option of easy feedback or discussion but in a pressure situation at least you are providing the information to your students.

Other students

Why not also use the students in your class to help you share resources? They might be able to video a science experiment and share it with a friend, or they can record discussions on their phones that they have in small groups in class to share, they can take photos of work that they brainstorm on paper and upload them to a shared Google doc or to Edmodo. You can also get the students in the class to create a shared document and add notes to it from the lesson so that those at home can read them alongside the resources you have shared with them. If there are things that they don’t understand they can ask using the comments function which will encourage those in the lesson to reflect and explain what they learned. Real higher order thinking!

Skype and Hangouts

Maybe you could also Skype or Google hangout your lesson to those stuck at home? Then they really are a part of the lesson and can ask questions and contribute their ideas in real time.

Google Group

You could set up a Google group and have a conversation/discussion that those at home can join in with in real time or use Twitter, Facebook chat or TodaysMeet to involve everyone in a lesson in real time.

Web Tools or Blendspace are great tools to create lessons that students can follow anywhere. You can add resources, links to webpages, videos and your own explanations to create a series of lessons and activities.

I ended up also turning this original google hand out for teachers into an Eduignite presentation and it got me thinking – all these things are what we have been trying to encourage other colleagues to do anyway, why does it need  the threat of a “pandemic” to spur them into action?  But that is a whole other story!

seagull hovering against a clear blue sky with text that saysLearning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all dreamers, learners, doers and teachers. Richard Bach, Illusions

One thought on “Measles…..or what are you waiting for?

  1. The real kicker I thought was how education could respond to this pandemic was something that it could do everyday.

    I suggest that this might constitute a learning pandemic where learning could be spread as a virus and not contained within the structure of a single classroom school or subject. We could immunize against this now by introducing location based standards where all papers and learning materials are handed in as students leave the buildings. Oh ooops we already do this with many of the ncea assessments 😉

    On a slightly more serious note I wonder what the secrets are to both motivating learners and lifting the standards of their understanding and capability.

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