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New Season of the MindShift Podcast Explores How Classrooms Are Adapting to COVID-19


The new school year is upon us, but how can teachers, students and caregivers adequately prepare for such drastically changed learning environments and so much uncertainty? Enter the MindShift podcast. One of the most popular podcasts for parents and teachers, the series gives listeners an inside look at how schools are developing solutions to meet the needs of students in person and online.

Social bonds are essential, but how do we develop and maintain them when we‘re forced to be physically distant? Hosts Ki Sung and Katrina Schwartz tell listeners [or investigate rather than tell listeners]how educators and students are working to strengthen these bonds to create a strong foundation for learning in person and online. Episodes also explore how educators navigated the first semester of the coronavirus pandemic, what they learned, what they’re holding onto and what doesn’t work. The episodes also feature the voices of young people, who share how this difficult time has affected their lives.

The new season starts Tuesday, July 14, with new episodes available every other Tuesday through September 8. Find the MindShift podcast for free on Apple Podcasts, NPR One or wherever you get your podcast, or visit

Season 5 Schedule

Episode 1: July 14, 2020

How Emotional Intelligence Can Help Boys Become Men

When Ashanti Branch started the Ever Forward Club, he was a high school math teacher trying to figure out why the young men of color in his classes weren’t succeeding. He found they were craving what he desired as a kid too — a safe place to be themselves, to show emotion and to get support without fear of judgment. When Ashanti gave them that, their success surprised everyone. It’s now his life’s work to support other educators to create spaces where boys can be vulnerable, share their feelings and feel supported by other boys. It’s such important work to those involved that they’ve continued it online during the coronavirus pandemic, with mixed results.

Episode 2: July 28, 2020

Prom? Canceled. Graduation? Canceled. High Schoolers Share Their Worlds with Us

Students have had to do just as much adapting as teachers during the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve struggled to find motivation, navigated taking Advanced Placement tests at home, sometimes with spotty internet, and have been overwhelmed by their families in new ways. Seniors missed out on prom, signing yearbooks, sharing the news of college acceptances with friends and teachers in person and walking across the graduation stage in front of their family and friends. Hear what students recorded in their audio journals as they adjust their expectations for this school year and the future.

Episode 3: August 11, 2020

Culturally Responsive Teaching During Distance Learning

When schools closed in March because of COVID-19, 150 teachers from around the country began creating a resource document to share ideas that would engage students in learning through the events happening in their lives. Students at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School in New York City were at the heart of the worst outbreak in the country. AP English Teacher Anthony Voulgarides assigned pandemic journaling to his students, never imagining how crucial those assignments would become to students as they process their feelings and document the loss and isolation COVID-19 has had on their families and their community.

Episode 4: August 25, 2020

How Fan Fiction Inspires Kids to Read and Write and Write and Write

For many students, writing can be tedious, especially after years of boring grammar, spelling and structure drills. But for kids who have discovered fan fiction, writing about something they’re already passionate about can ignite countless hours of creative writing, music and art.

Episode 5: September 8, 2020

Why Being Taught How to Read the Right Way Is a Civil Right

As a child, Connie Williams learned to read using the “whole word” strategy, which has since been disproven as an effective technique. She graduated from high school in Oakland, California, but she was functionally illiterate. Since then, her children and grandchildren, all of them struggling to learn to read, have attended Oakland public schools. And it wasn’t just her family — the district is failing thousands of kids. Now Connie Williams is part of a movement of families advocating for phonics instruction, hoping that different teaching strategies will help their kids finally learn how to read well enough to access the rest of their education because equal access to education is a civil right.

About the Hosts

Katrina Schwartz has been reporting on education with an orientation towards solutions and innovative ideas for the past eight years. Over that time, she’s watched promising technologies launch and flare out, schools open and close and inspiring school leaders come and go. Throughout it all she’s been consistently impressed with the dedication, creativity and heart of teachers in classrooms with kids. In her work, Katrina highlights their tenacity, struggle and desire to do the best they can for kids even when it requires them to check their own assumptions and learn new things.

Ki Sung is senior editor of MindShift and oversees it on all platforms. Ki practiced some of the essentials of teaching and learning in her previous role as a digital news specialist at NPR. In creating and providing professional development for journalists, she experienced first-hand the critical role of leadership, relationships, agency, resources and buy-in when teaching any new skill or implementing change. She started her career in public media two decades ago as a front-desk volunteer for her local NPR member station answering phone calls.

About MindShift

MindShift explores the future of learning in all its dimensions via its blog, email newsletter, social media accounts and podcast series. It examines how learning is being impacted by technology, discoveries about how the brain works, poverty and inequities, social and emotional practices, assessments, digital games and design thinking and music, among many other topics. We look at how learning is evolving in the classroom and beyond. We also revisit old ideas that have come full circle in the era of the over-scheduled child, such as unschooling, tinkering, playing in the woods, mindfulness, inquiry-based learning and student motivation. We report on shifts in how educators practice their craft as they apply innovative ideas to help students learn, while meeting the rigorous demands of their standards and curriculum. MindShift has a unique audience of educators, tinkerers, policy makers and life-long learners who engage in meaningful dialogue with one another on our platforms

Visit us at and follow us on Twitter at and on Facebook at

About KQED

KQED serves the people of Northern California with a public-supported alternative to commercial media. An NPR and PBS affiliate based in San Francisco, KQED is home to one of the most listened-to public radio stations in the nation, one of the highest-rated public television services and an award-winning education program helping students and educators thrive in 21st-century classrooms. A trusted news source and leader and innovator in interactive technology, KQED takes people of all ages on journeys of exploration — exposing them to new people, places and ideas.

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