With the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in with a nationwide lockdown, digital learning and connectedness has never been more important.
Our Learning Management System, Schoology, which we have been using since 2013 provides us with a number of invaluable tools to use. A key one is the Conferences function which enables students and teachers to engage in small group and whole class learning. Being able to see their teachers, ask questions and communicate with their peers are aspects of the physical school environment which we have, perhaps, previously taken for granted. Being able to continue these forms of communication in a remote setting are aspects of online learning which students have rated as being highly important.
Students from Years 7-13 are well used to submitting tasks and receiving feedback digitally and teachers have an increasing number of digital tools to ensure this process is as meaningful as possible.
Whilst we are uncertain about precisely how long we will be operating in a remote learning situation in New Zealand, we do see the experience as a valuable opportunity for staff and students to develop their digital technology skills exponentially.
This year, Woodford House was always going to have a sharp focus on developing our digital capabilities as a school. In line with Ministry of Education expectations, the new Digital Technologies curriculum is being implemented across all learning areas for students in Years 7-10. Focusing on two key progress outcomes; Computational Thinking and Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes Heads of Faculties have been leading their teams to ensure junior teaching and learning programmes have rich and authentic opportunities for students to learn and demonstrate their skills in these areas.
An excellent example of this has been Year 10 students in Social Studies creating podcasts featuring interviews with Old Girls on their experiences of the 1960s, publishing these to a digital platform and then evaluating their usefulness as a learning resource. You can read more about this here.
In the Intermediate Department, some students have been doing robotic programming to link with their position and orientation learning in Mathematics. To support staff and students further, we have established an E Learning Vision Group led by myself and including Amy Reid as E Learning leader, Lynn McKenna who is Digital Technologies leader, Iresha Dona, classroom specialist, Maia Briggs, Innovation Prefect, and Jay Berriman our ICT Support staff member.
Our digital journey as a school is being enriched on an almost daily basis by the wealth of international research, which is being currently conducted on digital learning.
In a time when Governments globally are using the same digital technology platforms to conduct meetings as we are utilising in our schools, it is clear that it is not only the educational environment which will be transformed and the skills we are all mastering will be invaluable in helping us to navigate the ‘new normal’.
On Monday 6th April our first Shine Workshop was conducted online and connected over 70 participants from across the world in plenary and small group workshops almost seamlessly using the Zoom meeting platform. Whilst a face to face workshop had been the initial plan, actually conducting the event online meant that students and staff were able to interact with a far more diverse range of facilitators as we did not all have to be in the same geographical location. You can read more about Shine and the workshop here.
As teachers and parents we are all grappling with the question of how we can best support young people to successfully navigate this unknown situation. In terms of learning, we should not be trying to replicate exactly what happens on a daily basis in schools but focus on a few key priorities:
Student health and wellbeing are paramount – Encourage your daughter to stay connected with her peers and teachers. Utilise the virtual pastoral care networks and focus on what she can do rather than worrying about what she is unable to do.
Routine is good – We have changed the time of the school day and encourage everyone to be ready for learning when we start Period 1 at 8.30am. Whilst we don’t have a formal interval or lunchtime, the 20 minutes between each lesson should give plenty of time for eating and short bursts of exercise.
Be prepared – We are encouraging teachers to have resources such as video explanations available ahead of lessons and to have posted updates on when they will be available for online conferences. Make sure your daughter has accessed these.
Collaborate – Just because the learning is taking place at home doesn’t mean students can’t work together. Facetime, Snapchat or a multitude of other digital apps can be used for learning too.
Conferencing is premium learning time – Experts are suggesting that to be sustainable in a digital learning environment, about 20 per cent of learning should be synchronous teacher directed with face to face contact and 80 per cent should be asynchronous –student directed and undertaken collaboratively or individually. This should also be helpful for homes where WIFI is less reliable.
Remember, we are all in this together. We don’t have a blueprint of how education will unfold over the next few months but we have been working hard, preparing and planning to ensure digital learning is meaningful for all.
Mrs Rachel Roberts, Assistant Principal