As I sit here – head reeling from yesterday’s announcement – my Y9 daughter is next door sitting in her room, face-timing with four of her friends, having a maths lesson. Attending a Google school, lessons and classroom assignments continue to be posted for all. Y11 and Y13 students, my son included, are in shock and, until further information received, rather unsure about how to proceed. Currently, some year groups remain in school for the final two days before school closure for the majority. Hats off to my children’s school, and to all our schools and school staff, for not just coping, but for being shining beacons as this world crisis unfolds.
Of course, my children are among the lucky ones: internet access, chrome book, space to live and learn. As educationalists we know that the playing field is not level. My twitter feed has been alive with concerns around the impact of school closure on our vulnerable children – those for whom the free school meal is their most nutritious of the day. We also know that it is likely that it is this group for whom home-learning will work the least. Given that schools are to remain open for vulnerable pupils, as well as children of key-workers, it is worth thinking creatively about whether this can be seen as an opportunity for this group to ‘catch-up’. Once we know more, there is a key assessment and learning opportunity, plugging the gaps, that we would not want to waste.
Nonetheless, for the majority, online learning is our only option in the foreseeable future. Many have shared useful suggestions and resources. Do read ‘Teaching in a time of COVID’ which contains a synthesis of useful links and this most useful table created by Alison Yang of KIS International School in Bangkok:
While the table above does not recommend using synchronous learning, there may be instances when synchronous learning is achievable, appropriate and of use. So in addition, do read Doug Lemov’s ‘Mastering remote teaching – Intro: two types of learning’ and follow-up videos to help you consider what might work for your pupils and setting. Many providers are also making freely available services and e-publications that may be of use. It also seems logical to use this as a period of consolidation of what has been learnt, rather than trying to teach new content. On-line quizzes, retrieval and inter-leaving may be useful starting points. For schools and staff that do not utilise some form of on-line platform like Google classroom, Edmodo is free to use and can be downloaded to phones and parents’ phones. Having used Edmodo in the past, I know that it supports the development of a student community and collaborative learning. During this period of isolation, this connectivity seems even more important. Can we write a story together, play a game of ‘Consequences’ or other, where the whole is bigger than the individual contribution, to help to maintain our sense of community?
However, even done properly, online learning is a patchy substitute for the kind of learning that can happen in a classroom and impossible for the very young or for households without internet access. Therefore, it is also a time to be realistic about what can be achieved, and to support each other, sensitive to the changing and evolving circumstances and their impact. Do take stock, do keep learning, but above all, let’s stay connected and support each other as we move forward.