By Gregory Michael Adam Macur-PYP Vice Principal at The Canadian International School, Hefei, China.
We learnt a lot, these last few years. Almost every school in the world experienced a shift over to online learning. Were we prepared? Did we have teachers who were upskilled in this domain? In most cases, I have found the answer was no.
We have however, learnt and learnt fast. We found things that worked well, and things that didn’t. This piece is geared towards reminding us to consider integrating things that worked well during online learning, into our normal school practice. It is also perhaps, somewhat a reminder to make sure teachers have competence in this domain, should we need to exercise these skills again.
First, let’s look at four key aspects of online learning that can be used in schools in a stress-free manner and impactful manner:
- Digital homework: For many schools, this is an easy win. It reduces the need for buying homework books, as well as the printing and sticking costs that come with physical copies of homework. Not to mention, you can often digitalise homework in a way that means it self-grades. Something to remember if you go down this road is that you should aim to use a platform that is easily integrated into your context.
Technology problems and disfunction are linked to increased levels of dissatisfaction with a program.
- Flipped learning: Whilst the problems of flipped learning are obvious, I have found that using this in specific circumstances, such as to support EAL students, through pre-exposure to vocabulary, is highly effective. Something I have seen work very well, is the use of “reading bundles” which relate to topics the students are learning about. Having a digital reading platform like MyOn makes this a simple process. However, it can still be achieved through physical books and/or other platforms.
- More interaction: Since writing tasks became more difficult to monitor, support with and mark, many teachers moved towards lessons which had higher levels of interaction (using breakout rooms etc.). Encourage your Heads of Department to embed this approach into their domains. Students enjoy it, teachers have less marking and levels of active learning shoot up.
- Self-assessment: The benefits of self and peer-assessment are profound, shown in a meta-analysis to outweigh the marking done by teachers. Many schools created tasks which students could assess themselves, since marking from a distance proved more challenging. Build a school culture that embeds this practice in the lesson planning process – it has been highly effective in reducing workload in any school I have seen achieve this.
There are many other aspects of online teaching and learning that might be suitable for your school. These are just three areas that I have seen schools using already. The second part of this piece is directed towards keeping the skills we learnt.
I wrote about the best practice of online teaching in my recent book Teaching Online for Kindergarten and Primary Teachers, since then, this has become embedded in teaching training programs in many universities around the world. So, teacher trainees are being exposed to these ideas.
However, something we need to consider as school leaders is, how do we make sure we are hiring the teachers who have some basic knowledge in relation to online teaching and learning?
What we do at our school, is simply ask them to talk about their knowledge or experience in relation to this domain during interview. This way, if we need to move to an online setting, we have a reasonable number of teachers who are prepared for this.
Finally, if you do need to move to an online teaching context, here are 6 top tips to consider:
- Set some school standards and expectations around what lessons should look like.
- Ensure your platforms are well established and functioning.
- Run a training program for teachers who need it.
- Standardise what you can to limit negative parent feedback.
- Limit the number of platforms you use.
- Consider student wellbeing and health, provide guidelines around screen time, learning space set up and reduce lesson length.
We may not face an online teaching epidemic at the magnitude of the one we have experienced again any time soon. That said, we can take these key lessons away with us and use this experience as a way to better our practice long into the future.
Gregory Michael Adam Macur is PYP Vice Principal at The Canadian International School, Hefei, China.
To follow him on LinkedIn, click HERE