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29 April 2020
BY DYLAN DE JONG
Wimmera teachers believe schools rising to the challenge of online learning will provide great benefits for students beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the State Government’s decision to close schools in term two, teachers had to quickly familiarise themselves with online resources such as Google Classroom and Webex to be able to provide lessons remotely.
Both students and teachers have had to re-establish everything they know about traditional face-to-face education, and with great determination, have risen to the challenge.
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Warracknabeal Primary School teacher Jane Salter, who teachers years three to six, is teaching from home.
She said she was using online delivery as an opportunity to build on students’ ‘digital literacy’.
“If you focus on this as an opportunity to build digital literacy skills rather than feeling like it’s going to retract from other content areas, then we will have a lot of success,” she said.
Ms Salter said students were learning valuable new skills through the process.
“In a secondary college, students might already be used to the online platform, whereas our children are learning the platforms as well as the content,” she said.
“It has been quite exciting to see students develop these skills already, like how to send an email to ask questions and how to access and edit online documents – they are learning that remotely.”
Ms Salter said she was also gaining new skills moving to online teaching.
“The change to online learning has had some challenges for me because I wasn’t familiar with some of the tools that I’ve had to use, but I’ve actually seen it as a really good opportunity to extend my learning and access and use different platforms that I wouldn’t have used otherwise,” she said.
Horsham College teacher Daniel Garner is teaching his senior legal studies and humanities classes remotely.
Mr Garner said he was also used to more traditional teaching methods and had to get creative in developing classes suitable for online delivery.
“My teaching style relies on oral instructions and explanations,” he said.
“I’ve had to think more about how I explain things through a written format because I don’t have the face-to-face time.
“You can’t have those 30-second to one minute conversations in class to address a misconception a student might have.
“It’s those little conversations in class when you really get to see the benefits of one-on-one helping someone – you see that lightbulb moment where they understand something through your help.”
Mr Garner said moving forward he believed online delivery provided a building block for schools to be able to reinforce stronger learning outcomes for students.
“It’s pretty well accepted that one of the best ways to learn is having multiple exposures to content, and particularly multiple exposures through different mediums,” he said.
“This could actually be really good once we do go back to traditional schooling as there’s going to be so much supplementary learning content out there.
“Potentially, we can spend less time in class teaching and more time doing the chalk and talk.
“There’ll be more time in class doing practical work and leading students to answer questions properly, because they’ve potentially already had access to a video that’s enabled them to get the initial grasp of the concept.”
Ararat’s Marian College head of science Trevor Hunt is now teaching out of his breakfast bar at home.
He said this was the first time teachers at his school were making use of platforms such as Zoom and other online resources on this scale.
Mr Hunt said his maths and science students were extremely helpful in making the transition to online learning as smooth as possible.
“The students in my classes have been amazing,” he said.
“They are trying to help me make this period in our partnership work – that means helping me with new software, but it also means they are all attending.
“This fortnight 100 percent were in attendance or accounted for – that is not always the case for normal schooling when absences are not always explained.”
Mr Hunt said the biggest issue he had encountered was responsiveness through communicating with students.
“The biggest frustration for students is the lack of an instantaneous response by me to a problem they have encountered,” he said.
“There is a delay in this environment and my email traffic is way up.
“I miss the students’ hopes, curiosity, energy and courage.
“I am seeing all of that in a different format, but in class it is so much better. School is a lot more than books.”
Stawell Secondary College principal and teacher Carlos Lopez said teachers and students at his school were working extremely hard to adapt to the ‘new normal’.
“By the end of the day students’ cognitive load is really high,” he said.
“The high level of concentration needed over a screen and not having those breaks of interaction in between can be quite demanding.”
He said student-teacher relationships, a key to student development, was much harder to deliver online.
“Teachers are working a lot harder than they usually do,” he said.
“Teaching a class face-to-face with 25 kids is challenging enough – this quick adjustment period has been quite intense.”
Mr Lopez said he believed the school would emerge from the pandemic even stronger.
“One thing that’s been heart-warming is the positivity and resilience shown by our community,” he said.
“The cues I’m getting from people and parents is we’re trying our best and with time to reflect about the new normal and when we come out of it, we’ve been optimistic and hopeful the future will be positive.”
• Meanwhile, Member for Lowan Emma Kealy believes students in her electorate should go back to school classrooms.
Ms Kealy said the move would be in line with expert advice from Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee that schools were safe.
She said parents, students and educators were doing their best to make remote learning work, but with other states reopening schools it was time for Victoria to do the same.
“Too many families are feeling the pressure of having to simultaneously work and home-school their children,” Ms Kealy said.
“It’s frustrating that while other states have made the decision to reopen schools, Daniel Andrews is digging in his heels and ignoring the advice of medical experts.”
The entire April 29, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!
The entire April 29, 2020 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!