Did you know that this isn’t the first time in history a pandemic has made distance learning a requirement for schools? The Great Plague of London forced Sir Isaac Newton and his classmates out of Trinity College for an entire year. Even so, Newton used his time at home wisely, developing his early work on calculus, using prisms to further theories on optics, and making his legendary gravity observations with the apple tree outside his window – you know the one!
While the current, short-term situation in Nanjing may or may not be an opportunity for our students to revolutionise Maths and Science, NIS works hard to support our community and provide the very best distance learning experience we can for each individual student. As an inclusive learning community, a large part of that effort is ensuring that our students are connecting with their teachers and each other, especially in an online environment. As Mr. Michael Chesterman, Secondary Maths Teacher at NIS explained, “One of the challenges of online learning is people being in their own little world or little bubble.”
Bursting the Bubble is one of our award-winning school Strategy’s core goals. To do this, we strive to equip our learners with the skills that connect them with nature, people, culture, and places. Nowhere is the need for student connections, innovative solutions, and empathy more evident than during COVID-19 distance learning.
How are we finding innovative and caring ways to Burst the Bubble and connect with our students during distance learning?
NIS is committed to providing the highest quality learning experiences possible, whether they are in the classroom or online. “We recognise that on-campus and distance learning are not the same,” said Mr. Kasson Bratton, Director of Learning at NIS. “The goal of academic continuity at NIS is to provide quality learning experiences, which allow students to achieve expected outcomes in any learning environment.” This holistic approach includes social and emotional support for our entire school community in addition to excellence in teaching and learning.
“I think staying connected while we're online might seem like a challenge,” said Ms. Sonya terBorg, Secondary Design Teacher. “Little things help us, like turning on our cameras and participating in conversations, as well as big team meetings and in small group meetings, and checking in on each other. That includes sharing our work online so we can see what other people are doing.”
Just like in-person schooling, interaction with other students and socialisation are key. Breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams provide an excellent setting for this. “I set some work for the students to do and then allocate them to a Breakout room with two or three other students and they get a chance to discuss what they've worked through and then compare answers,” said Mr. Chesterman. “Then they come back and report to the entire group afterwards. It's creating group work in an online facility.”
Making online lessons as engaging and personal as possible is not only important for our older students’ distance learning, but our Primary School children as well. “Children need to connect with their friends and classmates that live near them so they can see a friendly face and connect at a more human level,” said Ms. Melissa Stevens, Grade 3 Teacher.
Online, there are still many ways for our youngest learners to engage.
“I’ve been getting people together to do activities,” said Mr. Seth Silberner, Early Years Teacher. “Even when we're not in the same room, we can still get together on Teams and sing a song or share videos and photos with each other. Sharing videos of yourself, doing the things you love and watching your friends do the same is as a really good way for us to stay connected.”
But it’s not just up to our teachers. It’s essential for our students to have both a voice and a choice in their learning, be it online or in-person, which is in line with our other school Strategy goal: Student Voice and Student Choice.
“I really think you need to advocate for yourself,” said Ms. terBorg. “You need to ask the questions that you have in your mind. You need to seek clarification if you're not sure of what to do. And you need to trust that your ideas are worth sharing. And the more that you choose to open yourself up to sharing your ideas and getting feedback from other people, the more likely you are to be able to expand on these ideas and create truly beautiful, purposeful and interesting things to share with our community.”
Learn more about our award-winning School Strategy here.