Life as we know has changed in so many ways.
The international schools are demonstrating to the world its resilience and tenacity at a most challenging time. Children are learning, teachers are delivering engaging and outcomes-driven learning activities, leaders are implementing new strategies for everything from online learning to community in a support-focused way like never before.
Support and empathy have been and will continue to be, in order to cope with the impact of Covid-19. The sharing of advice, solutions, successes and failures, resources, experiences and understanding in order to help others within the School and beyond has been exceptional.
First time ever, we are realising that we are one single world, connected and similar in so many ways. For the international schools, this is fundamental as we are one step ahead; we have the opportunity to demonstrate to the community how to respond during and after such crisis.
As educators, we need to rethink on how we educate future generations. This might just be the disruption that the sector needed to get us to think on how we educate, and the question of what we need to teach and what we are preparing our students for. So, as we grapple with the new ways of communicating with our students away from our classrooms and lecture theatres, it is a good time right now to reflect on how this disruptive crisis can help us define what learning should look like for Generations Z, Alpha and beyond.
Making the transition
Making the shift to active learning can be a big transition for many teachers. While we trying to encompass many different techniques develop new approaches in the classrooms, and now, we are needed to make another transition in our practices which is remote learning.
Now we need to think about what teaching practices or pedagogy that the teachers want to leverage—that’s the priority. Often people will make the mistake of looking at online learning from the perspective of what’s available in terms of technology and then figuring out how to use that as a teacher. It’s more important to look at how do we want to teach and what’s out there to help us to do that. It doesn’t matter which one we use—it’s a matter of finding the one that has the features we want.
In a time like this, people are going to be scrambling, and there’s a steep learning curve. I think one important piece of advice is to help teachers prioritize what’s the most important for them in terms of their instruction and their connection with students. A teacher who is beginning to teach online also should think about what a week looks like, what a day looks like in this class. Once teachers know what they’re going to do, they need to create a concrete way for kids and their parents to be able reference the plan and procedures. It could be in a Google Doc, it could be a slideshow, or even a short video. The point is just to explain, here’s what we’ll do at this time, you’ll get on, you’ll log-in here, or you’ll open up this Google Drive folder and see today’s work in there. Having a good, sharable plan makes it easier to have everyone on the same page.
During this period, we try to anticipate the common technical problems. These are fairly predictable—there are connectivity issues, there are microphone problems, there are difficulties locating particular features. So, we identify the most common technical issues that are going to come up and we put those in a table. We can’t predict everything, but the nice thing when we do this sort of contingency planning is that we predict most of the things. Then if something out of the ordinary happens, we still have the brain space to address it because we don’t have 20 emails from people saying, “Hey, my Internet’s down,” or “I can’t find the Google folder.” We’ve already taken care of a lot of that stuff.
The biggest thing is to work together—to find communities of educators in spaces where you can collaborate, where you can share resources and share ideas. Everyone, please to practice self-forgiveness! There’s going to be a level of frustration, but as long as the choices we’re making are what’s in the best interests of students and their learning in this time of crisis, then we’re making the right decisions, even if they don’t work out perfectly!
Other challenges ahead
While technology can assist us in times of disruption, they can also serve as a conduit that takes advantage of the crisis e.g. cyber-attacks, financial damage, promotion of misleading and dangerous guidelines, public panic and elements of racial discrimination are some of the impact of false information spread. This pandemic could mark the start of a terrifying surveillance system that invades the privacy and human rights of citizens, if left unchecked and abused by irresponsible parties.
It is also my hope that for Generation Z, Alpha and the generations to come, these experiences of isolation and remote learning away from their classmates, teachers and classrooms will serve as a cautious reminder of the importance of our human need for face-to-face social interaction.
Schools may return to some level of normal, but will the way we approach many aspects of school life take a different approach after Covid-19?
Wong Kin Tung
Chief Executive & Principal,
Imperial International School, Ipoh Campus
“Your comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.”
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is one step outside of your comfort zone.”
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
– Author Unknown