In this article, we will reflect on our role as teachers making inroads into the virtual learning environment. We have applied our IB learner profile attributes in each learning experience proposed and we have adapted the lesson plans according to the new requirements for the benefit of our students and the community. Let’s enjoy our journey!
During the Covid19 pandemic, from one week to another, we have suddenly passed from meeting our third-grade students in the different spaces of the school, to listening and meeting them through virtual applications. In our first week of change, we decided to take it slowly to understand the implications of the challenge of teaching through technology and in a virtual classroom. It was of great importance to us to get an idea of how we could continue our inquiry units, promoting students’ curiosity, engagement, and agency. But we must confess, we were afraid we would lose the inquiry process, as we also had the idea ‘they won’t be able to explore and develop all the conceptual understandings this school year’.
We did not know if all of our students would be able to meet with us through a computer or cell-phone device and we didn’t want them to spend hours in front of a screen, so at the beginning, we only planned a few learning experiences in guides that we shared with all the students to be done at home. We encouraged them and their parents to develop organization and self-management skills, which even for us, was a great deal. For staff, handling home and work tasks, as well as organizing time to spend with our family members, now 100% at home, was a great challenge.
This made us imagine how our students would be dealing with similar things in their homes, adding to the emotional states they might experience while getting to understand this new situation themselves, their parents and their whole community. As a consequence, our staff were actively involved in the process of creating a synchronous and asynchronous schedule, in which students had learning experiences divided between online sessions and individual home work. This has been very positive in that we have been able to improve our collaborative planning as we are all concerned together about making our students, and their families feel comfortable with this new experience.
For that reason, we continue with a variety of learning experiences in which students are able to develop a balance among their spiritual, mental, physical and emotional well-being. In our virtual encounters, we had the chance to propose different activities in which students could interact with each other. As well, we guided them in their process of learning through the IB learner profile attributes and they have recognized the importance of demonstrating these in their learning. We have given frequent feedback on the skills and attributes developed, seeking to create strong cooperative bonds. For example, we played Kahoot games and at the end of the activity, we reflected on the time management, empathy and perseverance to be able to recognize their aims and those of others. In addition, we had different spaces in a summative assessment in which the students had the chance to give feedback to each other focusing of the positive aspects of their peers’ work, and giving suggestions in a respectful way to improve their performance.
Helping students and parents to develop organization and self-management skills is a continuous challenge, but it has been a very pleasant process, as in time we have seen students’ agency growing stronger while they assume more autonomy in this new situation, their schedule and the development of their work. We also involve self-management skills, especially time management and completing tasks effectively, in our lesson plans through different strategies. We started using one E-learning weekly planner, which we included in the lesson plan shared with each student.
Completing this planner has been beneficial for each student, as they were able to plan their weekly tasks, not only with their homework but being able to recognize the importance of developing other activities to maintain their well-being. Such as taking breaks during the day, being grateful, exercising and spending time with their families. In addition, we have researched some applications to incorporate into our virtual meetings so that our students can focus on their units of inquiry and develop multiple skills. Using different applications for encouraging students to learn, explore and share their knowledge and conceptual understanding have been very helpful for us. For example, the students were challenged to design a graphic organizer by themselves using different tools or apps such as PowerPoint, Popplet, Word, Padlet or Excel, in which they shared their prior knowledge of their understanding of the central idea “Earth changes because of natural events and human influence”. They also reflected on the key concept of change and responsibility. (Photo 2 and 3 )
At the same time, students have shown great enthusiasm with these tools, as they can interactively apply their knowledge and share their ideas with the whole class. For example, we created a Padlet shared with the students, to work cooperatively answering different questions about the unit, asking their own questions, and suggesting ways to explore or find out more information about their inquiries.
This is our fourth week of online learning and we feel we have improved a lot and we have learned to feel more comfortable with this new teaching approach. As well, our students have shown enthusiasm and commitment to our virtual encounters. They like to participate in the learning experiences we propose and we continue to help some of our students with personalized attention to clarify doubts.
Most importantly to us is to see how our students have demonstrated their agency when organizing their work successfully, for example by creating their own schedule and sending tasks on time. Also, they find solutions to problems such as a good internet connection, learning to receive, send and attach documents, solving issues with web cameras and microphones, managing their emotions and persevering in working through adversity.
Finally, we realized the importance of following our inquiry process, especially in our lesson plans because we have designed interesting learning experiences to boost the learning of our students. To make it happen, we included our inquiry cycle as part of the titles for each experience. For example, at the beginning of the unit we start with “engagement and connection” where we explore the student’s previous knowledge and expectations about the unit. Further in the inquiry process, we included sections such “building and sharing knowledge” where students had opportunities to share their thoughts, ideas and research findings. In the last part of our cycle “action and reflection” the teacher and the students talked about their strengths and weaknesses in the inquiry process, and we reflect on possible ideas to keep exploring. It is important to emphasize that in each step of our process, the students have multiple ways for self, peer and teacher’s assessment.
It is our challenge to take make the most of our role in guiding each student in their learning, encouraging them in the desire to continue learning through virtual classes, and help them to think deeply about their process of learning and the ways in which they can adapt to our current world.Deysi Johana Barón has worked as a PYP teacher for three years. She currently works at Gimnasio Los Portales School in Bogotá, Colombia. She holds a master’s degree in education from Pedagogica University. She believes in the importance of hearing students´voices for establishing an environment of trust and safety. She tweets @ BarJohana1
Patricia Pardo Pachón has worked as a PYP teacher for almost 6 years at the Gimnasio Los Portales School in Bogotá, Colombia. She is a professional in Languages and Sociocultural Studies from the University of Los Andes. She believes that encouraging students’ self-esteem and creativity will help them explore all the treasures of their being. She tweets @PatriciaPP12