“While everyone figured their way out, we realized that open sharing of ideas, reflections and experiences helped everyone through.”
With Covid-19 spreading around, forcing educators to leap out of their comfort zones without much prior warning and expecting them to transform their educational practices overnight, we were left with no option but to ‘comply’ to this sudden change- ironically, in the times when we were all talking about ‘Agency’!
These times reinforced the value of Approaches to learning (ATLs) and IB Learner Profile, such as risk-taker, balanced, inquirer, thinker, being resilient, open-minded and principled. Teachers around the world stretched their boundaries and like true brave-hearts plunged into the unknown, in the search of possible ways to make authentic and relevant learning happen through technology. While everyone figured their way out, we realized that open sharing of ideas, reflections and experiences helped everyone through. We also reflected on our journey with single subject teachers (specialists) who worked their way through different phases.
Here’s an account of how our specialist teachers rediscovered themselves through a process of inquiry, action and reflection.
“We could see ourselves gaining confidence by the end of this phase.”
Phase of Disruption:
This phase brought a lot of anxiety, fear, resentment and uncertainty amongst the teachers, especially the Specialists. We were flooded with so many questions, doubts, wonderings related to the medium, curriculum, learning etc. that it became a bit unsettling.
- What should be the structure of a virtual lesson for my subject?
- How can I teach ‘skills’ virtually?
- What will happen to the planned curriculum- standalone and Transdisciplinary integrations?
- How will we teach without the requisite tools/equipment?
- How will we engage the children effectively?
- What about exploration, inquiry and collaborative learning?
- What if technology turns out to be a roadblock?
Phase of Adaptation:
The adaptation phase was a learning zone for us which started with ‘acceptance’ of the situation and gradually led to the desired ‘change’. It saw us engaging with all our wonderings, thinking of possible ways to address them one by one and taking ‘action’. We could see ourselves gaining confidence by the end of this phase.
- In collaborative planning sessions with specialists the first week, we identified the learning outcomes which were simpler to execute virtually.
- We mainly looked at some standalone engagements in all subjects
- We had to tweak part of our written curriculum to suit the virtual learning demands. E.g., in PE, in place of swimming and soccer we had to look at yoga and aerobics for Grades 2 to 5, and recreational exercises aiming at motor coordination for EY
- To begin with, we explored the asynchronous way where all the Specialists (dance, drama, music, visual art and PE) created simple tutorials which could be followed at home, and student work could be uploaded on the e-portfolio platform Seesaw
- These tasks were posted every day with a clear learning objective, steps and success criteria so that they were self-explanatory and would require least parental involvement
- Teachers reviewed the work on Seesaw and shared feedback to feedforward in the form of voice notes and text
- Students engaged with the feedback effectively and produced a second draft wherever necessary
“Students were also seeking one-on-one connection with the single subject teachers where they could learn something in real time.”
It was a comfortable and assuring beginning for all the specialists because student responses indicated some level of engagement at home; however, there were concerns with ‘check for learning/understanding’ which could happen in a synchronous way but not so effectively in asynchronous mode. Students were also seeking one-on-one connection with the single subject teachers where they could learn something in real time. So, with this reflection, we moved towards planning Synchronous lessons after 2 weeks of asynchronous work.
“This phase saw us stretching beyond the obvious.”
Phase of Growth:
This phase saw us stretching beyond the obvious. The single subject teachers tasted some success with their asynchronous structure and felt ready to move towards the Synchronous lessons.
Successfully implementing the curriculum:
- PE: For transdisciplinary integration we went ahead as per the curriculum map and integrated well with Grade 4’s unit on the Interconnectedness of human body systems (Who we are). PE teachers co-planned and executed an inquiry along with the form tutor and guided the children to collaboratively prepare a project on “Strengthening different body systems by adopting a fitness routine” for a certain sport of their choice. Students got together for live discussions using Zoom- breakout room feature and worked on shared slides to create their presentations.
- Visual Arts: An inquiry into Graffiti as a form of ‘communication’ (How we express ourselves) in Grade 4 enabled students to express and share a positive message for the community at the time of Pandemic. Certain online tools used by them were Weave silk and Tate paint which allowed students to create digital art work. Students were introduced to different art forms and artists through virtual tours.
Finally, all the work that was done during the 11 weeks of lockdown was showcased through a Virtual art exhibition- Seher: A dawn of creativity. This is an annual art event for the school but this time we explored an app called Exhibbit which provided us with a virtual gallery space to showcase and celebrate student work at a very nominal cost. The entire school community took pride in this showcase.
- Ceramics: Having no access to natural clay and sophisticated tools at home, our ceramic specialist explored an alternative called “Salt dough” which provided a similar experience and outcome.
- Drama: An inquiry into Monologue for the unit on ‘Sense of Self’ (Who we are) in Grade 5 enabled students to give a voice to their feelings and emotions through this troubled phase. They learnt to write a monologue after responding to and understanding its characteristics. Drama teachers took on the role of language teachers and helped children develop their monologues as a part of the creating Students performed their monologues as well as engaged in a peer-review exercise as an audience.
- Dance: The Indian classical dance teacher focused on expressions, postures and mudras used on Bharatnatyam (Indian classical dance form) through her lessons, enabling children to appreciate the nuances of this dance form. The western dance teachers helped children explore Jazz Pirouettes, Tutting and encouraged them to create their own choreography.
- Music: The teachers gained confidence as they worked on the online music creation tool called ChromeApp Lab. Students explored various rhythm patterns and musical notes through this tool. Parent collaboration was a high point for music department and you can read more about it here.
“Having come this far, our specialist teachers are feeling proud of their journey and accomplishments.”
In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson- “A mind, once stretched by a new idea can never regain its original dimensions”. This holds true for all the teachers who stretched themselves and grew in this process!
Acknowledgement: The idea of categorizing the entire virtual learning journey into 3 phases- disruption, adaptation and growth was used by Amit Pawar – Microsoft Asia Pacific, in a webinar on “Opportunities and challenges of remote learning – How will this shape the future?” organized by EduTECH Asia Virtual.
Vandana Parasher is the PYP Coordinator at Pathways School, Noida. She has been a primary educator for over 17 years in international schools from New Delhi to Tokyo. She believes in constantly engaging with the latest research and innovation in education that leads to rethinking and questioning the existing norms. Passionate about self-directed learning and collaboration, she works towards empowering children with the right tools and mindset that keeps them excited about learning and life. You can follow her on Twitter @Vandysays and her school @PathwaysSchools.