In March we moved the entire school to distance learning for six weeks. It was a challenge; our wartime moment. The teaching staff pivoted 180 degrees in a spectacularly swift time frame and then proceeded through trial and error. The school operated like a start-up: tackling a novel problem, seeking feedback, acting quickly, iterating constantly. We were not alone in this: every school was in the middle of a steep learning curve, had to confront online fatigue, and was rethinking how to engage students and have empathy for their experience. There were teething problems. It was, after all, distance learning during a global pandemic.
We knew that distance learning could not mirror learning in school, and trying to replicate the pace and type of work that would have been done at school was unrealistic. While it was impressive to observe the adaptability and perseverance that the Shore community demonstrated in the face of the stress, not all students thrived; some struggled with too much independence or lack of structure.
We continued to iterate, tweak, adjust, seek feedback, and refine our approach as we learned. Following a community survey in the first weeks of the distance learning experience, we standardised the timing and location of instructions for students, we increased the amount of video classes, and we instituted a daily roll call check-in.
It was a large adjustment for students as they had to quickly demonstrate more independence, resilience, self-regulation, and problem-solving. It was an incredible opportunity to focus more on the development of these crucial soft/success skills. Some teachers found it fun. Most were quite overwhelmed, had never worked so hard, and were totally reworking everything they did. As a community we modelled calmness and kindness.
The pandemic was a wake-up call or a catalyst. In a volatile world, rigid is brittle. Our central challenge is now helping people cope with a faster rate of change. Instead of standard practice or best practice, the complexity of the problem required emergent teaching practices. It was digital acceleration on steroids and it forced us to reckon with the question, how do we learn fast?
Distance Learning Key Themes from Students
“I liked sleeping in and having a lot of time in the morning and afternoon.”
“What I enjoyed about distance learning was how we could manage our time, whether we wanted to finish our work all at once or a little later in the day, I really enjoyed that.”
“I am quite annoyed that we aren’t allowed to bring our computers in, I think it’s impractical and inconvenient, seeing as though the majority of our school resources are online.”
“There was way more work set when doing distance learning and it was too much to handle.”
“I appreciate being able to see my friends now.”
“I appreciate the face to face learning with teachers and classmates.”
Distance Learning Key Themes from Teachers
“The added flexibility to balance work and home was fantastic.”
“It accelerated the integration of technology into our teaching and learning.”
“I disliked checking student work and marking. It took significantly longer.”
“I appreciate being able to speak with staff and students face to face now.”