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6 Key Lessons Learned During the Lockdown
By Dr. Saadia Asif

In Chapterhouse Blog we have analyzed 6 key lessons learned during the lockdown. Tiring. Tedious and.at times, even terrifying, 2020 has been a testing time for everybody. The education sector has been hit especially hard, in fact, we can’t remember a time when educational institutions have been shut down for so long. But you can never really keep a good educator down, and around the world we have seen creative minds use the technology of the day to keep students and parents connected

As schools slowly begin to move towards reopening, it is important to take a look back at the lessons learnt during the lockdown. There are many reasons for doing so, but chief among them is the realization that the next lockdown is only a COVID spike away from us. Here are the 6 key lessons learned during the lockdown:

Lesson 1: Technology Cannot Solve All Our Problems

One of the first lessons learnt is that in a developing country like ours, a simple technological solution is not really an option. Access to the internet is erratic at the best of times, but the increasing load of online learning, made it an even bigger challenge. Simply moving classes online is not an option. They must be supported by a combination of online recordings and materials that students can access at their own pace, as well as printed materials to be used by those students who are unable to make it online or even access online materials.

 

Lesson 2: Classroom Learning Cannot Be Moved Online Without Adaptation

In the early days of the shutdown, many online classes were created with the idea of simply taking what we did in the classroom and moving it online. As we have discussed Chapterhouse Student Journey in Chapterhouse Blog. But this approach is inherently flawed. Classes must be adapted to suit the medium we are using and the environment in which it is operating.
a) Make sure your students can see you. It is impossible to fully engage with a disembodied voice.
b) Keep the class, interactive – ask questions and demand answers. Poor audio and visual quality may interfere, but it is critical to effective engagement
c) Set your ground rules at the start of the class. Establish the etiquette you want to see and then enforce it.
d) Create your lesson plans based on the attention spans of your students. Longer classes may feel intuitively more productive, but in reality may actually reduce learning.
e) Create recorded versions of your lessons and post them so that students can access the information when they need it.
f) Always check-in with your students to make sure that they are actually absorbing what you are teaching. This is a much bigger challenge online, but without it, your efforts and theirs are liable to be wasted.

 

Lesson 3: Revisiting The Curriculum

The pandemic shutdown has provided most of us with an opportunity to take a long, hard look at our curriculum. As educators we strive to be creative, but it is easy to fall into a rut and do things because “that is the way we have always done things”. The shutdown has forced all of us to take a long hard look at how we do things. A few things to keep in mind for the future are:
a) Recognize the importance of comprehension rather than learning. Unless students truly understand what they are doing, they struggle to retain it in the hours and days after class.
b) Make ICT a cornerstone of your academic program, being able to understand and use technology has been a critical factor behind why some students have thrived and others fallen behind during this period.
c) Use STEM to create mixed lessons that bring together Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths in online lessons. By helping students use everyday household objects to work out these challenges, we can drive effective engagement.
d) In core subjects like English, Urdu, Maths and Science we must develop a more visual approach – one that engages all the senses. By using real life examples and activities to illustrate concepts (rather than slavishly following textbooks) we can develop lesson plans that engage the whole brain.
All this means that we mist include not only formal sources like online dictionaries and encyclopedias, but also fun videos, engaging podcasts, audio exercises, colourful animations on all types of subject matter, interactive games of every description so that virtual learning spaces that can be modified to suit unique needs.

 

Lesson 4: Greater Student Autonomy

One of the most significant things that we have learnt is that the lack of direct access to students means that we as educators have to learn to trust them more. Students have an opportunity to stretch their intellectual muscles as they have to learn to rely less on the teacher and more or their own capabilities. In many ways, this has been one of the hardest lessons to learn and will continue to challenge teachers and parents for the foreseeable future. One way to do this is to take this approach back to the classroom – give students more autonomy in terms of how they tackle their work. By nurturing children’s natural curiosity and providing them with the opportunities to explore and discover, we can produce more active thinkers and doers.

 

Lesson 5: Maintaining Relationship Amongst Students And With Teachers

This is one of the important key lessons learned during the lockdown. Perhaps the toughest challenge of the online classroom the world over has been to maintain a sense of community. How do we provide a feeling of genuine connection between teachers and students and between students and peers in the absence of face-to-face interactions? There are no easy answers to this conundrum. But here are a few things we can do:
a) Use a Homeroom (Class) Teacher to provide instruction for core subjects. The continuity of the teacher creates a sense of belonging and safety that is transferrable between a face to face and online classroom setting.

b) Create opportunities like mini projects and online breakouts to drive monitored peer to peer interactions. By giving students these managed opportunities we can help maintain a foundation for students to come back to school with a sense of belonging and comfort with their classmates.

 

Lesson 6: Small Truly Is Beautiful

Last but not the least, the hurdles of conducting lessons online highlighted more brightly than ever before that small truly is beautiful. We have seen that online teaching and learning can only take place effectively in small group settings where student-teacher ratios are carefully calibrated so that teachers can wholeheartedly and adequately play the multiple roles of mothering, befriending and disciplining their pupils. Chapterhouse is proud to be one such school. We have always insisted that in terms of student numbers ‘less is more’ and are happy to offer the best student-teacher ratios in the country because we truly believe that only in such settings can a teacher come to think of her little classroom as a family and consider each child as her own.
In Conclusion…
As we move towards returning to face to face instruction, the task ahead is two-fold. First we must take these lessons with us into our classrooms to make sure that each and every one of our students benefits from a more focused, blended learning approach. Secondly, we must continue to develop our online skill set so that if we do face the same challenge again, we are better prepared and ready to ensure the best possible outcome for our students. So these were the key lessons learned during lockdown. You can have a look at Chapterhouse blog in order to read all the posts.