Over the past six weeks, we’ve seen tremendous growth, problem-solving and reflection from our community as we embrace the new normal that is a 100% online learning environment. But let’s be honest. Online learning is definitely not without its challenges. One significant challenge during this time has included how to maintain connection, communication and engagement between students and teachers scattered across the globe.
So just how are AISG faculty rising to meet the challenge of a 100% online learning environment and what are they learning as a result?
High School English teacher, Jess Barga, says she thrives on human contact even more than she realized. Initially, she found herself overcompensating for the online environment “through torrents of words and complicated advice—making it impossible to give meaningful feedback to the number of students I need to support.”
However, Jess discovered a much more satisfying way to replace in-person instruction is through video conferencing with groups of students and the colleagues she shares different courses with. “The feedback from students after these meetings is unanimously positive. The instruction that takes place during such conferences is probably no richer than it is when we communicate via e-mail or other written formats, but the actual psychological takeaway is much greater for me, and from what I can tell, for them. It's also rewarding to have a back-and-forth discussion about our content with my colleagues in front of students: it models the kind of academic exchange we want our students to do with each other.”
Grade 7 Social Studies teacher, Tracy Hill, says conversations with students are central to her classroom community as well and believes online learning has brought about unexpected benefits for some students.
“I never quite realized how much I need this on a daily basis and how much I depend on my students for this dialogue… I have also observed some students chatting online who never talked this much in class. That shows me how the online platform can give a voice to some of our more hesitant students. Anytime we can give a voice to our students is a win for all of us.”
Understandably, the shift towards an online learning environment has also helped teachers strengthen their understanding and use of educational tools and technology in support of student learning.
AISG’s Physical Education department use Flip Grid, a video discussion platform, to check the learning progress of students and have also seen parents play a starring role in some of the video tasks from the P.E department.
“By capturing clips of the dances through Flip Grid, we have noticed some family members supporting student learning by dancing alongside the student. This is great to see,” says Adam Tomassen, Middle and High School PE / Health Teacher.
Preschool teacher, Heather Kim, believes the professional growth she’s experiencing during this time has been invaluable.
“Just looking at how other teachers utilize different apps to engage their students has been a very authentic professional development for me. Going through unpredictable technical issues has pushed me to try and learn how to use new applications to actively solve the problems and better meet the students’ needs.”
Our Grade 2 team have been impressed at how resilient students are and just how quickly they’ve adapted to an online environment while keeping a positive attitude and that “as tiring as the school day can get with a million questions from 8-year-olds, it is also never boring!”
Their advice to parents?
“We are sure you are finding it challenging, so are we! We are all in this together and the only way we can know what is working and what isn't is if you tell us. We really appreciate all the parent involvement this month… [parents] taking the time to fill out our reflections has helped us improve and make changes to our online learning program!”
As we enter our seventh week of online learning at AISG, it’s important to take time to celebrate the progress and learning we’re undertaking together as a school community.
Our community understands that growth never occurs when things are easy. Real growth comes when we face challenges. After all, that’s what the Ram Nation spirit is all about.