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How teachers are keeping all students engaged during COVID-19

We hope this finds you well. As of today, schools and students across Australia are experiencing their teaching and learning in a myriad of ways. The best adjective to describe it all is ‘blended’. And in some schools where students are both learning remotely while others are learning face-to-face, teachers effectively have two jobs. We hope that all school staff – teachers, administrators and leaders are finding moments during these demanding times to take care of themselves. Burnout is a risk for teachers at the best of times, let alone during these recent months of upheaval. But there is a hint of cautious optimism in the air as schools welcome back students – either full time or staggered. We’re all hoping it continues.

We want to help schools stay connected to their parent and caregiver communities during this global crisis. School Stream has launched a free School Crisis Communication tool for schools who do not have a communication appRegister your interest here. 

This week on School Stream, we are looking at some of the creative ways teachers are connecting with their students while they’re homeschooling and ensuring continuity of learning for both home and face-to-face learners.

Where the old meets the new

Across the board, there has been a meeting of no-tech and old-tech during recent times. As the news hit that our lives were about to become very different for the foreseeable future, it was close to impossible to get your hands on a puzzle, a bike, chalk or a bread-maker as demand soared for stay-at-home activities. Nurseries were home-delivering seedlings and bookshops could not keep up with demand as reading and gardening became lockdown mainstays. At the same time, we all got on board with video-conferencing, live streaming concerts, online fitness classes and just about anything else that could go digital. The demand for television streaming services also surged with 15 million people joining one of the most popular platforms in April. This confluence of no-tech and new tech seems to have been mirrored in education practices as well. Teachers have moved heaven and earth to accommodate all their students and, while we’ve all heard the term ‘pivot’ plenty during the past few months, few have had to pivot more significantly than schools. While there have been plenty of obstacles during this period, there were also plenty of creative solutions being shared among teachers as soon as those obstacles arose. The result is a truly blended outcome that has been a meeting of no-tech and high-tech.

Keeping kids connected to learning & community the old-school way

Assigning pen pals to classmates and sending home work-packs to students without internet access has been crucial in keeping students feeling connected to their classmate, and has empowered them to maintain their learning. Work packs might sound like a simple strategy, but when it comes to the digital divide, it’s a significant action that acknowledges the reality that 40% of children in Australia do not have access to the internet at home. 

Live streaming classes

‘No man is an island’ and there are plenty of positive stories about teachers using technology to keep their class communities connected. We recently heard about a regional primary school in Australia that hosted a music class via video conferencing, which resulted in 15 kindergarten students raucously singing together. There are also plenty of ‘News Day’ type activities taking place using this technology to keep students’ spirits lifted through connection to their class and learning. 

Encouraging learning opportunities at home

Dr Deborah Price is a Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education and Wellbeing at the University of South Australia’s Education Futures academic unit and president of the Australian Curriculum Studies Association (ACSA). She says of home learning:

‘The best learning includes linking authentic, engaging and purposeful household activities with learning experiences – gardening, cooking, painting, building, cleaning, redesigning rooms, and shopping, for example,’ Teacher Magazine 24 April 2020

It’s not news to teachers that ‘authentic’ activities create an engaging learning experience for students and they have been making the most of this while students are learning from home. Making artwork like mandalas from collected leaves and flowers, using chalk to write out the spelling list words in rainbow colours on the footpath, using clocks around the house to teach time-related maths concepts, helping write shopping lists for recipes, baking, counting objects around the house and having students design scavenger hunts for their classmates, are examples of activities teachers are using “…to provide a rich experience to all learners who are now without ‘traditional’ teachers standing beside them in classes.” Amy Rheault-Heafield, Edutopia 24 March 2020

Schools using tech to support families & caregivers

We do not want to ‘toot our own horn’ too much, but a school communication app like School Stream is very useful in supporting families and caregivers while they are running ‘home school’. We shared our top tips on how schools can use School Stream to help their community on our blog. For many parents, this will be the first time they have been involved in their child’s education in a hands-on way. A mobile communication app can keep parents in the loop by sending alerts with links to timetables and other crucial support tools, as well as get the message out to parents who speak a language other than English at home.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our overview of the ways teachers are working to include all students during these challenging times. 

We want to help schools get through these uncertain times by providing a reliable and robust communication tool. We’re here to support you and are available via Live Chat​ if you have any questions. Thank you for your ongoing support. Take care.