Distance Learning

SUPPORTING SCHOOLS TO DEVELOP MEANINGFUL LEARNING ONLINE

This site has been created to guide educators in coming to grips with distance learning. We have collated information to help you get through the process as well as provide essential links to information from MOE and others sources such as Google.

A guide to Distace Learning in NZ Schools

From: Principal Matters Issue 10, 2 April 2020

Kia ora e te whānau

As we anticipate the second week of school holidays, our attention will turn to preparations for term 2. We are encouraged to plan for our students and their learning.

Let’s not make the mistake of thinking this is business as usual for teaching and learning albeit from home rather than school. To do so would be to miss the significance of our current reality.

We are experiencing an international health crisis of a magnitude unheralded in our lifetimes. It has the potential to change the way we live forever. Focusing on keeping teaching and learning going as it always has, is the wrong approach. To do so would be to miss understanding the emotional and psychological impact of this crisis on people.

What is needed at this time is leadership that has emotional resonance. This is not a time for you to be a transactional leader singularly focused on how learning may continue. It is a time for you to metaphorically wrap your arms around the young people in your care and embrace their families too.

Some families are experiencing loss of employment; many are experiencing the stress of the whole family being underfoot day after day; and most are simply struggling with the challenge of a changed world-of isolation and uncertainty.

Our job at this time is to infuse any home learning plan with a deep sense of humanity.

To do that we need to recognise the context within which we now lead.

The airwaves are groaning with calls to move teaching and learning to remote online learning, and we have all been assailed by offers from technology and software companies keen to promote their products.

Do not let these offers distract you. Technology is not a pedagogy. It is an enabler and provides an opportunity for us to connect to our students and them to each other.

Pedagogy begins with your vision, your values and finds expression in your local curriculum. There are almost as many approaches to teaching and learning as there are schools in our broadly diverse country.

The important question is not what online learning resource is best for you, but how technology might support your kaupapa; your school’s approach to learning.

The vastly increased discussions within professional forums and Ministry of Education Bulletins have coalesced around the use of technology to bridge the absence of a teacher’s physical presence. This is a natural ‘first cab off the rank’ reaction but in no way should it be taken to mean that you are required to subjugate your pedagogy to technology. You are not required to transform your school into a COOL (Community Of Online Learning).

The Ministry of Education has a role, as the steward or overseer of education. In that role, they have curated home-learning suggestions, some of which might fit with your school’s pedagogy. You are the experts in the practice of teaching and learning so you will decide whether to adopt any of these home-learning suggestions.

I appreciate that some of you will be feeling hesitant right now and less confident than usual, because of the extraordinary circumstances that confront our nation. Teaching and learning, in the school environment, is one thing; remote teaching and learning is untrod ground for many of us.

When we feel insecure, it is easy to feel pressured and be influenced by the offerings of commercial providers and learning packages developed by the Ministry of Education.

This is when the Professional You steps forward! This is the time you go back to your school’s vision, values and local curriculum, and be confident about articulating your approach.

You don’t have to feel alone in this process. Reach out for help and ask questions. There are tools to help you implement your local curriculum remotely and they will come from multiple sources. Many schools are sharing their home-learning plans with each other and that is a wonderful thing. There is no perfect plan, each is unique. Contact your colleagues and ask them to share ideas with you – making sure you adopt only those ideas and approaches that fit with your school’s local curriculum.

Remember too that you are not expected to replicate the classroom in the home. Your teachers cannot possibly achieve that, and parents and caregivers are not trained teachers.

The number one goal of schooling currently is to nurture wellbeing.

Just as we know the value of strong relationships for successful learning and teaching, use this opportunity to help families nurture productive and supportive relationships in the home. Set challenges that are fun and engaging; involve parents, to facilitate building cooperation and quality relationships.

As you continue to support your students at home, I say, keep it simple; don’t over complicate it. Parents will thank you for a few tasks each day that build routines that the students themselves can manage.

Try to make learning opportunities creative and based on the experience of being in the home.

Use technology to stay connected and support learning, understanding that you will deploy it as a means to an end; it is not the end in itself.

Keep your Board of Trustees well-informed about how your home-learning plan speaks to your local curriculum. Boards are a vital link to our localised approach. We need them alongside us and supporting us in their governance role.

As we approach the start of Term 2, let’s celebrate the diversity of our schools and the different ways we support the learning of our tamariki. Let’s keep it real, be courageous and remember that our national education system is engaging in remote schooling for the first time ever. That is no small thing.

COVID -19 brings a new layer of stress in the fabric of our communities. Let’s enact educational leadership that is deeply sensitive to challenges families are experiencing. Nail it! We’ve got this.

Ngā manaakitanga

Perry Rush

perry@nzpf.ac.nz