Welcome to TELLAL's Virtual Learning Guide!

THERE'S NEVER A QUARANTINE ON LEARNING

With schools going into temporary shut-down and parents perhaps into shock our immediate response was to ask what can we do to help parents, students, teachers and their leaders to cope in this unprecedented moment for the world.

How could we make sure that the learning doesn’t stop too? Could we turn adversity into opportunity? After all in life, it’s often adversity that’s our greatest teacher.

So yesterday morning I got my whole team together to brainstorm: “What is necessary and what is possible as teaching moves out, for a while, from the classroom and into the home?” Get those right we thought and suddenly doing the impossible, learning without going to school is not only possible but will create new learning for everyone involved. Parents become better home schoolers, teachers truly harnessing the new powers of digital and students learning the power of self-organising and staying in touch without touching as we are all learning to do.

On a further positive note, considerable evidence shows that periods of extreme adversity foster innovation. The UAE Government school’s proposed home-teaching programme called Learn from Afar could be an example of this. I’m very confident that we will see inspiring ways of virtual learning in our private schools, in setting up their own distance-learning programmes or expanding their existing e-learning tools. Out of such self-organizing behaviors, a new order for teaching and learning will emerge. And, in my view, there will be no going back.

At the TELLAL Institute we have been thinking about how we might help both teachers and parents in these unprecedented times. We asked ourselves; “What will be keeping parents awake at night?; “How do I create a home school environment for my child or what does virtual learning look like?”. Or, as teachers, “How can we adapt the curriculum online - ensuring quality and consistency and how do we communicate the adapted curriculum to the parents?”.

Students too will likely be stressing about how to cope with their parents; keeping in touch with their friends and preparing for exams. With these concerns in mind TELLAL has designed a select range of resources to support teachers and parents in intelligent and practical ways. Naturally, the resources are in both Arabic and English.

Key messages stemming from our collective thinking focus on:

  1. Living in the solution.
  2. Understanding the current environment.
  3. Sharing the problem.
  4. Sharing the support.

In considering all our efforts to contain the virus and Learn from Afar, it’s worthwhile drawing on some of the lessons learned from China, where, in order to help contain the epidemic, the ministry announced on Jan 27 that schools should delay the opening of the spring semester until further notice. It also called for "nonstop teaching and learning" and encouraged various online education methods. Insights gained from schools in China trying to restore education through online learning include:

  • Teachers have formed groups to learn best practices from each other, consult with technical staff, and master different kinds of online teaching platforms.
  • Some teachers are growing stressed dealing with the challenges of online teaching, including the lack of face-to-face interaction and sometimes unreliable technology. In the future, there is a need to better prepare teachers with ICT competency in advance, to ensure online teaching and learning can continue in another emergency.
  • To help bolster teachers’ ICT competency, there is a need to provide a one-stop online teaching and learning support platform to provide teachers with the technical information for ICT tools and platforms, general guideline for online teaching, practical education resources, and other support, including feedback for teachers’ questions and psychological support.
  • Online platforms should include multiple options for meeting practical teaching needs, such as synchronized video and voice for group learning and classroom interactions.
  • There is a need to rethink how education can be effective for students’ overall cognitive and non-cognitive development with e-learning.
  • There are challenges in teachers interacting with students through online education, as only a few teachers take students’ feelings and interests into account.

We hope that teachers, parents and school leaders all benefit from these resources and are enabled to successfully navigate the virtual teaching revolution.

Dr Linda RushSenior Vice PresidentTELLAL Institute

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