For both students and educators, the past year has been a difficult one. With the world unexpectedly locked down in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, the transition to an online learning arrangement has faced a host of challenges that, thankfully, the most dedicated educators have been able to overcome.
Domuschola International School (DISinternational-calibre )’s educators list the things they’ve learned from the transformation and how it’s broadened the reach of contemporary education.
The pandemic’s stressors, as well as the subsequent lockdowns, added a new dimension of instability that impacted not just the students, but also their parents. As a result, “well-being sessions” for students and their families are now included in contemporary e-Learning.
These meetings are mostly made up of group exercises and gatherings that include check-ins and interviews to gauge general emotions. They help people make real connections and find ways to make learning enjoyable and entertaining for all.
“It’s partly educational and partly therapeutic,” said Mark Francisco, Head of Guidance at DIS. “Mental health is a huge part of learning. Students and families with such struggles will have a much harder time to learn. Taking away some of those strains and struggles ensure that what we teach to the students are retained well,” Francisco continued.
Students have a harder time concentrating on their lessons in a remote education environment, according to a school year’s worth of online courses. Teachers have changed their respective curricula to be more centered and succinct, in addition to empowering families to eliminate distractions.
“Through the past year we have adjusted our lessons to fill the gaps in learning to make sure that no student is left behind,” Jourdan Gan, DIS’ Head of School, said. “With more concise lessons, we can maximize the time in which the students are engaged and lessen opportunities for distraction,” Gan added.
During the pandemic, the Zoom Meeting application has become the most common video conferencing software, allowing people to collaborate and learn from home. Despite their success, video conferencing platforms are not without flaws. Via systematic study and implementation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) into the real world, educators have found several more technologies that they can use to enrich the learning environment.
Flip Grid, a social media education tool, has made completing school exercises and reports easier; Pinterest has been a good source of artistic activity inspiration; and Google Classroom encourages students and teachers to share files more easily. The International Baccalaureate program, which is taught to students as young as the primary level — a landmark for international schools in the Philippines — personifies and represents this kind of diversified approach to learning.
The pre-pandemic notion of learning was always viewed as a service; schools were service providers and parents/students are the customers. According to Bambi R. Fernandez de Castro, Head of Administration of DIS, the paradigm has drastically shifted and education is now more partnership-oriented. “The schools, families, and students now have a deeper grasp of the challenges that each party faces,” Fernandez de Castro clarified. “Inclusive and thoughtful education as in the Enhanced Learning program goes beyond the four walls of the classroom, and takes stock of what needs to be addressed before barrelling forward,” they further explained. “This helps all three stakeholders, the schools, the families, and the students, build a space for learning that is tailored to their needs and capabilities.”
All parties use this space to learn important lessons that help them navigate a pandemic-influenced landscape.
If there are one lesson educators have learned from grappling with the pandemic on the operational side, it’s to be ready for something. Fernandez de Castro added, “Preparation was crucial in making the transition to online learning relatively painless.” “We had time to anticipate how things would improve in the next year since the first lockdown came fortuitously close to the end of the school year,” she said.
Fernandez de Castro added that, while there were no definite answers back then, they knew that they had to ensure that their ICT facilities were in good shape, especially in terms of data security and privacy. Another major consideration for DIS was the health and safety of the staff, teaching or otherwise, as well as their continued upskilling. It is this kind of readiness that makes DIS confident that they are ready for almost any eventuality.
“More than just skills, however, what makes the DIStance Learning Program a success is the positive attitudes of the teachers when we shifted to online learning,” she emphasized. “The wellspring of care and compassion that they have drawn from in order to accommodate the trials and challenges of these uncertain times is truly inspiring, and what we as educators feel is the real differentiator of this program as compared to other learning arrangements..”