Online Learning during COVID-19
2020 was a year of change and uncertainty. Educators had to adjust and be creative to support their student’s learning and wellbeing. With virtual learning, children may not have their usual opportunities to interact, socialise and engage with others and with extracurricular activities. Keeping them motivated to learn from home during this period of time can be challenging. Home is generally associated with spending time with family, playing games, sleeping, eating, watching television or relaxing. They have suddenly been asked to think of home as a place where their formal education takes place too. This psychological leap can be difficult to make. In a moment when we feel we do not have much control of the events unfolding around us, providing a sense of control and autonomy over our own learning can be powerful. To this end, NZSJ's academic team has designed a virtual learning program that is personalised and approachable for children.
Our people are composed of experienced teachers who have two additional characteristics that have set them up well to handle online teaching.
First, they are well versed in technology (some have undergone additional recent training) and know how to use technology to keep learning fun and engaging. We manage our online classrooms using a range of easy-to-use, intuitive online platforms depending on age. For learning, we use a mix of authentic materials and resources as well as established academic platforms like Khan Academy, Read Theory and RAZZ Kids.
Second, our teachers value personalized learning above all else. This means that, while other schools might be rigidly sticking to their curricula and chasing academic targets or trying to translate a physical play-based approach into an online programme, our teachers are focusing on individual student needs.
“I would like to say a big heartfelt THANK YOU for the fantastic support of the school over this past year, and in particular throughout this very different term 4 (AY 2019/2020) with exciting online learning and daily wonderful video chats!” - Karen Pesjak, Kindergarten Parent (2020)
Our programme, which is based on the child-centric New Zealand Curriculum, lends itself to this. It emphasizes differentiation and personalization and, in this regard, allows our teachers to teach class in groups while then making sure that each child – ahead or behind – is given the challenge and the support they require to do well.
Being enquiry and project-based, our programme also allows our students to direct their own learning, which works very effectively online. Students have a sense of control and autonomy over their own learning, which, in a time of uncertainty for our children, can be very powerful.
Finally, while we can’t yet see each other in person and have coffee in the lounge after drop-off in the morning, we continue to nurture our relationships through online educational seminars and coffee mornings for parents.
“The webinar was really insightful. Your talk makes me feel that NZSJ is the right place for my kids” - Grade 2 parent (2020)
While it is true that the requirement for schools to remain closed means that we can’t yet enjoy our multi-purpose courts and swimming pool, we are making our library available for kids to borrow books and our teachers often leave materials, resources and books in the lobby for pick up.
At NZSJ, we believe learning happens everywhere and not just in the classroom. Being forced to teach online has allowed our teachers to be even more creative and our students more capable than ever before. We truly believe the maxim that, out of every challenging situation, there is the chance to grow and online learning because of the pandemic has shown us that.
“My child is happy and excited to attend the online class” - Luwi Arifin, Grade 3 Parent (2020)