Virtually normal: sustaining engagement in e-learning
It is over a month now since nearly all Orbital schools moved to eLearning. In the first few days it was a change for everyone, however we were delighted at how quickly staff, students and parents adapted to this new way of working and learning. But, at the back of our minds we recognised two things: that this new approach was going to be much more of a marathon than a sprint and, that the longer the global lock down continued the more pressure it would put on everyone, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Although we cannot solve all issues associated with this pandemic, what we can do is our utmost to ensure that your children are always engaged and learning during the day, removing at least one pressure from current family life. But, once the novelty wears off, how do we ensure that this remote way of learning continues to deliver high quality learning and engagement?
Our teachers’ work has changed to meet the new learning needs.
Although now not as visible, our teachers focus has changed considerably as they write, plan and adapt lessons to ensure they can be delivered virtually so your child is meeting all the key stages of learning. Lessons are then being quality reviewed by school leaders and our educational experts at Head Office to ensure that consistency is delivered across the schools.
Derek Laidlaw, our Principal at Oryx International School explains the changes teams have made. “We always strive to offer levels of pastoral support equal to our academic provision and this is something which presents more challenges when working in a virtual learning environment. The lack of face to face ‘in-person’ contact is even more keenly felt by students who benefit from some additional support. Our SEND and EAL teams are working very hard to maintain contact and to continue to support both individuals and small groups of students.
Routine - replicate the normal school day as much as possible
This is vital to enable children to adjust and have a clear focus each day. All weekly timetables are published with lessons following a similar routine to what they are used to. It also enables parents to plan as we know this can be a challenging time as people adjust to working from home.
Introducing new ideas and formats each week
It is vital that we balance the routine with exciting and new topics and ways of learning,
Lowri Millar, Principal of Sant Agusti in Mallorca said “we are fortunate to have such a creative team with a full range of technical tools available, but the answer to long term engagement is to pace these ideas. By releasing new and creative ideas each week we will do our best to ensure that every week the children have something new to look forward to.” We were delighted to receive this feedback from one of our parents:
"May I congratulate you and your team for creating a safe and fun environment for our children to continue with their education during this very tough time. My daughter (Year 8) is positively beaming after each lesson. She is so much happier now school has started again after the holidays and the live lessons are a big hit.
Providing increased 1-2-1 support
“The teacher-student relationship is pivotal to successful and enjoyable learning” said Emma Newman, Principal at British School Quito “and not being able to access them so frequently can provide a real barrier to both engagement and development. That’s why we will continue to increase our small group and 1-2-1 support – so your child can interact more with their teacher via video conference and get the support and guidance they need.”
We will also be increasing our class chats – vital for the students to interact as a group and to ensure they do not feel isolated and part of their ‘class team’
"The teachers have done a tremendous job adapting to this unprecedented global event. I'm really impressed with the degree of feedback each teacher has provided each of my children."
Extra tasks to ensure your child is stretched
Children work at their own pace therefore it is vital that those who would normally fly through their work have plenty to keep them occupied and challenged to enable them to continue to grow and develop. Neil McGarry, Principal of Britannica International School in Budapest said “that’s why when setting tasks for each subject we always offer an extension activity as we would in the classroom and also provide a whole range of other fun resources that children can tap into at their own pace to develop at their own rate.”
Ensure that are plenty of ‘after school activities’
As many of our children stay after school to enjoy a whole range of activities it is vital that we also provide further ideas and activities to keep engagement up after the official school time has finished. Through our online platform your child will be able to access a variety of different activities, games, and tasks to keep them occupied. Also watch out for new ‘House Games’ to get the whole family engaged with competitions and quizzes.
Supporting you – our parents too
Finally, as many of our staff are parents too, we know what a stressful time this can be on the whole family so watch out for our parent tips on your school website and social media. We aim to cover a whole range of topics from keeping safe online to breathing exercises to help with relaxation to brain food and studying tips. If there are topics that you think we are missing, and you could do with some advice on please let your school know.