Learning in Endemic Management

As a school we are preparing for the inevitable that we will be hit with the Omicron variant. It is not a matter of if but a matter of when. Part of preparation is understanding what endemic management is when talking about learning. Covid 19 disease has reached the endemic stage in New Zealand. This means that the  virus continues to exist in our community but is becoming manageable as immunity builds. As a school we have looked back at what worked when we were in pandemic lock down and what we have learned on the journey that we have been on together. The greatest learning is the systems and processes we have in place and that the whole school cannot rely on one person. Everyone has to rise to the challenge and help with the workload. The other important factor is not having all knowledge with one person but sharing and communicating so that if one member goes down, there is someone else who can pick up the baton and carry on.

The new norm involves wearing masks to school and therefore students miss out on facial cues from peers and the teacher. Many of our families have been anxious about their children missing out on normal life experiences. There are ongoing concerns about the increase of using screens for learning  and about growing up in a socially distanced face to face environment. Keep in mind that not all screen time is equal. Not all synchronous learning online is equal. A classic example is a teacher streaming a video during an online lesson. The video lagged.

I continually struggle with some expectations that online learning is synchronous. That teachers pick up their video cameras and live stream a ‘normal’ lesson. How many of you have registered for a training session in real time but not attended. You waited for the video link to become available then fast forward in 1.5 times? Even better if they used youtube as a hosting platform, then the text can be quickly read.

Schools are a stabilising force for our families. In this time of uncertainty our school is there to anchor and support our families. Each day we return home grateful and hoping that no one was sick today.

The greatest impact of moving into the endemic stage is on learning.  Our school returned after the Christmas holidays to what the new normal is becoming. However we cannot return to how we have always done ‘learning’. In some ways we have put into action the learning we have carried out on what learning at home is.

How can we successfully teach online if we have not taken part in being an online learner ourselves. To do this step successfully meant ensuring that our teachers and support staff were equipped with the devices and the digital online tools to support our learners in the new normal. We have a school expectation that our teachers will learn how to use the online tools for learning and be certified in this process. A key strategy was encouraging all our teachers to be online learners themselves. They do this by completing the Hapara Champion Educator training. I believe that the greatest learning space is between the teacher’s ears. If teachers have not experienced being an online learner themselves then they will be continually challenged to provide the online learning for their students. This is evident in sparse workspaces for some classes. They are full of learning activities and omit the purpose and assessment criteria.

I have been watching the word Hybrid Learning brandied around as if it is a new concept. I have read that online learning experience should be as near normal as the face2face learning as possible. However maybe I still have much to learn because I query this even from great business models such as Amazon. Amazon does not have a storefront where you can go and preview items for purchase. I believe that the most effective teachers are those that have a vast knowledge of instructional strategies, technologies, tools, and resources, and can masterfully build meaningful relationships with students in-person and through a screen. We do not need to add the word Hybrid to learning or to teachers to have a ‘new way’ of learning.

The purpose of learning virtually and face2face

Teachers must be clear about the purpose of synchronous and asynchronous learning. 

Are we ready for those who are immunocompromised, uncomfortable or unable to return to in-person learning due to potential COVID-19 risks? Currently we can feel the push for remote teaching as well as traditional brick-and-mortar classroom teaching during endemic management. Can teaching in person face to face and virtually at the same time work?

There are some really good youtube videos to watch from teachers overseas who have successfully managed to do both.

Some of the tips reinforced include

  • Focus on running your total class digitally online with a focus on student participation rather than watching the teacher. Therefore shelf those synchronous Zoom/Meet/Team lessons.
  • Virtual students watching a teacher in class does not work. No matter how many cameras are used to help. Therefore do not try to replicate that reading or writing lesson for virtual learners.
  • Ensure a well set up workspace with learning intentions and assessment criteria using rubrics. Make sure this is easily accessible to the students.
  • There needs to be a home site where all spaces link off from so that students and families can find everything they need in one place.
  • Leverage all our online tools so there is consistency in how we operate.
  • Highlight asynchronous teaching and keep building and developing skills already learnt during previous lockdowns.
  • Other teachers have already been through the process so talk to colleagues on social media. Most are willing to share how they managed the process.
  • Keep creating those hyperdocs and choice boards that the students can complete entirely on their own.
  • Make use of paid tools such as seesaw and reading eggs with lessons and activities already created.
  • Make use of other teachers’ lessons and examples on Flipgrid and Book Creator. These can be easily adapted for our classes.
  • Make use of collaborative tools to encourage cocreation of learning such as Book Creator, Padlet, Jamboard, Google Apps.

If schools continue to push for synchronous lessons, then we will continue to be challenged with late comers or stopping the lesson to solve access issues for some students.

Remote teaching as well as traditional brick-and-mortar classroom teaching synchronously is extremely difficult to pull off. Speaking from a TeachMeetNZ experience I needed to take my learners through 4x times in order to produce a simple 3 minute video presentation in real time.

The message I read from our overseas colleagues is:

Always start with a whole class activity that is transparent and encourages participation. Use Jamboard or padlet or a shared file so that students can contribute in real time. At the same time this does not have to happen every day. Provide most of the instructions asynchronously. Be cautious about delievery of instructions. For example I have seen pages and pages of written instructions for our families to follow and I have seen a simple video with screenshots. Keep synchronous instructions to a minimum and use these as a check in rather than for learning.

Plan horizontally so that students do not rely on a sequential completion of order of activities and set up the online classroom for virtual and face2face students as asynchronous stations.

Once students have moved through all the stations, then move to an independent activity. Allow stations for peer collaboration. Face2face as well as virtual. The tools are available for coconstruction and collaboration.

Use workspaces to ensure you can jump in and out of students’ folios. Seeing your whole class deck in real time is of vital importance and again Hapara does this so well.

Seesaw and Hapara allow you to give feedback and to send work back for revisiting or if incomplete.

Spend money on high quality instructional programmes especially if your school is at the stage where every student has a 1:1 device. Just a note here and remember to have some way of monitoring activity in real time.

Choose not to spend money on cameras and mics etc as this focusses students on observation. Choose not to spend time on synchronous lessons. Teachers are not at the front. The focus is student participation. They participate via stations of learning. Have students show and explain their learning using digital whiteboards like Jamboard. Flipgrid is fabulous too for the students to explain their learning.

Continue to invest money in teaching teachers to use the technology and encourage them to complete their certification in becoming a more adept user of the technology by building skills in how to use them through certification.

Before the endemic management we were in the pandemic lockdown for home learning. We rolled with the expectations and upskilled at an exponential rate. In those earlier online lessons with teachers I remember the horror of what was expected from them. As the pandemic days stretched into weeks our teachers and students rose to the challenge and I was so proud of what was achieved. 

In this next endemic management stage we cannot return to just face2face learning. Everything is uncertain but what is certain is that learning must continue. I believe we can use this opportunity to finetune what we already do so that we can cater both for our virtual students as well as face2face students. This begins with a well designed workspace.

What am I still wondering

What does this learning workspace look like for our junior learners?

How will our special needs learners cope?

How do we ensure our workspaces are built effectively so that as the students complete tasks that the next level of the workspace opens up?

Where will we host the home page so that all workspaces link to the home page?

What feedback have we had from families reagrding supporting students accessing learning virtually?

What other forms of online professional learning should we consider? Suggest to providers to also come up with stations of activities for participation so that not all learning is attending a Zoom as this focuses on observation.

Question Generator 
Link to the online app. (cost and worth every cent because using the app saves me so much time and always helps clarify my thinking)

Define & describe school endemic management (EM)

Where did the term originate?

Key feature of school endemic management?

What steps led to EM?

How would we organise EM?

How does EM affect learning?

What opportunities does EM provide?

Short term outcome for EM?

Practical applications for EM?

Before EM what did we do?

Consequence of EM? 

What is the essence of EM?

What I still do not know??

Whose voice can I not hear?

What possibilities need to be eliminated with EM?

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