Lessons in lockdown learning: How schools can cope better now
By Edwell Gumbo
After reopening briefly, public schools across the country have had to face the reality of shutting down again for four weeks from 27 July as the COVID-19 pandemic escalates.
While this is to protect learners and teachers, the reality is that it further creates a very disruptive learning environment.
This is why it’s now time for schools to adapt and ensure that their distance learning systems and approaches to e-learning are up to scratch, so that no child is left behind.
Amid a series of case studies that we’ve conducted, we’ve identified five key points of advice that other schools and teachers can take into consideration during the next four weeks when it comes to ongoing distance learning setups.
More structure at home
During this lockdown period, teachers have told us that one thing that has helped them is trying to create more structure in the home learning environment. For example, some schools have said that they’ve followed a normal school timetable during the lockdown, as close as is reasonably possible. Teachers have also said that they have found it beneficial to send a complete lesson plan to the learners beforehand. This has helped children put their learning into context while also enabling teachers to mix up live webinars with pre-recorded lessons.
Less is more
Having said the above, teachers and principals have also said that a balance needs to be struck between structure and flexibility. One of the big feedback points is that less is more. For example, teachers have told us that a 10-minute lesson on video can feel equal to a normal lesson in the classroom that’s 40 minutes long. When considering that no time is spent when it comes to changing classes or completing an attendance register, not much lesson time is lost if these digital lessons are shorter.
Many teachers have also carried out assessments at the end of each digital lesson. The purpose of these assessments is to see if the learners attended and understood the lesson. It then also serves as an attendance list.
Invest in the development of teachers and technology
It’s clear that schools will have to invest in the development of their teachers to make sure that quality distance education can be carried out practically. Teachers need to equip themselves with a new array of skills, whether it’s learning how to operate webinar software or using different types of e-learning platforms.
In addition, schools have to invest in technology to get their network and infrastructure right.
Finally, communication is critical in our current schooling landscape. It’s more important than ever to regularly communicate with parents and learners, especially now that public schools are having to close down again. It will give parents and learners peace of mind, as well as a sense of direction for what is to come.
In closing, I’d like to wish all the schools the best of luck in navigating these challenging times. I hope they can continue the admirable work in keeping our children safe and learning at the same time.
Edwell Gumbo is the MD of Optimi Classroom, a company that assists schools in gearing up for an e-learning environment, whether it’s through their ITSI e-learning platform – which equips schools with a wide array of top-quality digital learning tools — or through their digital facilitation programmes which help teachers boost their learning-delivery. When it comes to training, Optimi Classroom also offers professional development programmes that upskill teachers on topics such as blended learning and the flipped classroom. Teachers even get Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) points from the South African Council for Educators (SACE) for attending this training.