Online Learning

NEWS 27 Aug 2021

Last week was the first real test of the preparation we had put in place for possible lockdown and online learning scenarios. The announcement of the Greater Darwin lockdown in just over 1-hour was a event we were ready for but when it became an actual reality, it really galvanised our wonderful community. As is well known, across Australia schools have experienced interruptions to learning and life in every state and territory, although the extent and period of closures have varied significantly across jurisdictions. In early May, only 3 percent of children in Victorian government schools were in attendance, whereas the Northern Territory had returned to normal levels of 79 per cent. It was hard not to think about our southern counterparts who at the same time we were entering a mere 72 hours of lockdown, were entering their 200th day of lockdown since the pandemic began.

For a long period of time now, Haileybury Rendall School has been making sensible practical changes to the way we operate, encouraging good hygiene, practising physical distancing in Boarding, and more recently requiring families to check-in via The Territory Check-In app. But we were proud of the way our whole school community responded so sensibly and positively to the swift move to home-based online learning last week. Our skilled IT support staff and amazing teachers swung into action, spending Tuesday ensuring that Zoom links were embedded in SEQTA and that synchronous lessons were going to encourage participation and be engaging. The creativity and sense of fun subsequently created online ensured that wellbeing and positivity remained high over the 48- hour period and that high expectations were maintained, as evidenced by the conduct of our students online and the feedback from families.

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A particularly vivid memory that will stay in my mind was the long line of boarders walking up to school to begin Day 1 of online learning. It looked like peak-hour at Central or Flinders St Station, with students all walking in step dressed immaculately in casual attire, laptops slung very professionally over shoulders, focussed only on grabbing a healthy breakfast before arriving at ‘work’ on-time to log into their first Zoom ‘meeting’.

Admittedly, our experience online was short when compared to our colleagues in other states, however, we certainly have a great starting point from which to build and improve. There are exciting possibilities, for instance, there is certainly potential to deliver to remote community students returning to Country for ceremonies and events, and perhaps even to students who might miss school due to a range of life events that may present over time. But there are also a number of important questions we must consider as we move ahead – How do we ensure those that are challenged by a lack of connectivity keep in touch? What role should technology play in the delivery of T-12 education and how is, and will, the technological landscape evolve to meet this role? What should the School and teachers do to keep pace? How can student support, wellbeing and engagement be improved, and social isolation be avoided, if modes other than those in the classroom are increasingly used? How can we ensure our teachers are empowered and supported to leverage opportunities? It’s a new time and landscape in education.

We look forward to continuing to explore the evidence and experiences of schools across Australia in order to innovate using the systems available to create best practice, flexible, learning experiences for the students and families of Haileybury Rendall School.