19 Mar 2020

Covid-19: How does home-based school learning work?

From Checkpoint, 5:49 pm on 19 March 2020

Some work places have been trialing working from home but what about our schools?

Auckland Grammar has been rolling out trials for each year group to spend a day at home this week.

English teacher Charlotte Forsten's year 11 students are at home and taking part in a virtual classroom on their laptops and tablets.

"Our focus is simply on making sure we're producing resources that best replicate the experience they would get at school," she told Checkpoint.

"They do maybe lose some of the discursive benefits of a classroom, especially in my subject, but insofar as possible we're trying to mitigate that with various online platforms to provide a proxy for that experience."

Around 1500 students are taking part in the working from home trial. Year 10s on Wednesday, Year 11s Thursday and Year 9s Friday. But as some of them are not yet fourteen, the legal age to stay at home, caregivers may have to take the day off and join them.

Auckland Grammar's e-learning director Chris Dunn said the day should be treated as normal, with no slacking.  

"Here yesterday, 120 logins, and what teachers are doing today is viewing those logins and checking their roll against these kids.

"There needs to be accountability, it's really important that teachers follow through with classroom norms and the expectation of work that happens inside the classroom on a normal day-to-day face-to-face interaction also happens online."

He said the key is have the resources at home so students can do the work.

"A big one for me is the digital divide – kids who don't have internet at home for whatever reason. We need to be really proactive in that area. It would be fantastic to see direct targeted support for people in that situation so we can ensure our young learners have the tools they need to get through all of this."

So far the trial has been successful for most subjects, but not all. Sarah Blewett is the head of Art and technology - subjects she says need to be hands on.

"Students who are often put out of their comfort zone in trying new skills are less likely to try those skills when they're not with the teacher. So we can make sure they are learning those things in the classroom but if they don't feel confident, they shy away from it.

"I don't think anything will replace learning in the classroom, that is always the best opportunity for learning."

If things get worse, this could be the new normal for students and teachers nationwide.