Distance Learning Term 2

8 April 2020

Below is the latest email sent to all parents/caregivers.

Kia ora koutou

I am writing this email specifically to parents and caregivers of students at Paraparaumu College.  I hope this finds you well as we head towards our third week of lockdown.  I know many of you will be wanting to know what learning will look like moving forward into Term 2, so this email outlines our plan for the first couple of weeks.

Firstly, thank you for your involvement in the trial Learning at Home Days at the end of last term. We appreciate the feedback we received at the conclusion of these. There were lots of positives and some key ideas that have helped us in our planning moving forward. I think there are some universal messages coming through from this trial which I’ve outlined below. I’ll pick up on many of these later:

· Clear communication is essential and parents need to be copied into email communication to students. Emails need to be short, concise and sent well in advance of learning. Feedback suggested putting Year level and subject in email header to help sorting.  Some families have students at different levels and knowing 12Bio from 9Sci is helpful.
· On communications, students and parents want clear outlines on what needs to be covered over the time – what are the learning outcomes?
· Simplicity and clarity around various platforms is crucial. Too many tools are overwhelming. This isn’t the time to get too flashy. We need to keep it simple initially and be consistent with how students access their learning in each class as we start out. Choose the tools that work for you and your students then stick with them for the initial phase.
· Face to face is important, touching base offers assurance to students and their families that someone is there and looking out for them. But face to face does not have to be long 10-15 minutes seems to be a preferred length. Long Zoom sessions of teacher to student teaching is not ideal.
· Zoom or Google Meet sessions scheduled in timetable slots is great in giving some structure and avoiding clashes (all three groups said clashes happened and was frustrating and avoidable).
· Some basic protocols for students need to be established around expectations for behaviour online.
· Staff and students circumstances at home can make any expectations of full timetable contact each period unrealistic and unworkable. This wellbeing component needs to be at the forefront of planning and decision around distance learning
· Connectivity issues can affect the ability of some staff and students to engage fully with face to face contact

These were some key things that came out. We have used these in shaping expectations around distance learning moving forward. There will not be a one size fits all approach and students will have different ways of working depending on the teacher and the subject. However, there are some key principles guiding our planning. They are as follows:

1. Relationships. It all comes back to this. We need to be looking at how to connect with our learners, to help them have confidence in this new way of working and they need to know we care. We can convey this in different ways, through emails, short videos, face to face meet ups.  I have asked all staff to schedule at least one face to face each week, with each class. It may be more often, but a minimum of one (via Zoom or Google Meet). These could be early in the week to outline how the week’s learning will look, it may be a discussion forum to clarify a concept, it may be going over a concept that needs clarification, it could be a time to answer questions of students. It could be also asking How are you? Do you need anything? – listening to student responses in guiding your planning could be invaluable.

2. Wellbeing. As I mentioned above, we absolutely acknowledge staff and students have a range of different home situations and any expectation of a 5 period day and a regular schedule timetable is completely unrealistic. I do not expect this at all. The timetable exists at school to enable us to share the physical space and human resources that exist in a school. With distance learning it provides us a structure that allows us to schedule face-to-face without clashes, but beyond that I do not expect staff members to be having structured sessions with students each period, each day. For students this could be quite overwhelming. Learning can be synchronous and asynchronous – Synchronous learning is real time learning and learning at scheduled times can be beneficial in touching base with students or in the range of situations I described in (1) above. Asynchronous learning occurs at the learners discretion. It may be a learner watching a video explaining a concept, a recorded PowerPoint, working through some tasks set by the teacher – writing, solving problems, research, producing a presentation and so forth. Enabling choice around when and how the learning is going to take place is critical to help both students and staff not to be overwhelmed in the weeks ahead.

3. Communication. Clear communication to students and their families is essential. This means being organised and sending communication in advance. My expectation is that all students and families receive communication from each subject teacher well before next Wednesday advising how next week looks. This would be a weekly expectation. I have also included a very important link to our  Remote Learning Site this will help as a go to place for students and outlines for each class where information can be accessed. As parents this is a helpful single source of information also.

4. Learning outcomes and feedback. This fits with the communication and should be clear to students. What are the learning outcomes expected over each week and how do students know they are doing well. This comes back to grass roots formative assessment questions. 1. What are my learning goals?  (what do I need to be able to do?). 2. Where am I currently at? (how does my current understanding sit against the goals?) 3. What do I need to do to get there?  (How do I move from where I’m at, to where I need to be?). This should be communicated with students so they know what their learning steps are.

5. Curriculum, content and simplicity. We do not need to be pressuring ourselves to cover everything that was going to be covered before. We are in unprecedented times and we do not need to replicate what would have been happening if we were in the classroom. We instead need to be thinking about key components of our courses and building from those. As parents it is important to not panic about curriculum coverage, we are going to be making very informed and well-discussed decisions around this in the weeks ahead. We will also be discussing assessments and NCEA. Many of these will be starting again in Term 2 in various forms, but they may look different than originally planned, or orders of topics may change to suit our current environment. Longer term though, we will be having to make some decisions around NCEA, the number of assessments and what best serves the needs of our learners.

I am excited about the weeks ahead and what we will achieve together. It is going to look different for each teacher and group of students. There will be some successful eureka moments, and sometimes when things don’t work. I ask you to please be patient with our staff and with the young person(s) in your home. We are learning together.

Ngā mihi nui

Craig Steed