On Wednesday, March 4th, students and teachers finished their day and went home thinking they would see each other in a couple of days or the following week. Little did they know that that evening everything would change. The Italian Government closed the school for a week’s time to halt the spread of the Coronavirus, and then later extended the closure until April 3rd. We are still unsure of how long this lockdown will last.
IH British School was already prepared to deliver online lessons for a small group of students but not on a massive scale. In just two days time, it got its technical infrastructure ready to host all internal classes online as well as some external classes. Within 48 hours, teachers learned how to use the platform “Zoom” and prepare lessons. On Monday March 9th, we were ready to roll!
Here are some echoes on how this online adventure has been for our teaching staff.
How was the transition to online teaching?
“Generally I’ve found the transition online exciting and interesting. It’s been a nice way to break up the teaching routine and really develop a new skill. I see it as an opportunity more than anything. Learning the actual tech has been quick and easy. Our school has been very supportive with hardware and training, which has made the transition simple. In addition, it's been a nice way to force me into using technology. I’m usually very sceptical of tech in the classroom for a number of reasons, however now I’m forced to use it, I’m finding creative ways to make sure students are learning.” – James, Teacher.
“I feel like I’ve taken a step back on many things I was still exploring as a teacher (e.g. activities for fast finishers, differentiation, etc.). I am developing new multitasking skills to deal with the many aspects of online teaching like being able to send/share/support/listen/fix and look after fast finishers at the same time! It might take some time but it's a great skill to develop.” – Antonella, Teacher
How is the planning different?
“For me planning is different as there has to be a visual for everything and I have to think more about how to share answers beforehand. I found that sticking to the book and conducting my class in the same way in terms of nomination and feedback has been working well.” – Cesca, E-DOS & Teacher
“For me, planning is very, very different. It still takes me much longer to prep an online lesson than it would an in-class session. It is mainly because the vast majority of my classes are for young and very young learners. I usually rely on kinaesthetic activities, games and humour to convey meaning, form and pronunciation. It is much harder when there is technology involved, as I cannot rely that all the students will be able to see me or hear me well." – Maria, Teacher
“Putting instructions on slides is a big help especially when transitioning between activities, if anything happens to the audio (if there's a delay, etc.), students can still follow along with the slides on the screen. Also on a bright note I realized I haven’t printed anything in weeks and the quality of our teaching hasn’t been affected by using online tools! What an achievement!” – Antonella, Teacher
“It’s been a fun test of my creativity and resourcefulness. Some classroom activities like jigsaw readings, peer correction or even charades really lend themselves to online teaching. I’ve found it fun converting those activities to the online space.” – James, Teacher
What is it like seeing your students and interacting with them in a virtual setting?
“It wasn’t as different as I thought it would be! I’m really enjoying seeing my students online! It strangely feels like we know each other better. They love that they can be comfy at home and wear pyjamas to a lesson. They said it was okay for me to wear my pyjamas too!” – Cesca, Teacher
“The dynamic of the digital classroom set up is very different with YLs. Often, they have family members assisting them with technology. Consequently, some students who would normally be quite engaged and energetic, are quieter online. For others, it is clear that technology is an assisting factor; for example students who are reluctant to write in their notebooks in-class seems to be quite savvy with the keyboard and are confident to type up answers in a written form very quickly. This may unlock a preferred learning method for some students.” – Maria, Teacher
Overall, how do you feel?
“At first I was quite nervous, but so were the students I think. The more lessons I give online, the more secure I feel using ZOOM. It's a completely different way to teach that requires a completely different set of skills to make it work.”- Maria, Teacher “I am extremely happy to have had the chance to develop online teaching skills and implement them in reality in my workplace. It’s not something that happens every day!” – Antonella Teacher
“Overall though, it's been an easy transition. Like most things in life I think it seems worse the further away you are. Once you're actually in a lesson it’s absolutely fine.” – James, Teacher