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Brescia House School more than ready for total online learning

| January 14, 2021 | 0 Comments

BY WENDY SAUTHOFF

Brescia House School has been a Microsoft Showcase School since 2013.1 Little did our staff, parents and pupils know that they were laying the foundation for remote learning during a nationwide lockdown.

Since we became a Microsoft Showcase School, teachers and pupils have been developing their skills using Microsoft applications. When the lockdown was announced, it took only three days to move from integrating technology into the curriculum, to teaching and learning completely online. Each pupil from Grade 6-12 has her own laptop as part of the school’s one-to-one device programme, so most of the girls were very familiar with using Microsoft Teams (Teams) to submit their work online for assessment. It was just a matter of taking the use of this platform to the next level in the classroom. In the Foundation Phase, iPads are available to the girls in their lessons, and in Grades 4 and 5, laptops are made available for the girls to use in class.

Brescia – a Microsoft Showcase school since 2013

The head of Innovation and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Lyneth Crighton, says, ‘Regular ICT training has been on the timetable for teachers which has enabled staff to develop their skills and understanding of a wide range of applications and tools for use in the classroom. We’ve been gearing up for a situation like this for some time.

The school’s Innovation Committee brings together a range of teachers who have an interest in ICT and its application in the classroom. It is made up of teachers from the different phases as well as subject specialists. The committee has been having conversations about how to take the use of technology to the next level. At the beginning of the year, the committee organised a GooseChase2 training day in which staff were given the opportunity to explore and learn about a range of technologies for use in their classroom. One of the applications was Flipgrid,3 which is the language teachers have been using extensively for speeches and prepared reading.

This has been an extremely exciting time for the Brescia House School community. Loredana Borello, head of the high school said, ‘I am in awe of our teachers and our students. What they have achieved in such a short space of time is quite remarkable.’

As a Microsoft Showcase School, Brescia House School has been uniquely positioned to react to the Covid-19 situation. It has been essential to be a team, and Teams has been key to this. It provides a secure platform on which pupils, parents and teachers can interact.

An approach that reduces stress

For many pupils, this lockdown time can be incredibly stressful. If their Wi-Fi connection is not optimal, if they lose power, or if something goes wrong at home, they may not be able to attend an online lesson. However, Brescia’s approach allows lessons to be recorded in Teams, and the girls are able to access these later, if necessary. Teachers can share their screens to help guide learners, and learners can in turn, contact their teacher on a one-to-one basis for assistance. And it is not just the teachers who are troubleshooting with their pupils. The school’s ICT department has been able to provide remote support for pupils, parents, and teachers. The ICT department has set up a programme that allows parents and children, who do not have digital devices, to borrow these from the school.

Everyone at Brescia is online. Staff meetings have continued online and now that the younger pupils are becoming more familiar with the Teams application, they are using it to set up virtual play dates – being with friends whilst simultaneously maintaining that all important social distancing.

A busy, happy digital world

The school has adopted a modified timetable to accommodate pupils and teachers. Subject lessons are continuing throughout the school. And it is not only literacy and numeracy that is being taught. Girls have enjoyed physical education lessons where they have been learning to vacuum; music lessons where they have been practising songs for their Intermediate Phase production; science lessons where they have been constructing water filters; and social sciences lessons where they have created time capsules.

Through the use of technology, the school is still staying true to its Catholic ethos with the head girls sending morning prayers to the high school students. They remind everyone to say the ‘Angelus’ prayer at noon, and help to keep morale high during these challenging times.

‘There is a great deal of “noise” in the education community about all the things that teachers and pupils can do using technology. What our teachers have learnt, is to use what is familiar, and build on that knowledge and experience to make remote learning a positive and productive experience for everyone,’ said Ann Owgan, head of the Primary School.

References:

  1. See: https://educationblog.microsoft.com/en-us/2018/10/2019-microsoft-showcaseschools/
  2. GooseChase blends together the tried-and-true fun of scavenger hunts with mobile technology and creates a learning experience like no other. See:https://www.goosechase.com/edu/
  3. See: https://info.flipgrid.com/

Category: Summer 2020

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