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Lessons learnt from lockdown teaching

Schools have had to adapt to a brave new world of online learning - but now what? Helen Pike, Master at Magdalen College School, Oxford on the challenges of blending the tech and the teaching come September.

Helen Pike, Master at Magdalen College School, Oxford

We had set up our virtual school the week before lockdown happened, and it’s worked incredibly well, so from an academic point of view there’s no issue with children having to catch up. We know they’ve made the right progress and have been learning.

What we’ve been looking at more recently is how to extend that tech and its benefits. We know that it’s important for have face to face contact and experiential learning on-line but we’ve also realised how capturing and recording video can be used for educational purposes.

For example, with no school plays possible this term, we launched When We Meet Again, an original eight-part radio drama researched, written, performed and produced by MCS pupils and staff to commemorate the centenary of WW1. The episodes were recorded, but also podcasted with ‘behind the scenes’ content.

We also recorded our ‘virtual’ school jazz and blues concerts, (though be warned an edited 30 minute recording takes a couple of week’s hard work!) with people being able to comment on the You Tube recording as it was live, and we’ve started running blended Open Day events with some pre-recorded material. We’re even holding our entire Oxford Festival of the Arts virtually right now!

This is all great, but actually a lot of our tech efforts have gone into making sure that our pupils and families are OK. So we have virtual ‘house rooms’ for school house group chats; the children can meet virtually with their tutors to keep communication open; and there are virtual talks for parents. These talks were formerly run as evenings at the school, on subjects like internet safety and managing their child’s anxiety, but they’re probably more convenient for working parents online, so that’s a lesson for us.

Our current challenge is how to perfect a ‘blended’ teaching approach, a mix of teaching from school and at home – and by that I mean simultaneously, not separately. No-one knows for sure, but all schools should plan for the possibility that not all children will come back in September and that others will be taken out of school to self-isolate. Up to 25% of pupils may be at home at any one time, so we’re now trialling how we can teach all the children together cohesively and creatively in this new ‘normal’.

Magdalen College School, Cowley Pl, Oxford OX4 1DZ. Tel: 01865 242191. There are two Virtual Open Events coming up on Tuesday 30 June 2020 – 9.30am for the Junior School and 2.30pm for the Senior School & Sixth Form. Book here.

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