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spires from Carfax

remote learning

We've had five days of remote learning so far, and everything seems to be running pretty smoothly. Helen's teachers and school have put in an impressive performance, especially given how little notice there was of whether schools would fully open. (The government delayed announcing a lockdown till the night before we were scheduled to reopen — and after many other schools had opened for a day.)

The remote learning provision is being done while the school is open for substantial numbers of critical worker and vulnerable children. And there's been one positive test there already, forcing one of the on-site year bubbles to close.

The school is using Google Classroom, which is a bit clunky -- with Classroom, Drive and Docs not integrated -- but solid enough. We've got the hang of it now and Helen can navigate it herself, which makes things easier. This may have been a bigger barrier for some parents and children, though, and I don't know how much support the school has had to provide there. (The school has just changed from one "classroom" for our class to one for the whole year group, so they may have had some learning to do themselves.)

Helen's been using her tablet (an ipad mini), which is fine except for some kinds of text manipulation. I have a laptop as well as a desktop, though, so she can use a laptop when necessary (and a bluetooth keyboard and/or mouse may be in the works). I think the school has managed to scramble together equipment and Internet access for almost everyone (even though the government support there has favoured handouts to friends over effectiveness), supplementing that with distribution of "Paper Packs" and encouragement for the worst resourced children to attend school.

There has been pressure on teachers to provide full days of "live" online lessons, which would be completely unrealistic even if they weren't trying to teach children on-site as well. Our teachers aren't trying to do this -- we're trialling our first "live stream" today -- but are I think still trying to do too much themselves. They're using some external resources, such as White Rose for mathematics, but they're putting together their own lessons for other topics where pre-existing resources are available - how to write different types of sentences, for example. This has to be a huge burden on them, and they can't realistically hope to match video material that was put together by teachers in studio settings, with proper equipment and a lot more time to plan it. (The suggested timetable is about three quarters literacy and numeracy, which I think is much like the usual prioritisation.)

Teacher contact is really important, because social aspects of learning are critical, especially for younger children. (I think what's working reasonably well for most Year 3 children is probably much less practical for Year 1, let alone Reception or Nursery.) I think there's been a good job providing feedback and trying to maintain a community with shared purpose. I have no way of knowing how well this is working for the children and parents/carers who don't make public comments, however, and it must be harder online for the teachers to encourage children who are struggling and to scaffold their learning.

So... it's working fine for us, but it's really hard to know how well it's working for everyone else. Apart from being tech-savvy and having spare kit, we have just one child and we're not time-short. And Helen has spent her life swimming in a sea of books and mathematics and science and history, so is not in any danger of "falling behind". The biggest problem for us is managing her motivation when she flags, especially with writing, and the presence of so many distractions. An opportunity to learn good work habits?

Update (after two and a half weeks): the teachers are providing two "live" classes a week: one social catch up and one English/storytelling lesson. This seems about right to me: interacting as a class is important for maintaining social and emotional connections, but more wouldn't necessarily be better here.

Of the twenty six children in Helen's class, five haven't logged on to Google Classroom. Two of those have teacher parents and are I assume in-school; the other three are also, I hope, or are managing with paper copies of everything.


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