Brescia House School Showcases Online Learning
During this time, teachers and pupils have been developing their skills using Microsoft applications. When the lockdown was announced, it took only 3 days to move from integrating technology into the classroom, to teaching and learning completely online. Pupils from Grade 6 to 12 have their own laptops as part of the school’s one-to-one device programme, so most of the girls were very familiar with using Microsoft Teams to submit their work online for assessment. This was just 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.
The Head of Innovation and ICT, Mrs Lyneth Crighton, said, “Regular IT 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 IT and its application in the classroom. It is made up of teachers from the different phases as well as subject specialisms, including English. 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 GooseChase 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, which the language teachers have been using extensively for speeches and prepared reading.
This has been a very exciting time for the Brescia House School community. Mrs 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 situation. It has been essential to be a team, and Microsoft Teams has been key to this. It provides a secure platform for pupils, parents and teachers to interact. Girls from Grade R to Matric are using this to engage with their learning. This is a student-centred platform which has been used in conjunction with other Microsoft products, including OneNote.
For many pupils, this time can be very stressful. If their WiFi 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. Lessons are recorded in Teams, and the girls are able to access these later. 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 for their pupils. The IT Department has been able to provide remote support for pupils, parents and teachers during this time. They have also set up a programme for parents without devices for their daughters to borrow these from the school during this time.
Staff meetings have continued online, and the virtual staffroom has been a place for meetings, planning etc. to take place. Now that the younger pupils are becoming more familiar with Teams, they are using it to set up virtual play dates – being with friends whilst maintaining that all important social distancing.
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 been taught. Girls have enjoyed PE 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 girls. 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.
Mrs Wendy Sauthoff
Grade 6 English Teacher
Subject Head – Primary School English