by Dan Bateson, Director of Technology
In adjusting to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, Kingswood Oxford teachers have quickly pivoted to implement a variety of technological resources and platforms to provide students with effective remote and concurrent learning. Understandably, this rapid transition to online learning has raised important concerns for many parents. These include:
• Will my child be safe online?
• How adept are my child’s teachers at online instruction?
• Will my child continue to develop social skills?
• How will my child build a strong relationship with teachers?
• Will my child be spending too much time online?
• Do I have the necessary technical expertise and digital devices to support my child in online learning?
I hope the following information will help to allay these concerns and provide parents more peace of mind about online learning, enabling them to share more fully with their children the richness, depth, and delight that digital learning can provide.
Our Students Have Been Well Instructed in Digital Safety, Literacy, and Citizenship
Even before the school moved to online learning last spring, students were well prepared for this transition. For several years, two required courses – the Upper Prep Computer course for sixth graders and the VQV (“Vincit Qui Se Vincit”) program for Upper Schoolers – have been teaching students how to:
• engage with others online with respect and empathy
• evaluate the accuracy, perspective, and validity of online information
• use technology as a source for good
• balance priorities and time spent online and offline
• be alert and know how to be safe online, such as avoiding suspect websites, detecting scams, and protecting personal information
As the school engages more deeply in online learning, these courses have provided our students with a strong foundation in digital literacy and conduct, and our teachers are continually reinforcing these principles and guidelines.
Our Teachers Are Experienced and Proficient With Educational Technology
For several years now, KO teachers have been on the cutting edge of using technology in the classroom. This experience has enabled them to make a natural, informed, and energetic transition to online platforms this year.
Many of our teachers are intuitively and instinctively “early adopters” who are quick to familiarize themselves and their colleagues with the latest learning digital hardware and programs. As a consequence, our students are already well versed in the use of technology and comfortable with many of these platforms.
A group of teachers who are especially expert in technology, known as “ATCs” (Academic Technology Coordinators), provide their colleagues with frequent ed-tech workshops and one-on-one computer support.
Effective Online Learning Fosters Social Interaction
When students aren’t able to be with their classmates and teachers in person, a variety of online activities and tools allow them to interact with one another. During online classes, teachers often provide “breakout rooms” where small groups of students can meet to discuss academic topics or collaborate on projects, research, reports or presentations. Even when the entire class is gathered online in synchronous learning, they interact through discussions, presentations and question-and-answer sessions.
Technology Can Foster Student-Teacher Relationships
Though technology is clearly not a substitute for in-person interaction, teachers continue to build strong relationships with their students by checking in with them frequently and inviting students for one-on-one meetings online to answer questions, clarify class material, and discuss papers, labs and projects.
Teachers Strive for Balance in Online and Offline Learning
Our teachers believe that students should experience a healthy balance of digital and “real world” education. Thus, in addition to their online classes, students still will continue to spend a good deal of time offline as they read, study, research, and write.
Parents Are Strong Partners in Online Learning
While the levels of parents’ digital fluency and comfort with technology vary widely, parents can support their children’s online learning by familiarizing themselves with the programs they’re using, asking them questions about the work they’re doing online, and ensuring that they’re completing their assignments for each class.
Because families use different types of devices and programs, the school has chosen platforms, such as G Suite for Education, which work across multiple devices. Likewise, the school also uses several different channels, including texts, emails, social media, telephone and regular mail, to communicate with parents.
As the role of technology in education expands, the school may soon begin offering parents workshops on technology to help them support their children’s learning.
A Learning Platform for All of Us
I hope this information will help parents to approach the online learning process as their children do – with curiosity, enthusiasm, and confidence. From my experience, as parents become more familiar with their children’s online learning, they often begin to appreciate the many opportunities for creativity, curiosity, and originality that digital resources can provide.