Migrating digital natives to home-learning in the wake of school closures

“The human interaction aspect of e-learning is crucial for student success and wellbeing – and for teachers too”

This latest blog is by Daniel Jones, Chief Education Officer of Globeducate, one of the world’s leading international school groups that has seen schools in all markets migrate to temporary home-schooling due to Covid-19 in less than a month.

Having anticipated possible school closures early in the new year our leadership team began planning a global strategy for online learning by the start of February. When the news of school closures in Italy broke, ICS Milan, Rome International School and Southlands International School were ready to launch their virtual learning programmes for students aged 3 to 18.

What has been asked of students and teachers all over the world has been immense – students have had to adapt to learning at home, away from the routine of school and the familiarity of their friends and teachers, and teachers have been engaging students in an entirely new environment.

Our admissions teams have been hosting virtual open days and Q & A webinars. As I write this, our schools in Italy, Spain, Andorra, France, Portugal, Qatar and Canada and the UK have all had to close; and only some of our schools in India remain open today. The landscape is changing on a daily basis.

 Globeducate has the advantage of already having a well-established culture of online education – through online professional learning communities and through online schooling in Canada and France. Our in-house experts shared best practices early in this emerging crisis, using tried and tested home-schooling methods.

On the first day of closures, our team at ICS Milan launched their remote learning strategy, which was shared and adapted by other Globeducate schools.

Through this programme, teachers are available every day from 8am to 4pm, using a range of strategies including live interactive sessions, individual interviews with students, offline activities such as videos, projects, special challenges, exercises and storytelling for our youngest children. The provision also includes PE, Music and Design Lab lessons.

Rome International School´s use of Google Meet and Google Classrooms is another example of interactive learning being the best route for teacher to student online teaching as students who are isolated can join their classmates and teachers through a laptop or tablet with a camera.

Our best practice across the Group has shown that online learning isn´t about emailing worksheets to “keep students busy” but about creating meaningful opportunities to try new ways of connecting and learning.

Flipped learning, where teachers record videos and upload their own content in advance of lessons is also popular as students can discuss them with their peers and then with the teacher. The human interaction aspect of e-learning is crucial for student success and wellbeing – and for teachers too, who tell us they miss seeing their classes.

Despite the fact that online remote learning is a reality for everybody now, our schools are more connected than ever, often in some very creative ways

Our schools have celebrated World Poetry Day, 21st March, through a Globeducate Poetry “Slam” in which students from around the world have uploaded their video creations. Globeducate’s partnership with WWF sees us working with the education team there to create an online Our Planet´s Future summit which all of our students can join in. Other global online projects are in the pipeline, all designed to build virtual bridges between our schools, and between school and home.

I am proud to say that in a very short space of time Globeducate has led the way in educating students online. Part of this success, I am certain, has been through enhancing our established online professional learning communities for our teachers.

We believe in creating opportunities for professional dialogue, and our online communities have been pivotal for creating a culture of collaboration across the group. Teachers are familiar with questioning each other, exploring and learning together across the miles in order to expand and challenge their thinking, and to share good practice.

Despite the fact that online remote learning is a reality for everybody now, our schools are more connected than ever, often in some very creative ways. The challenge of home-schooling has been fully embraced and as soon as we knew all schools would be closing their physical doors, we were ready to support each of our +50 schools across the world.

When we launched our new Globeducate mission in November 2019, marking our evolution from NACE Schools, we talked about the unprecedented challenges our students would face in the world of tomorrow.

We believe that the world is changing at an incredible pace and that education has to keep up with a constantly shifting environment – of course, we didn´t know that just three months later, these words would resonate so strongly with each and every one of us.

About the author: Daniel Jones is Chief Education Officer of Globeducate