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Teaching and Learning after COVID-19

By Brian Cooklin

By Brian Cooklin

Principal of Nord Anglia International School, Hong Kong

A favourite quotations comes from a Scots missionary in Africa, Mary Slessor, who advocated for the importance of education by saying that “education is the lightest luggage you will ever carry”.  This allows me to talk about the fact that education is not a burden, but also about who packs the bag (teachers, parents) and what is packed (content).

This idea came back into my mind as we all adjust to the present (I refuse to call it the New Normal as there is nothing normal about it!).  It has been an exceptionally difficult and taxing period for everyone: children, parents and teachers.  What have we learned from it?  I think a number of very different things.

Everyone has had to improve their technological skills and to deal with the servers not coping, of Wifi failing and internet access being disrupted.  New platforms, new software and new approaches have had to be adopted and adapted constantly.

It has been an enormous strain on families with parents trying to work from home while keeping children on task, learning how to play with young children and learn simultaneously.  The positives are the closeness developed, the fun they have had together and the challenges they have successfully met.  The negatives can be the opposites of that same list not to mention the claustrophobic feelings generated by the lengthy lockdown.  Many parents, however, have also recognised that teachers deserve respect for doing their daily job with a full class when they find it difficult to maintain a learning atmosphere at home.

Another aspect highlighted for us is that there is a lack of understanding about how we teach.  From the beginning of the lockdown, there were demands from some parents for live lessons where the teacher lectured for an hour or so and children took notes.  Any less seemed like short-changing them.  In truth, our style of teaching is focussed on individualised, directed and collaborative learning.  The teacher sets out the objectives and deploys a variety of methods so that each child can meet their targets and progress.

Teachers have learnt about the power of technology.   There is never going to be another disruption to learning on a typhoon, black rain or other disturbance days as we now have the experience to cope with it.  Using Microsoft Teams, Streams and other aspects like Padlets have shown what can be done to maintain interactive learning in a crisis while the virtual learning platform, in our case Firefly, helps everything to happen in a safe and secure environment.

While some have struggled with the technology, most have adapted.  Interestingly, some children have made outstanding progress especially the shy, reserved ones and boys who enjoy the visual learning.  We need to build these features into our future approach to learning.

There are, of course, the physical changes caused by the preventative measures which had to be introduced.  Nevertheless, the main items to be packed in our educational luggage have to be adaptability and resilience.

To learn more about Nord Anglia International School, visit: www.nais.hk


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