The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected many individuals, changing their way of life. Likewise in schools, the pandemic has altered the “traditional” classroom experience for students. With restricted social interaction with peers and the introduction of online home-based learning, students now have to grapple with adapting to a new social and learning environment, which is admittedly not an easy feat.
To play our part in keeping our children safe, Write Edge has taken measures to switch physical classes to virtual classes in times of heightened measures set by the Singapore government. Today, we are no strangers to online lessons. Indeed, we have come a long way! Looking back, here are three key takeaways from the past two and a half years of online and home-based learning.
Technology Empowers Learning
At Write Edge, our online creative writing classes are conducted via Zoom and assignments are submitted and returned to students via Google Classroom. For students in the upper primary and secondary levels, live marking is also done via Google Classroom, allowing teachers to provide feedback instantaneously as students develop their stories in class. IT support such as providing iPads and Apple Pencils to teachers enhances their capability to conduct classes online as well (it makes marking much more convenient too). On top of all that, every online class ends off on a fun note with a Kahoot! quiz.
Throughout our online classes, we have seen how technology is able to enhance both the learning and teaching experience of students and teachers respectively. Students always look forward to participating in the Kahoot! quizzes. These quizzes help to reinforce key learning points covered in class. Similarly, teachers find the annotation function on their iPads a powerful online teaching tool. Since teachers are not physically with their students, being able to make annotations onto softcopy worksheets over Zoom allows students to follow the lesson smoothly with their own hardcopy worksheets.
Communication is Key
Having lessons online means reduced physical interaction between students and teachers. Particularly for younger learners, this poses a challenge when collecting homework and even classroom management. As such, communication with parents is crucial. Teachers have to provide clear and timely updates to parents regarding any feedback for their child and reminders for outstanding homework so that parents can follow up accordingly. Communication between teachers and parents also allows teachers to better understand the struggles their students face in their learning and pay more attention to those areas of improvement.
On that note, since communication between parents and teachers has to be done via official channels, it is also important for teachers to communicate well with their respective centre managers who are always there to provide a helping hand. When students do not turn up for online classes on time or have their materials with them, it is the invaluable support provided by our reliable centre managers that give teachers peace of mind to conduct the best lesson possible for the students.
Engaging and Checking-In with Students
Despite being physically away from students, interactions between students and teachers have not become less meaningful. In fact, online teaching also presents teachers with new opportunities to interact and connect with their students in ways that cannot be done as easily in a physical classroom. When conducting online lessons through Zoom, teachers can make use of the emoji reaction function to check in with their students. Some examples include getting students to indicate how their day has been or getting to know them better by asking them to put an emoji of their favourite food or colour. Through these little check-in sessions, we have observed that students enjoy sharing more about their day with their peers and teachers, increasing their overall engagement in the lesson. For introverted students who are less vocal, the Zoom chat box also allows them to be more participative in class, which makes the lessons more meaningful for them. These little interactions allow teachers to build greater rapport with students, which entice students to be more cooperative and receptive to teaching in class.
All in all, while switching from physical to online classes has not been easy for tuition centres, it is crucial that we are prepared for such situations so that our children can stay safe and learn happily during the pandemic. In view of the constantly evolving new normal, we believe that online teaching and home-based learning now have their own unique place in our world and they will be here to stay even as the pandemic stabilises. We embrace and welcome this change as it lets students explore new ways of learning and mastering effective writing skills and excel in the English language!