In Part two of our interview, CIA FIRST sat down with High School Social Studies Coordinator Tom Mclean to discuss the effects of CoronaVirus on learning models and how the pandemic accelerates the shift into new models of learning around the globe.
So Tom, I want to ask you the same question that I’ve put to Phil.
Tom Mclean: It’s an interesting question. How has [coronavirus dramatically accelerated the shift into new models of learning]? I mean in some ways it has propelled us into the future, with no ifs, no buts, no test period...and we’ve all had to go all hands on deck with it. I can only speak for High School and in some ways High School was lucky, as we were perfectly set up for online learning; the way our google classrooms are set up, the way our assessments are configured, to say ‘tomorrow we’re moving to online learning.’
What’s fascinating about it and what I’ve found, I see there’s two types of teachers that have kind of approached it. One’s like ‘Oh no, what do I do, this isn’t a normal classroom with desks in front of me, how can I try and create those same conditions in a completely different environment, with completely different conditions, through a completely different format’. And then there’s some teachers, who’ve turned round and gone like ‘Wow, this is exciting, how can we learn how to do this?’ and it goes back to that meme that’s been going around the internet ‘When things return to normal, what kind of things would you actually like to return to’. And one of the most interesting things that I’ve found from it: in the classroom it’s usually the students who bow to what the teacher wants, in a structured timetabled setting, but now the ownership of learning is the teachers bowing to the needs of what works best for the students. I think that online learning has massively accelerated that.
Take away the physical space and let’s have a look at how our relationship to your learning can work best. Does it need to be time flexible? Do assignments need to be mandatory? Do deadline dates need to be as firm? When do I need to be available to give you feedback?
Does it matter if you’re here? Do you want to join half an hour late? Should we work around your timetable rather than working around our timetable? And I think that's the brilliant side of it. What the Coronavirus has done is sort of flung this on us and it’s also flung it on the children as well. I think they have to deal with time management as well!
If you had access tomorrow to both on-site and online facilities, ideally what would your schedule look like, what would a typical day look like for students?
I was going to say, that’s an important bit to add ‘idealistically’.
Idealistically I more buy into the whole free schooling attitude where, they would have their tasks set online, through Google Classroom and it’s their job to go do it. I would still have those timetabled lessons, those timetabled lessons would be a space for students who wanted to come in, to ask questions, to feedback, to set up discussions, to socialize, to interact and for me as a facilitator to say ‘what do you need help with, how can we do this?” as more of an aid. So, the instruction is put onto them, they’re leading it, through their own schedule and I’m always available, but I’m holding this physical space between these set times for you to come and say ‘Hi Teacher Tom, how are you doing? I’ve just been working on this, we’ve had the same problem, can we have a discussion about this?”
I suppose there is resistance to such a dramatic shift as well to this kind of model.
Yes I agree, and I think it’s important that you used the word ‘idealistically’ there. The environment of the school is always going to be influenced by outside factors. I don’t see CIA FIRST becoming a hippy-free school tomorrow, as much as I would like it to be. The school has to lie within its traditional platform very much, you’ve just got to try and see where you can test the boundaries.
Thanks Tom, it’s been an interesting discussion and thank you very much for your time