What to do when schools close for coronavirus

Almost 300 million kids missing school because of the coronavirus, UNESCO says

The U.N. organization that monitors global education said the number of children missing school globally is unprecedented.

  • The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted the education of nearly 300 million students globally.
  • Thirteen countries, including China, Italy and Japan, have shut schools nationwide as of Wednesday (4.03.20.)
  • A handful of schools in the United States have canceled classes over the coronavirus. Source: CNBC.

No matter where you live the closure of schools is likely to happen. UNESCO will hold an emergency meeting on March 10 over coronavirus-related school closures. The agency said it is supporting the implementation of large-scale distance-learning programs and platforms to reach students remotely.

In some countries, older students have missed crucial study sessions for college admissions exams, while younger ones have risked falling behind in reading and math. Parents have lost wages, tried to work at home or scrambled to find child care. Some have moved children to new schools in areas unaffected by the coronavirus and lost milestones like graduation ceremonies or last days of school. School and government officials have sought to keep children learning — and occupied — at home. The Italian government created a web page to give teachers access to videoconference tools and ready-made lesson plans. Mongolian television stations are airing classes. Iran’s government has made all children’s internet content free.Source: Nytimes.

We have for a long time prepared for students who are active online learners. To participate effectively in the increasingly complex societies and globalized economy that characterize today’s world, students need to think critically, communicate effectively, collaborate with diverse peers, solve complex problems, adopt a global mindset, and engage with information and communications technologies. The World Economic Forum ranks creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving among the ten most demanded skills today and into the future. And if our students have to stay home instead of meeting their peers at school, technology will help them continue their education. All we need is that leaders and teachers in schools know how to do this.

What can you do if your school is forced to shut down due to the virus?

If you are using a learning management system and have a good infrastructure for your internet services your students are most likely used to working online. When whole countries are effected it would be natural that they follow suit with Italy and Mongolia and offer free online courses.  But in most cases, there will be only pockets of schools affected. What then? And are free online courses a viable solution? I am quite certain that large-scale distance-learning programs and platforms to reach students remotely, is smart but I am not sure what the results will be. The schools that are best prepared for these drastic measures are schools that already use technology to enhance students learning. This is how I would suggest structuring the learning if our school was shut down.

Organizational requirements

  1. Keep the school’s timetable.
  2. All the students meet their teacher as if they were at school. It is important to do this if we want the same quality in the learning. The students and the teacher will most likely be at home then. Keep the same times for recess between and lunch breaks. At our school we have block-scheduling, see example here, it makes this a lot easier. Most likely our students only have to meet up with 2 teachers a day.
  3. Use your learning management system to give tasks to the students.
  4. Our county uses Microsoft Teams, and that works very well because of the capability to have multiple participants in a video conference. You can set up a recurring meeting or you can start a video call in the chat. It is important that the students see the teachers and get instant feedback.  See how to below.

What teachers can do

  1. The teachers can structure their online lesson plans like this; English first-year high school students
  2. If you already work with the flipped classroom concept you can continue to share your videos. If you need more material teachers at your school can work together to make videos of lectures and share them on the platform. And if this seems daunting to you there are lists of YouTube channels you can suggest for your students. World history is one. There are many places where you can find these videos and other learning material. And here.
  3. Podcasts. Instead of a video of your lecture/teaching, you can create a podcast and share it with your students. How about the school’s history teachers meet up and talk about the most important parts of the history students are studying? That might be fun for both the teachers and the students. If you are looking for some podcasts here are some examples.

What students can do

  1. Students need to write when they are home and share their writing not only with the teachers but fellow students. Learn more about students writing blogs here.
  2. Students learn more when they teach others, how can they do that if they are stuck at home alone? They can produce Podcasts to share with their teachers, but also fellow students. Look for info here.
  3. Students can make videos of their learning to show proof of mastery to their teachers. Most students know how to use their phones to make short videos. The important part is to communicate how students can show that they master the different skills required. Here are 9 different ways students can do this.
  4. Learning a foreign language? The students can set up video chats in groups of 4 and discuss topics together. They can also record the conversations and share with their teachers. For working alone there are many excellent courses. Memrise, Coffee Break languages, perhaps the county will pay for more material like this.











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