Reopening schools while continuing to offer distance learning.

Where do we go from here?

SKOPJE, 7 August 2020.
  A majority of surveyed school principals, teachers and parents are in favour of reopening schools with classroom based learning or combined classroom and distance learning models. The opinions are based on the preliminary findings of research on the “Experience and Attitudes towards Distance Learning introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic” launched today by the Ministry of Education and Science, Bureau for Development of Education, UNICEF, British Embassy in Skopje and partner Reactor – Research in action.

In Norway schools returned to normal this fall, but with specific guidelines by the authorities. Keeping students in designated groups, washing hands before entering the school and social distancing. ( Ever tried that with 950 16-19-year-olds?)

The greatest challenges as I see it, as a school leader, are teachers worried about crowded corridors and teachers worried about combining normal school for the majority while offering distance learning for the few. In Norway you have to quarantine for ten days when returning from a red country,  most European countries are these days, and stay home when sick, even with the slightest symptoms. It is therefore the responsibility of school leaders to offer clear and manageable guidelines in these areas.

What did we learn from the months of distance learning?

We already have research in this area we can use. We know that some students liked this way of learning and some didn’t. That some learned more, many less, and that most missed school, classmates and meeting their teachers face to face. Methods used during these months were more individual work, less discussions between the teacher and the whole class, less use of text books, and more use of digital tools and instructional videos. Group work was also a frequent used method most student liked. Source: University of Oslo, Research, Innovation and Competence Development (FIKS).

Implications for this fall

Sinte we have block scheduling at my school, organizing this should be pretty straight forward. To explain;  block scheduling is having one, or two at the most subjects each day. Most during a 5*45 minute period. Plenty of time to dig deep into different topics, work both in groups and individually, and get help from the teacher. If the teacher starts off by introducing the topic, perhaps with a presentation the students at home can watch, everyone has access to the same material. By that, I do not mean the teacher should necessarily be on video, since that complicates the practical setup for the teacher and many feel uncomfortable on video while in the classroom with the rest of the students. There are many instructional videos students can watch in advance. Khan Academy for instance.  Discussions in class can be organized with Microsoft Teams or on platforms like Padlet, where students at home can participate. Group work can be organized where students at home join the students at school online. In groups of four one can be a student working from home.  Projects can be co-authored using Word and PowerPoint in Onedrive where all our students have accounts. The final product can be a podcast, PowerPoint, or a written text with equal participation from students at school and at home.

The future

i have previously written about the need for change and how our experiences with distance learning could make sustainable changes in schools.  I’m not overly optimistic about that, but the methods I have shared here are doable, manageable, and logical. And even when this is over a way to include students who can not come to school



I would love to hear from you