Welcoming students and parents through the entrance of Discovery College on Wednesday was a moment of great joy. The school, alive again with students, was filled with the energy and spirit we all love about DC. Primary students have enjoyed the playground and outdoor spaces that they have to themselves in these days since No Boundaries trips have taken our Secondary students far and wide across Lantau, other rural areas of Hong Kong, and parts of Asia.
We want you to know that during the class suspension, staff have been working continuously on contingency planning should classes be suspended again in the near or distant future. While of course we hope we won’t have put these plans into action, we would like you to have an understanding of what arrangements are being made for Secondary students in particular, just in case the need arises.
What is remote teaching and why would it be relevant to a scenario of continued class suspension?
During class suspension, students are not able to access learning on campus. However, if class suspension takes place at any point, as a school we want to provide continuity of learning so that Secondary students are able to interact directly with their teachers and pursue a timetable of learning which is similar to that which they experience on a daily basis during the normal school routine.
Remote teaching is where a teacher and the members of a class interact using online platforms, and the teacher can teach the lesson in a different location from the students – with the teacher either based on campus or in their own home / another accessible workspace.
In this scenario, when could remote teaching commence?
We believe we could implement remote teaching on the second day of class suspension. Staff would use time during the first day of class suspension to receive training on how to deliver remote teaching effectively, and would also spend time planning and adapting their resources for this different approach to delivering the curriculum.
What are the technology platforms DC would use for remote teaching?
The three platforms used would likely be:
- Google Hangouts. This video conferencing software is already built into the school’s Google Education Domain, meaning all students already have access via school-managed accounts.
- Google Classroom. Likewise this software is already accessible within our Google Domain, and is widely used already across Secondary.
- Ding!. Our custom built Virtual Learning Environment can be used to host resources and allow for the posting of homework, as it is normally.
An approach based on these platforms would not require students to purchase or download any additional apps or software. Students could engage with remote teaching in this way as long as they had a laptop and a stable wifi connection. We have performed stress tests on our school wifi and believe it would cope well with large numbers of teachers hosting Google Hangout sessions simultaneously from our campus.
What would a day of remote teaching look like?
Students would follow what is in essence their normal DC timetable. The block structure would look like this:
Block 1 08.35 – 09.20
Block 2 09.30 – 10.15
Block 3 10.45 – 11.30
Block 4 11.40 – 12.25
Block 5 12.35 – 13.20
Block 6 14.20 – 15.05
As with the regular DC timetable, space is left between Blocks 2/3 and 5/6 for a morning break and lunch. The blocks are shortened to 45 minutes to allow students to transition effectively, giving time for students to access links to their next Google Hangout and resolve any access issues so that everyone can join on time.
What would happen during each lesson?
The exact content of a lesson would vary according to the subject being taught and the needs of students. It would be a minimum expectation that students and teacher would commence each lesson with a short video conference via Google Hangouts, so that the teacher can explain the learning intention and verify student attendance for the session. Thereafter the Hangout could be maintained if the teacher wants to engage the class in discussion or continue to explain key concepts, perhaps by sharing their screen with students to model / demonstrate / lead the students through a presentation. Alternatively, students could be set independent learning tasks on Google Classroom, with the teacher monitoring progress on students’ engagement with / completion of the documents and resources posted there. After the initial class Hangout, smaller scale Hangouts (for instance, between students working in small groups, or between the teacher and a particular student to offer individual support… etc.) could be used to continue the learning.
Some subjects, especially those that would normally rely on practical, hands-on learning, may need to make more significant adaptations to normal teaching and learning, and may rely more on teaching the ‘theory’ side of a subject, at least to start with. If we need to rely on remote teaching for any length of time, as part of our continuous review of provision we would consider how more practical elements could be introduced.
Would homework be set?
The expectations for homework would be the same as during normal schooling, i.e. homework would be set where it adds value to learning, within the time expectations laid out for each year group in the Parent and Student Handbook. Ding! would be used to set the homework, and a daily digest would be sent out to students and parents (except any parent who has configured their settings so as not to receive this) as it is normally. In general, homework tasks would be required to be completed in the Google Classroom.
How would student attendance be monitored?
As with normal schooling, parents would be asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org as early as possible each day if their child is not able to engage with remote teaching that day e.g. because they are too ill to participate.
Teachers would take attendance at the start of each block via the initial Google Hangout, and would note down any students not in attendance. At the end of the day, any student who has been absent for some or all of the day’s sessions, and whose parents have not notified the school as above, would have an email sent to them and copied to their parents and Learning Adviser. This system would create accountability for students to ensure they were online at the times required, and we would seek to work together with parents so that expectations around this can be reinforced.
What happens if a teacher is ill?
As with our approach during normal schooling, for Year 7-11 students we would seek to assign a cover teacher, and the cover teacher would follow the procedures outlined above to initiate the lesson with students though they may be working from a lesson plan that has been left for them by their absent colleague. For Years 12-13 students the absent teacher would email work directly to students to be completed independently.
Would students still complete formally assessed work during remote teaching?
Depending on the duration over which remote teaching could be required, we may seek to have students complete formally assessed work if it can be facilitated effectively via the online platforms, though we may defer pieces of work that cannot be facilitated in this way. This approach would also apply to Diploma Programme IAs (Internal Assessments), where individual decisions will be taken on whether it is best to proceed with a particular IA or seek to defer it to a later point.
Further information would be published to Secondary students and parents should we implement remote learning at any point in the future. We hope it is useful to know what DC’s plans would be for continuing learning if a situation arises in which this approach would be relevant.