The necessary adoption of online classes at Dipont Huayao Collegiate School Kunshan has highlighted the benefits of a flourishing and innovative learning community.
Patience. Ingenuity. Resilience. Care. The resurgence of COVID-19 and the necessary return to online classes has brought out the best in the teaching team at Dipont Huayao Collegiate School Kunshan. Students and teachers alike have not only persevered in adversity but have also kept striving to seek and soar beyond. For Huayao teachers, the delivery of online learning has been a great opportunity for innovation and professional growth.
“If you just lecture at kids it can be deadly dull, even face to face, but our teachers do a great job of using the technology to their advantage.”
Dr Jeffrey Walkington, Upper School Principal of Dipont Huayao Collegiate School Kunshan, has been impressed by the variety of strategies teachers use to combine online and offline experiences.
“If you just lecture at kids it can be deadly dull, even face to face,” he says, “but our teachers do a great job of using the technology to their advantage. For example, they will set up group work, where two or three students can go to a breakout room and discuss a topic, then come back to share it with the rest of the class.”
Students can respond in real-time to class discussions
Being responsive to the new reality of online teaching, including the impact of excessive screen time on student wellbeing, has been crucial for teachers. They have had to experiment with what works and think creatively about results-oriented, and health-oriented, lesson strategies.
When online teaching was first introduced, Emma Gu, a Chinese teacher in the Secondary School, used mind mapping software to help students sort their notes, a digital approach that was new and effective at the time.
Traditional and technological approaches embed agile communication into learning
As the novelty of online teaching wore off, however, Emma noticed a drop-off in engagement with these kinds of software-based activities. Her solution was to offer students the option of making their notes on paper, and to then take photos of these notes to share with the class. This combination of traditional and technological approaches to learning not only reduced screen time, but also embedded agile and multi-modal communication as part of the learning process.
Huayao teachers have also been exploring ways to increase interaction during online lessons. Anthony Magee, Teacher of Psychology, has students share their thoughts and opinions in chat boxes as a method of responding in real-time to class discussions and peer presentations. As a result, they can share their screens or screenshots to submit their writing for assessment purposes, while this practice also serves as an ongoing log of ideas for personal and class reflection.
Teachers at Huayao get creative in delivering online PE lessons
Perhaps one of the most difficult lessons to deliver online has been PE. Exercise is never more important than during times of lockdown and increased time at the computer, so careful thought goes into how to keep students physically and mentally healthy.
Nilton Resende, a ninth-grade physical education teacher, admits that it is challenging giving PE classes via a computer, as he is not able to monitor students’ technique and effort as easily.
To compensate, he has adjusted the content of his online teaching, adding fitness plans and nutritional information so that students can track their own physical and athletic development, as well as build new vocabulary and research skills. Nilton combines this with fun online workout sessions that see students – and teachers – working up a sweat in their living rooms or practicing volleyball techniques in their compound gardens.
Flexible approaches to learning encourage students to think creatively and question how they can apply their learning to the environment around them.
This approach of adapting teaching and learning to the physical reality of learning at home even extends into First Aid classes. Here, students are encouraged to use household objects to practice skills such as the Heimlich maneuver. Many sofa cushions have been resuscitated from the brink of catastrophe as they double as choking victims.
As well as being fun, these flexible approaches to learning encourage students to think creatively and question how they can apply their learning to the environment around them. In this way, Huayao teachers ensure students continue to discover learning opportunities in the world around them as they step away from their screens.
Online lessons have inspired Grade 5 scholar, Tino, to continue his learning independently
For Tino, in grade 5, his experiences in online classes such as science and English have inspired him to continue his learning independently. For example, after classes are done for the day, he can use an app on his iPad to measure the size of planets and the distances between them in a DIY model of the universe he has created.
As these examples show, students and teachers at Huayao have strived to turn recent disruptions into an opportunity for growth, both academically and professionally. For students and teachers, online teaching and learning has allowed the development of important soft skills such as ingenuity, creativity and adaptability. This, combined with practical knowledge of using cutting-edge technologies, is ensuring everyone in the Huayao community is better prepared for the challenges and opportunities to come.