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A guide to managing school closures

I can’t help but connect my experience to that of educators around the world in recent months trying to coordinate education opportunities in spite of civil unrest, natural disasters and health epidemics. Educators are some of society’s everyday heroes on a “normal” day.

Teachers and school leaders are rising to meet even greater challenges than a normal day might send their way. They are finding ways to facilitate whole schools of students continuing to learn during significant closures. They are making use of the best tools to make sure that students are not further disadvantaged in trying times. It’s distance learning that can handle days that are far from normal.

These teachers and school leaders are rising to the task with creativity and tenacity. My own experiences pales in comparison. I am thinking of the whole year group trip, a few consecutive snow days or coordinating learning for students on extended medical leave. You’ve likely had more scenarios like these than you can count.

What would you do with your school facing an extended closure? Given the resources, I think most of us would try to find a way to continue offering learning opportunities to our students. My work as a learning consultant gives me an inside view toward how schools worldwide are addressing this issue. I want to pose a few questions to you based on their experience.

 

How would you curate and share your curriculum?

Learning is less about a location than it ever has been. In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about how edtech is driving this shift. Students can access all kinds of learning content from home as easily as in class. 

Finding content to share is as easy as a Google search.  BBC Bitesize, GCSEPod Twinkl, GeoGebra, PHET, Youtube — you name it. Digital textbooks are on the rise as well. Whether you’ve got time or need something at the last minute, you’ve got options.

Content creation is not just for professionals anymore either. Think of vast online libraries like Classoos and Khan Academy. Tools like digital whiteboards and screen sharing technology have expanded the pool of content creators. In Firefly, that content can be shared with a quick drag and drop.

Tools like Quizlet, Kahoot! and Educandy have applied similar ideas to the activity side of learning. Companies like ClickView have taken it a step further by creating worksheets for their content. Teachers can even create interactive videos with their own videos.

In the face of school closures, schools are making use of all kinds of content. Many of our teachers then use Firefly to share their content through a quick homework task or recommendation

 

How would you facilitate face-to-face interaction?

Learning is an inherently social process. It’s all well and good to distribute perfectly pitched and curated content, but it hits a wall without some dialogue and interaction. Learning at home doesn’t have to equal learning alone though.

My day to day job includes as many meetings online as it does in person. A little work with Google Calendar and Google Hangouts could allow a school to hold classes or run tutor sessions. Recently, we found a way to embed live Zoom meetings into Firefly

In the edtech sphere, tools like Padlet or forums can facilitate online interaction. If you haven’t, check out Flipgrid for video. Students might benefit from co-creating in a shared space via Google Drive or Firefly. With the right tools, you can manage the kind of interaction you want, even better if you can centralise it in a single place like many of our schools do.

 

How would you assess students’ progress? 

And the inevitable final question… how will students show what they know? In the event of an extended school closure, assessment and feedback becomes an essential aspect of time off campus. The Learning Scientists have an excellent blog and podcast full of evidence-based activities. I might start there, especially for formative assessments. 

What is going to fit your school’s needs? For me, it always comes down to the flexibility of feedback and collection of data. I need options and organisation.

A quick Google or Firefly Form might do the trick. Your students might also appreciate the added touch of audio or video feedback. For more formal assessments, some of the video tools mentioned earlier might open up the opportunity for a form of oral or performance exams. It all depends on what fits your curriculum.

 

Not all days are going to fit the norm —

Some more than others. With all of these content options, the questions of how to curate, organise and assign it to students remains. Options like Wakelet provide easy to navigate space and embed directly into Firefly. In fact, all of the tools I’ve mentioned above embed directly into Firefly.  

This saves your teachers time while creating a centralised space for students and parents to access content and keep them engaged. A simple Google Site might do the trick, but you will likely need a secure platform to guarantee student online safety.

If you’re already a Firefly school and experiencing school closures, please connect with your Customer Success Manager. They’re happy to connect you with our Learning Team to provide support and consultation on how to make the most of the platform in your context.

 

Not a Firefly School? To find out more about how schools are using Firefly to drive distance learning or how it could work for your school, please do get in touch and we would be happy to provide a tailored demonstration.

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