A message from our Executive Director, Ms. Lisa Perskie
On a fateful day, March 12, school life as we have known it was completely changed due to the existential challenges provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic. But we are not alone. Over the past few months, schooling for over 1.6 billion children has been disrupted, and education will never be the same. It is being forced to change! Most predictions are that we are not heading toward a new normal but a new era in education. We are faced with an exciting opportunity to turn the hardship of the pandemic into lessons that can help us lead our schools and help children to be more prepared and skilled global citizens.
What are we learning from this time of adversity? We are seeing that we cannot have one card in our hands, one way of doing things. We are learning in real-time how to update education from 2.0 to 5.0, to be responsive to global upheavals that can come in the form of epidemics, wars, and climate change. We are learning that educational systems and programs need to be responsive to the demands of a rapidly changing society while also providing caring and personalized education to every student. This is an immense challenge, but our School, along with many others, is rising to meet it with immense passion and commitment!
Most of us grew up and were educated in brick-and-mortar schools. If you are older, like me, the only method of teaching while I was growing up was face-to-face. There was no Internet, computers, PowerPoints, or other technology-enhanced strategies to enrich the learning experience. Later, videos were occasionally shown, but the only things live in schools were teachers and students.
At School of the Nations, we have found that face-to-face learning is the essential core of learning. It is a social activity and fostered through a variety of interactions. However, we are now incorporating technology progressively to expand and enhance student learning opportunities. Technology has opened a world of possibilities for human progress and support. Our students in Secondary bring their own devices, use Google apps, Schoology, and YouTube videos. Our younger students practice Math skills on IXL and receive instant feedback and take part in reading and language programs online. Our standardized tests have moved from paper to web-based.
On March 12, our School entered the first phase of this new era when schools were closed from one day to the next for what has become an indefinite period. Through diligent study and preparation, we were ready to provide our community with a Distance Learning Program from day one. We will continue to refine and develop our capacity to deliver online programs and services should we need to do so in the future – hopefully, for a shorter time! What we have learned about best practices in online and virtual learning environments will be applied in our next phase.
The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Unleashed A Revolution in Education: From Now On, Blended Learning Will Be the Benchmark
The change will be permanent: educational activity will no longer be face-to-face or online but a blend, able to move from one to another immediately fluidly, continually, through a student’s life, way beyond the school, college or university years. In today’s world, we are all required to continually learn and unlearn, and we will demand conceptual frameworks and tools for it. Institutions, academic directors, teachers or students who are unable to adapt will simply have no place in this new scenario.” - Dans Senior Contributor - Forbes
Soon, we will be entering a new phase in which schools will reopen but with probable significant restrictions on the numbers of students in each classroom. We need to prepare to follow guidelines for the phased reentry of students. International schools, like School of the Nations, are preparing for various future scenarios in which schooling will take place in a combination of face-to-face, on-campus classes, and online learning.
Our goal is to provide as much face-to-face learning for students as possible because we know that parents, students, and staff prefer leaning on campus. Through blended learning, we will be able to integrate the use of online technology both on- and off-campus to ensure the best quality educational services possible. Blended learning allows students and teachers great flexibility in the kinds of activities that can be conducted and where they can be carried out – at the physical campus and from home.
What is blended learning? The Christensen Institute defines blended learning as a formal education program in which a student learns:
at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;
at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; and
the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.
There is no single formula for how much time should be spent in face-to-face instruction and online learning. It depends on the organization of the learning activities, methods of assessment, and the best use of in-person time in combination with online time.
Online activities can be a large part of the learning process, from a small percentage up to 70% of the time. Several characteristics of blended learning must be present for it to be called blended versus a technological enhancement or complement. The most important is student control.
Student control is associated with student engagement, autonomy, voice and choice. It is key to successful blended learning. The student will not just be using digital tools for assignments but will have some control over the pace of his or her work. For example, with in-class work, the group often does the same activity at the same time and pace. When a student engages in blended online learning, the activities he or she does will be integrated with and related to the in-class learning, but the student may choose when and where to work on the activities and make other decisions that personalize the learning to his or her needs and abilities.
The other key aspect is the integration and coordination of the two modes of learning so that the focus is on the mastery of the curricular objectives and standards for student performance. In either modality, the student will be learning content, skills, and competencies that are part of the School’s subject and grade-level curriculum. The ultimate goal is for the student to acquire the expected knowledge and capacities for the bimester and year.
Difference between Blended and Tech-Rich Learning
We will explore with parents and the community more about how we will deliver blended learning at School of the Nations. We are preparing students to be successful in the present as well as the future, in which 36 percent of today’s jobs will no longer exist. Students will need greater capacities to learn how to learn and navigate oceans of knowledge digitally. They will become flexible and adaptable learners, ready to change the world and adapt to a not yet imagined future.