On the drive to Wodonga from my home in Killawarra on Tuesday morning the Matchbox Twenty song, “Look how far we’ve come,” randomly played on Spotify. It was not the message of the song that struck me, but the repeated chorus, “Look how far we’ve come.” As I drive up the Hume Highway in the mornings I often find myself reflecting on aspects of our school community. I am confident that some of the Leadership Team would attest to me coming up with some very unusual ideas on my journey to work– Hume Highway dreaming maybe?
In light of the journey we have been on over the past months, it is a valid question, how far have we come? As we potentially transition into the next phase of remote/school learning what are the lessons we have learnt and what needs to be a part of our ongoing approach to education?
In weeks seven and eight of last term the Leadership Team developed three possible scenarios for what remote learning might look like. On four large whiteboards we brainstormed what we would need to consider for two weeks, four weeks and a term of remote learning (two-week board in photo) as well a one board full of “what ifs.”
Over the holiday break we continued to refine our ideas, staff continued to prepare for a minimum of two weeks of remote learning and just before Easter our State Government announced that all schools in Victoria will be remote learning for all of term two. See you later whiteboard one and two.
After arriving at school and coming out of my Hume Highway dreaming, I took the opportunity to touch base with the students who were participating in remote learning at school throughout the morning. I wanted to get feedback from them regarding what aspects of remote learning have worked for them and what should we consider to include in “normal” school life when we return. In essence I was asking students, how far have we come and what should we keep?
Whilst the following will not be true for all students, it does remind us of an important aspect of learning. The theme of independence and flexibility came through in my discussions with some of the students. The ability to receive clear, succinct instructions with flexible options to demonstrate learning has been important. When enough time has been given for students to then complete tasks, or manipulate their timetable they have been able to complete the work set in a way that works within their day. The development of our Horizon and Pathways vertical curriculum were created with similar intentions to increase independence, flexibility and ultimately increase student ownership.
The opportunity to use platforms such as Zoom in the future was a clear wondering from the students. The ability to connect if unable to attend, or with interested groups for further learning, catch up groups or research was mentioned. At this early stage from my own perspective, there is only so much Zoom I can handle in one day, but focussed activities with clear learning intentions and agendas will provide us with new learning opportunities.
A number of the students commented on the lack of distractions that come with remote learning. Whilst a number highlighted that if they wanted to they could create a distraction, such as messaging a mate and going for a kick of footy at Raiders. But the ability to jump out of a Zoom, go on with their work and log back into the session was popular response. The lack of class room distractions allows students to continue at their pace, decreasing the anxiety that can come from potentially noisy learning environments.
We will explore this in greater detail with our students, staff and families over the remainder of the term. In considering how far we have come, I am also drawn to how far have we got to go? More clarity around this is due to arrive on Monday when the Victorian State Government informs us of the next stage in our response to COVID 19 for our state. For the remainder of this week and into next week the Leadership Team at Catholic College Wodonga will continue to explore what the possible scenarios could be for our community over the remainder of terms two, three and four.
I was also asked how my family is coping with remote learning and my response was to show the photo below. Our youngest daughter Georgia is in grade six at St. Bernard’s in Wangaratta. Last Thursday I worked from home and supported Georgia with her remote learning, while Bel was supporting students at Borinya in Wangaratta. Like all families, the Hovey’s are juggling remote learning, our jobs and family members who we can only see through Zoom and FaceTime. A challenging time for all. Once again I extend a sincere thank you to all families for your support, patience and understanding.