A father helps his children with online learning at home. Courtesy of Shekou International School
Whilst the Jingshan and Bayside campuses of Shekou International School (SIS) are still kept shut amid the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching activities at the school have been resumed online since Feb. 3.
The school’s e-learning program provides asynchronous online courses to support students who are spread across the world, keeping their engagement with peers, teachers and community active despite not being physically present in classrooms.
“The goal for our distance learning program is to guarantee continuity in learning and teaching and to maintain the expected standards of our curriculum,” said Harish Kanabar, primary principal at SIS, in an email interview with the Shenzhen Daily. “Students’ participation and performances are monitored by faculties of the school. Teachers have been on call practically 24/7 to meet the needs of students and parents, to give them a sense of reassurance and to help solve their problems.”
The school is using popular apps and software for remote learning, video conferencing and office automation to help teachers keep track of students’ conditions and communicate with their colleagues across the world. Teaching online also offers a novel experience to the teachers — especially for those staying abroad during the period — to update their teaching methods and to step out of their comfort zones.
Currently staying in Phuket, Thailand, middle school science teacher Riley Laird recorded videos on a 1-month-old green sea turtle named Marlin and the local turtle sanctuary it’s staying at as part of the online classes on ecosystems for Grade 7 students.
“I wanted to make the most of my current location and to connect our learning with the local community. The sanctuary sends us updates on the turtles’ health and progress. They said that Marlin is likely to be released into the Andaman Sea in mid-April,” said Laird.
Rebecca Wallace is a Grade 4 teacher at the school and is currently staying in her mother’s home in Upstate New York. During the daytime, she and her husband are helping her three children with their online classes. From 8 p.m. to midnight, she starts teaching human migrations, mathematics fractions and composition of research reports to her students living in different time zones.
Though teaching nearly around the clock, Wallace said that she is getting to know the students better in terms of their homes, family and even pets.
“This slower and more personalized experience is an important lesson that I will bring back to the classroom,” she said.
Greg Smith, head of SIS, dubbed the online teaching period a temporary “new normal” at the school. “Students are now more adept at using technology than before. They see that communication is the most powerful part of being an effective learner and can harness the tools to shrink distance and time. The ‘new normal’ will encompass more options for connection to the world and more focus on creating real solutions,” he said.
The school has a total of 992 students, 68 percent of who are staying in Shenzhen and 27 percent of who are staying abroad for the epidemic.