Closely following the directives of the Singapore government, GIIS switched to complete home-based learning (HBL) from the 19th of May, 2021 to ensure the continued safety of our school community. As GIIS has always been at the forefront of NexGen learning with sophisticated and state-of-the-art technology, learning tools and fully integrated digital processes, the transition was almost seamless! While many schools are coping with this pandemic-driven imperative, GIIS has enabled students to thrive and grow by facilitating a limitless learning environment.
READINESS TO TAKE SWIFT ACTION
On campus, our students already enjoy the best of facilities with SMART classrooms within a 21st century technology-driven school environment. Due to the foresight of the school, GIIS has always been way ahead of the curve in adopting the latest technology, and was previously prepared for digital teaching and learning, allowing HBL to be supported by just the click of a button.
CONSTANT GUIDANCE TO MAXIMISE PRODUCTIVITY
Digital collaboration between teachers and students is key to a smooth home-based learning experience. Our teachers along with the different curriculum coordinators have been working rigorously to make virtual classes engaging and rewarding for the students. To maximise the HBL experience our students have all been provided with access to a student handbook on virtual learning to guide them and facilitate the learning process. For a seamless and safe online experience when using ipads or macbooks, the students have access to digital tools such as our Learning Management System and GSuite (with Google Classroom IDs).
Teachers employ different pedagogical approaches at all levels to make classes interactive and interesting. Ms. K.P. Sheeja, Senior Academic Supervisor, discusses some strategies that are used to keep the students engaged and interested. Voice modulation and intonation are all essential elements that we use to connect with students. During the class, the teachers start by introducing the concept, then play a video, then solicit questions before conducting a breakout group session, finishing with a quiz on Kahoot (learning app).
In the primary school for a curriculum like IB Primary Years Programme, which requires well-planned learning engagements, sharing of ideas, debates and discussions, the teachers engage the students by asking them to use graphic organisers, drawing, music, role play etc. Collaboration with their peers online and a sense of ownership allow them to stay aligned with the learning objectives.
Pedagogy like this is impacted in a big way during pandemic-related restrictions. The teachers have risen to the challenge largely because of relationship building, teaching students how to look for answers through research. Also, strategies like helping students build their thinking and self-management skills that were already in place helped, says Ms. Manju Nair, IB Primary Years Programme Coordinator.
As we know, learning for life is not only about academics. In order to provide the same holistic experience that they have in school, GIIS continues to conduct online morning assemblies, where possible ECA/CCA classes and also offering many opportunities to students to participate collaboratively in virtual events.
As Ms. Deepika Sodhi, the Academic Supervisor for the international curriculum, proudly outlines, Home-based learning is not deterring us from making full use of a regular school-day schedule. Right from morning class assembly, heartfulness meditation sessions to CCA / ECA periods, along with regular classes, our students are engaged, inspired and look forward to joining the sessions. From conducting online exams to virtual Parent Teacher Interactions to virtual events, including a virtual Graduation Ceremony for our 2021 cohort, GIIS has been doing it all.
In order to support students with the most challenging aspect of their courses and to alleviate any worries that may arise, the dedicated GIIS teachers have been constantly working alongside their students. One-to-one consultation sessions for IBDP students for their Internal Assessments, Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge components are happening online, as per the original schedule. Online examinations are also being conducted and the students have fine-tuned themselves well to the new system. However, both teachers and students are looking forward to going back to school, says Ms. Deepa Chandrasekaran, IB Diploma Programme Coordinator.
DOING IT RIGHT: COMPLIANCE VS COMMITMENT
At GIIS, we strongly believe in guiding students whereby expectations are set and met where commitment is more important than solely compliance. Setting expectations from the beginning of any lesson, activity or course helps to achieve a more beneficial outcome and positive learning experience for all.
Students need to be aware of their schedule for the day and have the confidence to ask questions so that they are in control of their learning. This self-management is a skill that is another profound educational opportunity that can be developed in HBL. Mirroring the school values, having respectful behaviour between the teachers and their students and students and their peers will go a long way, and at GIIS we believe in discussing virtual classroom etiquette to inculcate a sense of commitment.
As teachers and parents we know there isnt an escape from screen time during virtual learning so at GIIS we are doing our best to offer alternatives. We have digital breaks in between classes where students are encouraged to walk away from gadgets and rest their eyes. GIISs well-being programme encourages students to get involved with other activities such as fitness and cooking and this helps build creativity and strengthens mind and body.
UNINTERRUPTED LEARNING WITH HYBRID PEDAGOGY
Educators across the globe observe that this hybrid pedagogy, an amalgamation of in-school classes and online learning, has rapidly become a 21st century imperative. And while most online classes tend to exclude the social aspect of schooling, which of course in the given situation cannot be helped, the positives are flexibility, accessibility of resources, new-age digital tools and most importantly, uninterrupted learning, says Ms. Melissa Maria, Principal, SMART Campus, GIIS.
At GIIS we are thankful to our parent community who have extended their support towards this effort. Parents know how difficult it is for teachers to teach students, especially the young ones, when they are in multiple locations. Parents of young children have stepped in to help their children. Everyone knows these are less than ideal times and our teachers have done the best they can under the circumstances, adds Ms. Nair.
Ms. Sanchayita Sarkar, mother of Debarpan Sarkar says, We are quite satisfied with the online classes. Last year, I remember my son facing technical glitches at times but this time its a smooth process and the kids are able to focus on learning. Unlike last year, when my son needed help for submission of worksheets etc, this year he is doing it all independently,
As the school is working towards making the online experience rewarding, we are constantly eliciting feedback from our students to ensure that the needs of our learners are met. I am enjoying my online classes. I am able to follow the instructions from the teachers without any issues. I dont need to travel to school and I have more time to play with my little brother, says Debarpan Sarkar, Grade 5, GIIS East Coast Campus, Singapore.
With uncertainties still looming large due to the pandemic, what we at GIIS can do to make a difference is with our preemptive positive actions. We believe in providing a continued learning journey for our students, where we are always looking towards a successful future with the understanding that home-based education needs an environment of support and guidance.