Our Distance Learning Adventure

Our distance learning adventure began 3-weeks ago, we waved our students goodbye on a Friday afternoon, Wuhan-shaking each other at the gate. The whole community worked frantically in the days before our transition, getting our systems and curriculum in place, learning fast together; ready to truly embrace the fact that “learning takes place all the time, everywhere and for everybody; learning is complex and personal; learning is a journey”.

And what a journey it has been for StGIS students and staff already, highs and lows – challenges and celebrations. Our distance learning principles centred around a desire to ROCK; we asked our community to focus on Routines, get Outside where possible, to Communicate regularly and most importantly, be Kind to each other. We have discovered that curriculum delivery might change, but can continue, our staff and students have conducted Science experiments, filming and sharing the process, undertaken group work and performances in Drama, online discussions in English, and in-the-news research in World Studies; they love Kahoot quizzes, and enjoy the opportunity to keep fit through their Movement and Wellbeing daily exercise and keeping an active diary vlog of their efforts.

However, perhaps most importantly, we have also focused our energies on the many other, equally valuable yet less obvious aspects of school; our dedicated and caring Mentor Tutors have conducted face-to-face chats with their students on a daily basis, listening, guiding and supporting their learning and wellbeing. Our Head of Activities has motivated the community to try something new for 30-days; an instrument, language, cooking – whatever, provided it challenges and inspires. Our Digital Learning Coordinator has new ideas every week to connect with our students and staff across the globe, and he takes time to share his tips and tricks with the community. We continue to run assemblies, Science evenings, Spring concerts and more; in this way our commitment to excellence in care, education and activities remains as strong as ever.

What does this mean for our students? They get up each morning, but don’t have to wear uniform; their journey to school is a short walk to the computer rather than a long bus trip. They see their teachers and classmates on screen rather than face-to-face; but they still connect. Lessons start at normal times, students who can log-in, teachers introduce the topic and work with presentations, videos and live chat, students get the chance to ask questions. During the lesson, teachers respond to chat and video messages in Teams, review students work and give feedback as normal. After morning classes, our students check in with their Mentor Tutor, before taking a break. The rhythm continues; with up and down to lunch and some fresh air in between classes. After school, many will do some exercise, play music, draw, cook, meditate – anything to help keep positive and focused. Evenings maybe involve some homework, and some downtime with family; sleep comes quickly, and we do it all again. Is it easy; no, is it possible and are we ROCKing it – yes?

We are distant, yet still together and cannot wait to be back in St Gilgen as soon as possible; for now though, we remain committed to making the most of our distance learning adventure, and growing from the experience.