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Piloting Education 4.0 Prompted by the Coronavirus Crisis

By Shwetangna Chakrabarty
Piloting Education 4.0 Prompted by the Coronavirus Crisis

A trial DP schedule was released initially to cement this process and ensure online classes run as planned. This was shared with both students and teachers. ________________________________________________________________________ Education 4.0 is a term taken up by leading thinkers in our sector to describe the ways in which we need to prepare students for the fourth industrial revolution, or the advent of the 22nd century. A lot of research is available online, most of it explaining the role of technology in preparing young people for this major paradigm shift. Discussions about virtual classes, online collaboration, and the emergence of new learning spaces are echoing from every corner of academia, it would seem. Our school, Guangzhou Nanfang International School (GNIS) in China, has had the opportunity to pilot Education 4.0—albeit under duress. The nudge GNIS China is an International Baccalaureate (IB) world school situated in the lush Longdong area of Guangzhou, China. The school recently had to make a major decision within a limited period of time due to the global coronavirus epidemic. Our senior leadership team (SLT) and pedagogical leadership team (PLT) decided to continue teaching and learning by running classes online. The school was supposed to reopen on 4 February 2020 following a six-week winter break that combined Christmas and Chinese New Year celebrations. Our scheduled start date got delayed, however, as Guangdong Education Bureau advised all schools to remain closed until the end of February. This situation posed a tremendous challenge for the entire school community. By delaying our opening: • the number of mandatory hours of teaching the IB/IGCSE curriculum would be hard to meet. • the mock exam preparation would be impacted as well as the administration of the mock exam. • it would be impossible to meet the IB internal assessment upload deadline. • recording oral components of the internal assessments would be impacted. • continuity with teaching and learning would be deeply affected. Due to all of these factors, a decision was made to run the school remotely and pursues classes online. The plan The secondary pedagogical leadership team (PLT) discussed the above challenges on 2 February via a Skype meeting and took a quick but well-considered decision to start schooling online, embracing the challenge as an opportunity to engage Education 4.0! Following this meeting, PLT members—comprised of the Head of Secondary and both the Diploma Programme (DP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP) coordinators—undertook the mammoth task of organizing these online classes and running the secondary school remotely. A similar plan was put forth by their counterparts in primary to run their own school remotely. In a nutshell, we planned to run an entire school from different parts of the world, teaching students scattered across the globe—all thanks to technology and a team of dedicated educators! Putting the plan into action The initial step involved informing the entire GNIS community about our plan to continuing teaching via online class sessions. Detailed steps about how we planned to proceed were first shared with teachers. Once they were on board, information was sent out to the broader GNIS community explaining the action plan for running the school on a virtual platform. The expectations for students, parents, and teachers were clearly communicated via email and through the school online learning platforms, ManageBac (secondary) and Seesaw (primary). The following FAQ sheet was shared with the GNIS community to get online lessons under way: FAQs on online learning Dear Parents, As we begin semester two, we have started online teaching for a few classes. Here are a few answers to frequently asked questions relating to online classes that will help you understand the process better: What are online classes and how will they work? Online classes are lessons delivered by subject teachers with a video conferencing setup. GNIS has chosen the zoom platform to deliver online classes. Teachers will send emails to set up lessons as per a schedule prepared for the next two weeks. A tracking sheet will be maintained by teachers for monitoring student progress. What will happen if students do not attend online classes? Missing online classes is like missing classes on regular school days, students will miss out on the important course content being covered during this time. They will have to follow up with the teacher and complete the missed content on their own. What about IB and IG deadlines? At this time, students need to ensure that they meet the deadlines that have been set by their teachers. The mock exam dates will be reviewed and students will be informed of the changes. The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) is also aware of the situation in China and is monitoring the situation closely. What if students can’t connect to the internet during the online classes? Students should try to avoid this situation. If they encounter difficulty with the internet, they should inform their parents and the teachers about this challenge and together try to resolve it. Students are advised to set up zoom accounts with their school email and test a video call to be fully prepared for the online lessons. What is the best thing that can be done to ensure that learning continues during this time? The most important thing that students can do is keep up with the schedule/tasks shared with them via email or ManageBac. Additionally, students are encouraged to remain in close contact with their teachers and meet all deadlines that have been set. If/when a student has a question, they should reach out immediately. Who is the contact person in case of any emergency related to online classes? Please contact your subject teacher and copy the programme coordinator into all communications, one of them will answer your query within 24 hours. What are the timings for the online classes? The online classes will be arranged during school timings(China Standard Time), hence students need to ensure they are connected to the internet during this time. How can parents help? Parents have a big role to play; ensure your child/ren has access to the internet; remind them to check emails and ManageBac everyday morning at 8.25 am; check if their child/ren have set up zoom accounts and above all remind their child/ren to meet all deadline. Can parents communicate with a teacher on zoom? Parents can write emails to teachers if they have any doubts or questions but they should not communicate on zoom as this the platform is only meant for online classes for teaching and learning. Can students use other platforms for video conferencing? Students are encouraged to set up zoom accounts, in case they are asked by the subject teacher to use Skype they can set up a Skype account. For any further queries please contact the programme coordinators. The next step was to share a schedule with students. This turned out to be the most challenging aspect, as the time difference between students and teachers spanned over 12 hours (from Canada to China). Hence began the laborious work of fixing a suitable time at which all students and their teachers could meet. The first week was kept flexible with only a few set conditions. Here is an example of the action plan for Diploma Programme (DP) students: -In the first week, DP2 students will have 4 hours of lesson time and DP1 will have 2 hours of lesson time every day. -Specific days are assigned to all subjects, this is our new timetable for DP students till the time the school remains closed. -Teachers will set up a zoom online lessons with their students during these days for an hour. It will be set up via an email to students and also uploaded on ManageBac as a task (for example-'DP2_VA_online session_1'). -Online classes will be set up during school hours (China Standard Time). Consider recording your lesson and sharing it with students prior to your online lesson. -Since everyone is scattered around the world with considerable time differences, teachers will email your students directly to organise a suitable time for the online classes. -Teachers will copy coordinator into all emails to students and update the student progress tracker. -For IA submissions, deadlines have been revised and uploaded on ManageBac. A trial DP schedule (above) was released initially to cement this process and ensure online classes run as planned. This was shared with both students and teachers. The final step was to ensure that the plan was executed seamlessly. As teachers regularly monitored student progress on a shared online tracking sheet, students completed tasks, parents were kept informed about all decisions taken by school, and the schedule was adjusted to accommodate both staff and students. The collaboration among the PLT, teachers, and students was exemplary and has led to the success of this pilot run. The impact At present, online classes have begun for all students at GNIS. The Chinese government is trying its best to contain the virus, hence schools have remained closed but this does not mean that learning has stopped. Many international schools in Guangzhou are running lessons online. The biggest challenge is the time difference and the fact that students and staff are finding it extremely difficult to return to China due to flight cancellations. In spite of these challenges, the GNIS community has responded very well and are trying their best to continue teaching and learning. Teachers are also collaborating and meeting online to plan the way forward. Here I would like to mention the support of our Human Resources (HR) team and our Head of School; they have sent us updates every day and regularly checked in with us. All this goes exemplifies the extraordinary resilience and support the school and the Chinese government have demonstrated during this difficult time. The city roads are less busy and some shops are closed, but life continues normally without any chaos—and thanks to technology, so do teaching and learning! It seems we are ready for the paradigm shift toward Education 4.0.

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