It’s often said that adversity is the mother of innovation. This has been a true reflection on the response we had to our teaching and learning experience at ARIS. Truly, the challenges the COVID-19 global pandemic has not in any way derailed our quest for a richer student experience but has rather fueled our quest for excellence and led to some serious creativity and innovation as the dynamism of our school culture has always been. Least among these is the discovery of using an amalgamation of technological tools to effectively plan and deliver lessons to students of all ages and heterogeneity of educational needs.
The proactive response to ensure learning goes on at ARIS is one worth noting. Credit to visionary leadership and strong collaboration among staff, the virtual learning experience has been worthwhile. Thanks to Google classroom, Zoom and a host of others, the virtual learning experience has never been a dull one.
For a learning community like ARIS, which has been credited for its robust Personalized learning approach, our resolve and pursuit for finesse in supporting each and every one of our students, the passion to harness our core value of greatness in everyone always drives us to attain the needed results.
Our Personalized learning model thrives on a strong foundation of differentiated learning which is premised on the varied needs of our students i.e. Gifted and Talented, SEND, EAL and those who may be highlighted as not performing to their best possible potential, for whom a Personalized Intervention Plan (PIP) may be devised to help address their needs.
The delivery of our well-structured one-one, pull-out and in-class differentiation for our students may be relatively straight forward in a normal school setting. It’s much easier to use facilitators and Personalized Learning Support Department (PLSD) staff to administer the needed service and enhance their overall learning experience. In the face of the global pandemic, which has led to schools being shut down, our SEND students on Personalized Learning Plans (PLPs), have still had a continuous implementation of their program with the availability of our virtual learning tools.
Some have wondered how we are managing to deliver our personalized learning sessions for your students in such a time as this. The key has been a strong collaboration among staff, IT, facilitators and PLSD team as well as with the advent of Zoom Breakout and other technological tools. We have tried a few things in the past few weeks, including a rich differentiated approach on Google classroom but finally settled on the ‘Breakout’ features that Zoom Video conferencing offers.
This allows us to be able to deliver individualized sessions for our students on pull-out, as well as carrying out in-class differentiated lessons for learners. Because it allows the host (facilitator) and personalized learning staff to hold private meetings away from the whole class, it comes in very handy when you need to support students on a one-one basis.
One of our students on the PLSD list who benefited from this experience could not hide his admiration for the Breakout feature and the support he received. He had this to say after accessing the Zoom Breakout session for his in-class differentiated learning; ‘it’s a very good experience and I will be happy to continue with this as it affords me the chance to be able to work at my own pace.’ He reiterated the fact that he is able to ask questions without feeling he is drawing the rest of the class back.
As a team, our honest admission is that it’s not always been plain sailing trying to implement an effective virtual personalized learning plan especially for our students on IEPs. Certainly, for our students with mild learning difficulties, it may be a straightforward approach. However, for some who may have physically challenging needs or may possess severe learning difficulties, such as severe autism, the virtual learning experience may require someone to be physically present whilst the facilitator collaborates with to deliver the sessions. Here the support of parents or home carers becomes critical.
We have tried various approaches and the results have been very positive as the case of one of our students with physical challenges proved that having a strong home-school collaboration in this challenging time may be key to aiding the overall success of the virtual learning experience.