Foto: Eva Wolfangel, NN
You have just found out that the school will close tomorrow for two weeks, wrote the teacher of our fifth grader on Thursday, March 12, 2020., in the evening at 7 p.m. Since September our children have been at the Graham and Parks School in Cambridge, a public elementary school.
You will try to put together a work package for this time by tomorrow, wrote Miss MacNeil. She will also make sure that three apps – two for math and one for English – are available and think about something for online meetings. “I will also put some tasks in the Google Classroom and tidy up the site tomorrow and make it more user-friendly.”
Photo: Helena Ebel
Miss MacNeil could hardly have slept that night, because the next day the child brought home a laptop with all the programs and apps it needed, its own login and email address. All you had to do was turn on the device and everything would work.
From then on, our daughter got a presentation in her Google Classroom every morning at 8.30 a.m., in which the teacher and her colleague presented a schedule for the day. Small videos were integrated in which the teacher greeted the children, read from a book or set a task. At lunchtime there was often a lunch meeting for social exchange on Google Meet, a class reunion three times a week, in between the students worked together on Google documents, wrote stories and corrected each other.
And that is what Minister of Education Michael Piazolo said in an interview on the discussion about the technically unstable learning platform Mebis.
Our six year old had a Zoom meeting with his entire class every morning at 9 a.m. At first there was chaos, the teacher insisted that each child first say “Good morning” to all three teachers personally.
The n the hour was almost over.
But Miss Kennedy, around 60 years old and not very familiar with computers, learned quickly. She worked with breakout rooms and got rid of the “good morning” saying. Within a few weeks, the fidgety morning meeting had turned into effective online lessons, in which the children worked on their own stories with various teachers in small groups or solved math problems on an analog whiteboard that the school had sent each individual student held up to the camera.
The se rules now apply throughout Germany and Bavaria.
Our second grader, on the other hand, especially loved the lunch meetings on Zoom with his class, where the kids were in charge and the teachers were amazingly calm when things got going. We realized how important social time is for the children. Zoom work meetings didn’t go down that well with him. He preferred to work on projects for which his teachers sent him material and links.
Comment on homeschooling: error instead of teaching
The re was also an app that reads books to read along and a math app that rewarded every few tasks with very colorful films and small games.
Our little one also enjoyed working with his desktop app called Seasaw, which his teacher used to set all kinds of tasks. She wrote and recorded the instructions herself, and in the tasks he was able to paint on the computer, assign objects to one another and submit the solutions – or make a small video of himself how he solved the task.
The video was uploaded with one click, and shortly afterwards there was feedback from Miss Kennedy.
What was different
The teachers took it with a lot of humor, they constantly coordinated with their colleagues from the same class levels, they distributed the work and created learning videos for the entire level. So there was a lot of variety. Our entire family watched the secretary’s turtle develop. Every day there was a new little video clip about the care and life of a turtle.
We got to know the Rector’s children, who sometimes sat on his lap during his morning video message and sometimes said “good morning” themselves.
The teachers were extremely keen to experiment: “A new day, a new adventure with technology and learning,” wrote Miss MacNeil, for example, “here are a few things I want to try out with the class”. If something didn’t work, it was done away with. Every child could choose from the pool of possibilities things that suited them.
Of course, distance learning was still exhausting for everyone. We had to motivate our children and answer countless questions.
The friends were missing. But the positive mood and the atmosphere of “we’re experimenting here together” helped.
Data protection as an obstacle?
Photo: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE
The tech worked, which may be easier if privacy falls behind (and that’s not a good thing). But it should also be feasible with data protection – but you would have to do it. When our daughter was unable to log in once in the US, two system administrators got in touch within minutes and fixed the problem. When the same thing happened here on Monday, there was no contact person.
The teacher wrote by email, “I can’t get in either.” Digital shrug. Force majeure.
At Cambridge it has been made a priority that the experience for children and teachers is as good as possible. That as many children as possible can participate in distance learning in a motivated manner. Laptops were distributed, families in need received free WiFi, and a large movement of volunteers delivered school lunches to their homes.
As a farewell there was a huge Zoom meeting with the whole school, the actor Matt Damon gave a very personal speech. “Hold on,” he said to the children at the end, “you will survive this difficult time.” We were touched.
The editors Kathrin Walther and Michaela Zimmermann inform you every two weeks about everything important. Order here for free. Every two weeks on Wednesdays at 6 a.m. in your mailbox.