The ISG managed to get online classes running by the Tuesday after the school shutdown was announced on Sunday
Translated by Alexis Veenendaal
Mike Weston, Director of the International School Groningen (ISG), located at the Rijksstraatweg in Haren, explained how the way of teaching at the ISG has changed rapidly due to the measures taken during the Coronavirus to the Harener Weekblad.
Weston was not at all surprised by the cabinet’s decision on Sunday, March 15, about schools being closed. The school board was well prepared for this. “I was actually waiting for it to happen in line with the closure of the schools in the countries around the Netherlands.”
“Because the decision was only made here on Sunday afternoon, the 15th, we missed two important days to prepare. But for many classes, we were up and running on Tuesday with remote learning.”
The curriculum has been addressed. “In the first week, the team members put a series of tasks online in our online learning environments (SOM for the March College and Mana-gebac for TTO and ISG students). The exam-taking students have had personal contact with the teacher to be reassured and to answer urgent questions.”
“This week there are also video conferences that can be logged into, so that the teacher can meet his or her class virtually, according to the normal school schedule. Using Logitech, we have created two virtual classrooms with high quality web cameras where teachers can run live sessions, record question-and-answer sessions or activities and explanations that students can upload.”
It can also be challenging for teachers. “Learning new skills and learning a new way of working in a very short time is a challenge, but it can also be motivating. Many international organisations and publishers have opened their digital teaching resources free of charge to help schools through the crisis”, said Weston.
Distance learning also creates problems. “There are always challenges with a new teaching method. The concerns about exam students remain, but fortunately many can do one-on-one with the teachers and students. With all the facilities, we hope that the online curriculum is sufficient for exam candidates to prepare well.”
Weston doesn’t know how the exams will go yet. “Not at all. To quote Minister Slob, ‘Where’s my glass ball?’ Whatever the decision, we ensure the health and safety of our students remains a priority and we are all available to guide and support them, between now and summer.”
“I’m not sure if students enjoy online learning: they miss contact and interaction with each other: working together is a strong force at the international school and we encourage students to work together in their own way, through video calling or by other modern means”, he said.
But some aspects of distance learning have had a positive effect on students: “The students feel they have to work harder: but much of their learning is now about reinventing themselves and using that knowledge to come up with new ideas and theories, rather than passive individuals, and to listen to the teacher’s explanation. That can only be good!” said Weston.
Tests have also been adjusted to allow more open book exams. They are also much more about the understanding and use of knowledge than the retrieval of knowledge. 21st century learning and skills in action!”
Weston also has a message for the students. “Remember that we are all together in this: it’s not a school holiday and we (teachers, students and parents) all work hard to make sure everyone stays happy and feels supported in these difficult times.”