Educating students in the middle of coronavirus outbreak
BISS MISSION CONTINUES
Presented with a challenge of educating young people in the 21st century, we never cease to ponder how to prepare students for the unpredictable, unknown and ever-changing future. As an IB world school, we strive to develop students who can take initiative, inquire about the world, and be real-life problem solvers who apply their knowledge and skills in a meaningful way that can impact our world and the life of others. At BISS, we believe that every situation might lend itself to becoming a potential learning opportunity for our students to explore, whether inside the school walls or beyond them. The current threat to our health and safety caused by the outbreak of 2019-nCoV made us put on hold opening of the school; however, the learning, and fulfilling BISS mission of educating and empowering students to attain personal excellence and positively impact the world, continues in the form of online lessons which replicate genuine classroom experience. The online program was designed by a dedicated team of BISS leaders and educators, who spent day and night to make sure that, despite a very short notice, the school is ready to open in this new setting from day 1 of the second semester.
STUDENT IN THE CENTRE
For most students, online learning was a completely new experience, which many awaited with a dose of curiosity and excitement. In order for this program to be successful, we involved parents seeking their feedback during the planning process, as well as right after the first day of learning. Parents noticed that this unique situation provides students with plenty of opportunities to develop real-life problem-solving skills and genuine collaboration. On the very first day, students experimented with the new platform and had a lot of “how to” questions. In many cases, it was students themselves sending each other screenshots with arrows pointing to various functions, describing step-by-step procedures for uploading videos and pictures, as those who “figured it out” eagerly shared with those who still struggled. We wanted, from the start, to make sure that the online learning experience is designed primarily for students, not their parents. Therefore, although BISS parents are incredibly supportive and care a lot about their children’s education, we make every effort to reduce parents’ assistance, transferring all responsibility for the online learning process onto students, even those younger ones.
ONLINE LEARNING IN PRACTICE
As part of BISS online learning, students continue following their regular schedules. They log in every morning to talk to their homeroom teachers and classmates via videoconferences and then switch to relevant subject groups. They discuss the problems, contribute ideas, and provide peer feedback. Students even conduct science experiments, which they record and send to classmates for review and analysis. The children are busy - they are expected to submit assignments, practice and record dance moves assigned by the PE teacher, play home-made instruments reading each others’ rhythm compositions, communicate with their classmates via video and chat, and take part in real time quizzes, with each student typing their answer or showing their picture to the camera for all classmates to see. The online learning continues to cater for every student’s need to be both autonomous and interdependent, to be a thinker and a communicator, to be a risk-taker and to be balanced.
TEACHERS AS LIFE-LONG LEARNERS
Nevertheless, it is not only students who demonstrate learner profile attributes in their new online adventure. BISS teachers remain true to the ethos of lifelong learning by applying learner profile attributes themselves. I am proud to see them as risk-takers while exploring alternative ways of teaching and communicating with students, parents and colleagues. I see how they collaborate, communicate, and inquire with an open-minded attitude, at the same time demonstrating a high level of resilience and resourcefulness coupled with deep reflection on their actions, and how they influence self and others. In keeping with BISS individualized approach and small, family-like school spirit, BISS teachers care for each student, making sure that he or she is taking part in the online experience. They call, initiate chats, and strive to support every child, whether the problem lies with temporary equipment failure, lack of understanding or simply a need for additional encouragement.
LIVING THE GROWTH MINDSET
Online learning at BISS is not a hindrance to students’ developmental process - it is a tool and opportunity to further tap into those developmental areas which students may not have paid much attention to before. It is a real-life opportunity, which everyone approaches with a growth mindset and can-do attitude. We hope that both students and teachers will gain as much as possible from this unique experience, and carry new knowledge and skills with them even after we go back to our campus and face-to-face education.
February 6, 2020
Head of School
Beijing BISS International School
-Online learning in action-