Using communication to support hybrid learning
A decile 1 school perspective
Ākonga may be away from kura for various reasons (e.g., Tangihanga, staying with whanaunga, sickness in the whānau, religious like Ramadan, oversea trips, disasters, need for physical isolation). This could also be said for kaiako. In such circumstances, ensuring students remain connected to their school learning is important and communication, feedback and knowing your whānau become very important.
How well do I know the whānau?
Some whānau could be away from kura for weeks or months and sometimes it is hard to contact them to find out where they are. It is not uncommon for school leaders to call around or visit the neighbours to try and find out the whereabouts of whānau. Whānau will often have relatives or friends at the kura which provides yet another option for communication. Therefore, knowing your ākonga and whānau connections and relationships with people in the kura and community will help the school and whānau to stay connected.
The covid pandemic has made kaiako and school leaders more aware of the need to work closely with whānau to determine the best way to keep them connected to kura’s teaching and learning. These connections can be used when the usual communication lines are interrupted or have changed. Do I need to gather more information about our whānau? How frequently should we revisit the information to see if it has changed?
How to stay connected?
Whānau and ākonga need to know that they can still be connected to the teaching and learning of their class or their group and for that to happen kaiako need to know ways to reach all ākonga no matter where they may be. And vice versa, ākonga need to know that their learning is reaching their kaiako, no matter where their kaiako may be.
In a situation where the kaiako is away and a teacher reliever doesn’t know the communication lines, then this can cause anxiety for ākonga. Communication records need to be kept in a central place (in a shared folder) for easy access by relievers, teachers and school leaders so everyone knows how they can contact whānau or who would be best to contact a particular whānau.
Planning once, for all students
The hybrid approach to teaching and learning supports the idea of kaiako, ākonga and whānau staying connected in teaching and learning no matter where they may be. However, it is important to find ways to do this without doubling the workload of kaiako. One way to do this is to produce the same lessons for all students whether they are learning from home or onsite at kura. In this approach, virtual lessons with links to resources are prepared for all students and can be accessed at home or at school. However, some students learning from home may not have a device or internet and schools may not have sufficient devices for all onsite students, so the virtual lessons can be downloaded (or separate paper-based lessons prepared for all students), and paper copies are used as part of the onsite learning programme as well as being delivered to ākonga who are learning from home. At kura, ākonga will access the paper-based and virtual lessons depending on the availability of devices but it can also allow ākonga to make a choice about how they learn.
The hybrid approach also supports flexibility for ākonga and whānau to choose the best time of the day and place for learning. Whānau could be busy with a tangi or some event and need to get their tamariki to do their learning at a time that suits them. Between the kaiako and whānau, they may need to negotiate some communication times suitable for everyone. Flexibility is the key.
Reciprocal feedback loops
Reciprocal communication is also the key for kaiako, ākonga, and whānau being responsive and active in hybrid teaching and learning. In the first instance, ākonga need to let their kaiako know whether a lesson’s learning intentions, success criteria, and tasks are suitable or not for their own learning situation. This feedback enables kaiako to be in a position to reflect on, and adapt, their learning programmes to the needs of ākonga even though they are not in the classroom with them. Feedback is also a reciprocal process from the kaiako to ākonga, so students also reflect on and adapt their learning.
Feedback to and from whānau sets the scene for further learning opportunities and kaiako will know whether their communications are appropriate and being provided in a way that works for whānau.
Setting up a summary record of communications: an example
It is important for ākonga to stay connected with the school during times of home learning. This will help them to transition back into school and keep their learning on track. To help with this, Anau and Jacki created a spreadsheet for all staff including kaiako, support staff, office staff and school leaders, so that they are able to track communications between home, whānau, and kura and everyone can access it. This means that staff can contact and work with whānau living at the same address. The spreadsheet asked for things like the following: Do they have internet? Are they using devices, or do they prefer paper learning packs?
|First Name||Family Name||Room||Caregiver||Address line 1||Caregiver email||Status||Paper packs||Device||Internet||Return date||Contact date||Contact date||Contact date|
|Isolating||28 February||No||Yes||9 March||3 March|
|Isolating||7 March||Yes||Yes||3 March||
With the information on the spreadsheet, one person can contact the whole family to see how they are and what support they need. The spreadsheet can be easily updated after each communication with whānau and staff are encouraged to check the spreadsheet before contacting any whānau to know the current circumstances with them.
With just the one person from kura responsible for contacting each whānau, this means that whānau are not being “hounded” by all the tamariki’s kaiako. It is also a more efficient approach for kaiako. The spreadsheet requires dates of when whānau are contacted and who contacts them, but also keeps track of whānau who are not contacted. Senior leaders can check up on this.
In these circumstances the person with the best relationship with whānau is assigned to call around to their home to see what support is needed. Some whānau may be isolating more than once so this is also recorded on the spreadsheet.
Watch the video below of Anau and Jacki talking about the spreadsheet and the importance of keeping in touch with whānau during times of remote learning.
Transcript for Interview with Anau Kupa and Jacki Newell. Deputy Principals of Windley School, Cannons Creek, Porirua. Interviewed by Rhys McKinley, Principal, Windley School.
So you guys put together a spreadsheet as a communication tool. Tell us about the communication that you use with that spreadsheet and home learning. How do you use the spreadsheet in home learning, with home learning.
The spreadsheet is primarily for the staff of school. So it's a central point of reference where teachers can see where children are and for what reason. And if they've had, a pack, home learning pack or if they're going to use a device, then it's really up to teachers in teams to decide, what's next?
So usually Yvonne would send an email out to us saying that a family needs a pack. Well, often families would request the pack, but if they don't she will ask. How long are you staying put, do you need to?
In so that goes on the doc, it's dated. Then we let the support staff know that packs for so and so family and they also do the delivery. But if what we found is that for some teachers they like to add in a bit extra of what the kids are doing in class. So that there is that bridging between the classroom and home.
Yes, is there's anything else that you use that spreadsheet for? I saw there were a couple of columns about contact, what’s that?
So that’s about whether anyone on SLT, or the parent, have made contact with the families. But also it's also dated, but also asking about anything else they might need support with like if they, you know, worried about food and stuff and us passing on phone numbers or contact details of agencies around here that can support.
So do the teachers use that spreadsheet as well? as it sounds like it all goes through you, you two.
It's open for everyone, so it's only just been introduced to teachers, so they need to start getting used to using it. But it's just a way of keeping all the information in one place so that I guess we would look it up as an umbrella and just see oh, they got a learning pack three weeks ago and it's been no other contact. Yeah, you know, we need to check. And so rather than have to go to the teacher and ask, or a support staff, it's on there.
So we did try this last year, the spreadsheet. So it worked really well so we could see that teachers were connecting. So we thought doing it this way would kind of help that connection with teachers, SLT and the families and the office people.
Good, great communication tool by the sounds of it?
And it also means that we don't look at children class by class when we're working with families. Which makes a big difference because we found in the first lockdown some families were getting calls all the time. Which became a stress. A stressor. So you know, you can you can see the because the families are on the spreadsheet in the same place.
So they get hounded by too many phone calls or teachers checking in on them.
In the same way. You know, those hard to reach families, you can see if they haven't had contact and then, you know, ramp up the efforts there.
Any other way that you use that spreadsheet as a communication tool or a gathering of information tool?
I think it's really important to connect with families. And even though the teachers, you know, when they don't have time at least there is someone doing it. Then it kind of helps the families feel like the school is there, they're still there.
And it sounds like it's not, it's not just the teacher involved with this, but the whole school like support staff, the DPs, the teachers, the office people. So it sounds like that there is a team of people rather than relying on one teacher because I was thinking, you know, if the teacher is sick or away or something like that, somebody, it would be easy for someone else to slot in and check-up and do those sorts of things, make connections.
And it does work quite well because it's like that village, you know what I mean? And there are some families that some people have good relationships with other families that are a little less good. So, you know, when things are stressful, you want a really familiar person checking in.
So you can sort of work to your strengths.
Also finding out like whether there are enough devices in the home, and if they’ve got suitable internet, you know, for things to work.
Yeah. So do you think that communication with the devices as well is open? Like, for example, I know last time you were saying that if there's an extended family the oldest child got the device and not the child who brought the device home.
Are you finding that still the case? Or is there something that we need to do about that?
Yeah, definitely. Especially with some of our families, we’ve got big families. In a household of five. You can't have one device in the house, you need more so they are all engaging in some type of learning. For the seniors, they have a lot of websites that they could use, which they do in class. It’s the same as in class, so there’s the stuff they’re doing in class. So it’s nothing different.
I guess that in the junior school. In the last three years, we've taken the emphasis off devices and we're really getting back to basics. So phonics and alphabet and what have you? So it's kind of hard to recreate that at home, at home and that's the work we're doing at the moment, is point to some resources that are suitable but they won't be, they won't be on devices.
It is hard trying to recreate the teaching part at home with juniors in particular. So is the different communication strains for the juniors when you've got little kids who you're communicating with and with the older kids, you know, we have year seven and eight. So is there a difference when you communicate with those whānau?
Yes, because years 5 to 8 use Hapara, so most of the comm(...), and Google classroom, so most of the communication is through the student’s email, and work is, you know, sent through that platform.
So the senior school, is more with the communications is more with the student rather than the whānau or the parents? What about with the juniors Jackie?
That's generally with the parents or caregivers?
And how does that work with the learning with the child is it around talking about the learning or is it around still making those connections?
It's really around making the connections and you're using the vehicle to make that connection as a child's learning. Do they have enough books? Would you like some books? Where are they in the end. We don't if they will read the books, but the act of gathering them, asking the questions, getting the books and getting them to them, is...is..
Shows that the school cares and wants them to be part of the school learning as well.
Yes, and thankfully we have an 0800 number, so there is no barriers for our families in phoning.
Whānau and kura communications
Interview with Anau Kupa and Jacki Newell. Deputy Principals of Windley School, Cannons Creek, Porirua.
Support from school leaders
School leaders need to ensure systems and processes are put in place so that kaiako:
- Feel comfortable communicating with whānau
- Consider home language and how best to communicate
- Can gather whānau basic information (SMS)
- Know the contact information is accurate and the best person to contact is highlighted (from past experiences)
- Past ākonga information is available for the kaiako
- Have a list of whānau at other schools (kāhui ako data base?)
- Use a simple feedback survey (paper and online, google form?)
- Can provide details for whānau to contact the kura/kaiako in a way that is available and free
- Are able to find out who will need a device and ensure sufficient availability to all ākonga (years 4 – 8, for example)
- Know about the whānau access to internet
- Have enough chromebooks for every ākonga who needs it in the kura
- Support teachers to work on what is manageable and sustainable
- Ask questions like the following: Are kaiako familiar with the current platform (e.g., hapara, google classroom)? Do they need more PD to utilize the benefits possible?
Where might you start?
- 0800 number for school contact so parents without data can call kaiako
- Multi texts through Student Management System
- Starting FaceBook page for whānau interactions with the kaiako
- Phone call from kaiako introducing themselves and finding out the home learning situation
- Recording class lessons or google meets so online ākonga can see and hear what is happening
- Set up a ‘record of communications spreadsheet’ to ensure regular communications with whānau learning from home (see sample communication spreadsheet on page 3