Seven actions necessary for getting started with hybrid learning
Choose a central online platform
You will put all your learning tasks and learning resources onto this platform so that all students can access them whether learning remotely or onsite at school.
Some things to think about:
- Feedback from teachers and parents suggests that this platform should be the same throughout the school so that parents with several children only need to learn how to get around one online platform rather than several. Even better is to use the same platform throughout a cluster of schools or a Kāhui Ako.
- This central online platform does not need to be a full LMS (learning management system), but could be as simple as a Google site which is freely available as part of the Google for Education suite of products.
- As Urs (in the video) suggests, use the same site for onsite learning whether remote learning is required or not. This will ensure everyone (teachers, ākonga, parents/whanau) are familiar with the online platform and, at times where remote learning is required, will easily be able to navigate around it independently.
- Although the main goal is to ensure familiarity with the platform no matter where students are in the school, allow some flexibility for teachers/subs to add some unique markers or decorations to add some uniqueness to their sites.
Transcript for Urs Cunningham, Principal of Amesbury School. Interviewed by Dr Lesley Murrihy, Ministry of Education.
Keeping it Simple.
Dr Lesley Murrihy: Kia ora Urs. Thank you so much for agreeing to share your remote learning stories. Please begin by telling us a little bit about your school and then describe some of the things that you did to support students during the lockdown period.
Kia ora, ko Urs tōku ingoa. We are a decile ten primary school years 1 to 6 in the northern suburbs of Wellington. We got a roll of just about, just over 300 students. We are used to using quite a lot of technology with our students.
Our Year 2 to 4 hub and Year 4 to 6 hub are all one-to-one with Chromebooks. So our students are used to working in a digital environment daily in normal circumstances. So that does stand us in good stead for doing home learning. Whilst our Chromebooks are all school Chromebooks, so they don't usually go home. We did send all of our devices home with students for home learning so that they had devices to work on. Having said that, I think one of the interesting things we found in our first lockdown was that we assumed that our students, particularly our older students, our year four or six students in Pōhutukawa Hub, we assumed that they'd be really quite confident with online learning. We thought they would be absolutely fine accessing Google Classroom, accessing different learning that was sent through to them and going to their particular tasks because that's what they did every day in their, in their normal learning.
But what we hadn't accounted for was how collaborative all learning is at school. So we didn't realize how many of our students obviously took their cues from other students, and they all helped each other, which actually is really great and we're really pleased with. But it wasn't so helpful in lockdown. Because all of a sudden, a lot more of our students than we expected did struggle to move between different aspects of their learning. And so quite quickly, we realized that a really big key focus for us in distance learning was to make sure that we could create one key place where all of the learning would sit for each team. That was easy and simple, simple both for parents and for students to access. So that was our big focus last year, the first time around. Our main, our answer for this was to create a quite simple Google site for each team. And we wanted to make sure that the essence of each site was the same across the teams, so that parents who were trying to move between multiple learning sites didn't have to figure out the intricacies of each different site.
The way that the junior site looked was essentially the same as,as the others. So what we did was have a set of teachers create one template website. Played around with it a little bit until we were happy with it and then said, right, this is the basic format. Now create your team site from here. And so what we've got are three distance learning websites, one for each team and they all, whilst they all have the flavour and personality of each hub, they've been able to do their own little bells and whistles there and the little team things. The actual structure of the three sites are really similar. There's a home page with the key learning pack for each week, a summary of what's going on for the week, and then the different pages for each particular learning area. And I think hopefully, that makes it simple for parents who are having to use multiple sites. We found that those Google sites are fantastic. They are the one-stop shop. All we have to say to all parents is just follow this link, get to this place. Everything you need is, is within here. I think it was a much more purposeful and deliberate process than we thought we'd need originally, but it's really worked. And what has also been really beneficial that was not expected was that the students, our older students in our year 4 to 6 hub, they liked the distance learning website so much in level three. When some of our students came back on site and the bubble, teachers were trying to teach them face-to-face. They were like, no, no, I just want to go to the distance learning site and access it in exactly my way and go back to learning that I think I need to and replay things. They actually really liked that. So that has now become it's not a distance learning site anymore for those students. It is simply their Pōhutukawa learning site. It was kept on after the lockdown last year and they now use it daily. They've used it for over a year so that when we went into lockdown this time, it was a really smooth transition because they were just carrying on using what they've always learned. So that was what they've always used.
But it was good to find out, the teams to find out, what is working and what is it, what's hard for you to access and what isn't. I know based on that, that one of our hubs made sure that our passport cards were all up to date and working well for our youngest students because they move between a number of different learning sites. They use IXL, they use Teach your monster to read, they use Epic. And all of these things need to code or log in. And obviously, that's really hard for young children to remember. And so each child now has a passport card, which is simply a Google doc and it just has all the key things here is Sunshine Classics, here is your IXL, it's all on one card. We have copies of this in the classroom, but most importantly, your parents have a copy at home and they know that it exists. If you lose the copy, they can always just ask for another one. I think more and more we just realised things needed to be gathered together in one place. Simply because you just forget as you go along, you keep adding more and more on, which seems great when you are just in normal learning and their teacher is there who know how it all works. But when you suddenly try and pass this on to a parent who doesn't know how it all works, you realize how many different moving parts there are. And that's it's really tricky for, for people to keep hold of all that.
So passport card, learning site, just trying to gather and collate these key things.
Dr Lesley Murrihy:
Well Urs, thank you so much for sharing that with us. I'm sure that will be incredibly helpful to teachers all around New Zealand. Ngā mihi nui, ki a koe.
Keeping it simple
An interview with Urs Cunningham, Principal of Amesbury School.
Important point: this online platform will be used by both onsite and remote learners.
Choose a limited toolkit of online learning tools
It is useful to begin with a limited range of online learning tools that you use consistently for learning programmes whether onsite or remote. A limited range will assist teachers/kaiako, ākonga and parents/whānau to gain familiarity with them quickly. The range can be increased once everyone has become familiar with the toolkit. However, only change or exchange an old tool with a new tool if it brings greater value, not because of personal preference. It will help with everyone’s cognitive load (capacity or space for thinking) if the toolkit remains limited with tools that are quality and fit for purpose and consistently used across onsite and remote learning environments.
Some schools have requirements for particular tools to be used across the school. This can be helpful, particularly for parents/whānau and ākonga working remotely. However, there will need to be differentiation based on year level.
It is helpful to use the same tools whether ākonga are working onsite at school or remotely, and to continue using the same tools when there is no longer a need for remote learning. This means that the transition to remote/hybrid learning will be much smoother when it is necessary and will also improve the quality of learning opportunities when students are learning onsite.
Provide clear guidance and expectations for teachers for online learning
When something is new, it creates additional cognitive load. Moving to hybrid learning will initially increase the cognitive load for many teachers as they learn lots of new ways of doing things. It is always easier to go back to what we already know. Having clear guidance and expectations will be very helpful for teachers because it reduces that cognitive load.
To start with, the guidance/expectations might be quite prescriptive while teachers develop the new planning habits and then it might be able to become less prescriptive.
This guidance will include expectations for how teachers will interact and connect with remote students, and the expected frequency of those interactions. This is important to ensure equitable and inclusive learning opportunities because “out of sight, out of mind” is very real and it is easy for teachers to forget about remote learners because the onsite students take up their full attention. The “how” of these connections and interactions will likely look different for students who do not have devices and/or do not have access to internet. For these students, phone might be the only method of contact. Having this information about students on file at all times is important. (See next section.) Maintaining connections with students supports their wellbeing and social skills, and will help to aid an easier transition back to school. It is a very important aspect of a remote learning programme.
The guidance/expectations will likely include expectations for feedback and monitoring of students’ engagement in the tasks and their progress and completion of tasks.
Collect information about ākonga
Schools generally gather information about ākonga and families/whānau as a regular part of their enrolment and parent/whānau communication processes. However, remote learning requires information not generally collected at the time of enrolment. It is worth updating what is collected so that the school has the necessary information for hybrid learning at its fingertips.
It needs to be noted that the sort of information required for remote learning will need to be continually updated to ensure it is current and accurate, as some students and families come and go, and, for others, their circumstances might change. This may impact on their ability to provide devices and internet connectivity at home. This continual updating of information should become part of the Hybrid Learning Expectations and Guidance (above).
An annual survey for ākonga and whānau may be a mechanism for updating information. The important thing is to have the information you need for times of hybrid learning and this will require questions that dig down to create a more detailed picture of the home context for remote teaching and learning. Simply discovering who has a device available at home isn’t very helpful without knowing if that device is internet-capable: if there is actually an internet connection available and, if so, its capacity and how many others in the household are needing to share the device (and make demands on the internet connection).
Information about the kinds of support students will have when they are learning at home, and the capability of that support is important, but needs to be carefully and sensitively collected. Asking how confident parents/whānau feel supporting their child’s learning may provide the information needed without requiring a comment on capability. Not requiring these questions to be answered in a survey, also gives parents/whānau the choice to opt out of answering if they are not comfortable doing so.
Check out this guide for further information: Using information to provide the right supports for remote learners
PLD to ensure teachers know the basics
Pause and take a little time to ensure teachers have the basic knowledge they need to use the online platform and tools and to follow the guidance and expectations. Don’t give too much information initially – just enough – and provide additional support to those who are struggling. Ensure teachers keep using the tools and platform for their learning programmes so that the learning becomes embedded.
PLD hours available
Schools and kura can access Professional Learning & Support (PLD) for up to 25 PLD hours if they need help with hybrid teaching and/or teaching over 2022. The information on how to apply for this support is on the PLD website. https://pld.education.govt.nz/news/hybrid-learning-pld-support/
Provide simple guidance for ākonga/parents/whānau
Send out some simple guidance to parents and whānau about how to use the online platform to support their child’s learning. This is particularly important if using the platform hasn’t already been a normal part of the learning programme. Providing short (3 – 5 minute) accompanying videos will be helpful if possible.
Make sure you have learning progressions
Knowing where students are at in their learning, determining next learning steps, and designing learning to cause that learning to happen are just as important in hybrid learning as they are in traditional onsite learning. We call this personalisation of learning. Learning progressions are an essential support for providing the learning that students’ need and for ensuring continuity of learning. Continuity of learning is about more than just ensuring learning programmes continue for remote students, but is also about ensuring that students continue to receive learning experiences that support their learning progress. During the initial lockdowns, ākonga were often given busy work to do. Increasingly, schools have been looking at ways to support student progress.
Most schools will have learning progressions for the core learning areas, but if you don’t, ask your colleagues from other schools to see what they are using and whether you can access their progressions. Don’t reinvent the wheel! There are plenty of good progressions available.You may have to tweak them to ensure they fit your learning approach.
Where might you start?
Checklist for getting started
|Does our school have...||Ticket if yes, write an action below if not.|
|A central online platform where we are putting all our learning resources, tasks, instructions etc.?|
|A toolkit of online learning tools that are used consistently?|
|Clear guidance and expectations for teachers for online and hybrid learning?|
|Relevant information collected about ākonga?|
|A PLD programme to ensure all teachers know the basics of using the platform and the tools we are using?|
|Simple guidance for ākonga/parents/whānau to help them access learning?|
Using the uncompleted actions from the checklist above, develop an action plan to prepare for getting started with
hybrid learning. Note: it is likely that you have already started hybrid learning but have identified some “getting started”
features that your approach would benefit from.