Illustration by Edpuzzle Staff
We asked teacher blogger Adam Hill, whose school has been closed due to the coronavirus, to explain what the current situation is like at his international school in Hong Kong and how he uses Edpuzzle to connect with his students via remote learning. If you’re in a similar situation, you’ll love his advice!
Until April 20th, 2020 (at the earliest), schools remain closed in Hong Kong, China and other parts of Asia as governments take precautions to limit the outbreak of COVID-19 (better known as the coronavirus).
We haven’t been to school since the Chinese New Year holiday started on January 22nd. We were expected to return to work on February 5th, but the closures were confirmed and extensions continue to be regularly announced. Since February 5th, we've been working hard to continually support our students and offer remote learning engagements that continue to challenge and engage.
Flipped Learning vs. Remote Learning
I hesitate to call it flipped learning because, despite common misconceptions, flipped learning is not about homework, videos or other online tasks. Rather, it is about using those activities to best utilize the critical face-to-face time that we have with students in the classroom.
Flipped learning recognizes the importance of classroom time and, most importantly, time that students have with a supportive, encouraging teacher. In a flipped learning model, input is offered before the lesson so that the limited classroom time can be fully leveraged for creativity, critical thinking, application and other tasks that require higher level thinking and teacher support.
During this period of school closures, we do not have the luxury of classroom time. We must do our best to offer high quality learning experiences remotely. Nevertheless, the practices that are discussed here certainly apply to flipped learning as well.
Remote Learning at Victoria Shanghai Academy
Remote learning looks slightly different in every school, and so it should. What works for us won’t necessarily work in all contexts. Nevertheless, I will share our approach in the primary section of Victoria Shanghai Academy, Hong Kong.
The class teachers have been sharing home learning grids daily with learning engagements that are designed to keep the curriculum moving forward. To avoid putting pressure on the parents, we design activities that can be completed as independently as possible. As class teachers, we are online and available throughout the school day to offer support, encouragement and feedback.
We also offer two time slots every day for group video calls using Zoom. We use these to answer questions, clarify our expectations and generally just check in with the children. The Zoom calls have been very well received.
Specialist teachers (art, music, drama, etc.) used to post their lessons separately on whichever day they would normally see the class. However, feedback from parents suggested that the workload from class teachers was a little too much, and that the students were struggling to make time for the specialist activities. This was also a shame for the specialist teachers because they were working equally hard but getting significantly fewer responses.
To address both issues, we've allocated one day per week for specialist learning. On this day (different for each grade), the students get a specialist grid only, without additional work from the class teachers. This also allows the class teachers to take a breather! Again, this was well received by all.
It's been important to seek feedback, gather different perspectives and tweak our practices, but we now feel that we've found a routine that works.
Using Edpuzzle to Enhance Remote Learning
The silver lining of this challenging situation is that all teachers have adopted technology, and therefore, it has been a period of significant upskilling for many.
Edpuzzle has been a core application in my technology toolbelt for many years and I’m thrilled to see more educators discovering it. Especially with the generous upgrade that Edpuzzle is offering to affected schools, many teachers are enjoying it for the first time.
When schools finally reopen, technology tools like Edpuzzle can continue to be utilized to facilitate learning. It is clear that educators who are making the best of a bad situation are embracing this fantastic opportunity to learn, grow and upskill.
We have had a lot of important discussions and even debates about what best practice looks like with regard to remote learning. I would like to highlight a few of these key principles, ones that Edpuzzle strongly support. These also apply to flipped learning and other learning models that utilise technology.
- Students Respond Best to Their Own Teachers
There are many existing educational videos that are fantastic, but students respond best to their own teachers.
With Edpuzzle, we can utilize the existing content without reinventing the wheel and, importantly, personalize it for our own students. Audio notes allow teachers to pause the video at multiple points to add their own verbal comments. Even better, with the voiceover tool, we can use the existing visuals while offering our own explanations.
This has been particularly useful for our Chinese teachers who can explain the content in their usual language of instruction. As it states on the Edpuzzle site, voiceover allows you to “explain a concept the way you would in class - in your own style or maybe in another language”.
- Students Should Actively Engage
With online content, it is easy to passively consume. But we need to maintain students’ attention, encourage them to think about the content and offer opportunities for them to respond.
Using Edpuzzle, we can promote active learning by adding questions, notes and comments to videos. We can insert these at various points throughout and prompt responses from students before the video can continue. Especially if students need to answer questions about the content, they will need to listen actively.
- Feedback and Support Are Essential
Feedback plays a critical role during this time, as it always does, but not just to support learning. It also shows that we are present, available and active. Even when the students are learning remotely, we are always available to help. As always, feedback is most effective when it is timely.
In fact, supporting students while they work is most powerful, and still possible remotely using online tools such as Google apps. I want to focus my time and attention on in-depth feedback that nudges students forward. I’d rather not spend my time on “tick and flick” marking.
With tools like Edpuzzle, I don’t have to. Teachers can simply pre-select the correct answers and the marking will be done automatically. This is good news for students because they get instant feedback. By automating the marking in this way, it allows me more time to offer in-depth feedback and support.
I can find the assessment data in Edpuzzle’s instrumental Gradebook, along with progress bars for each student. With these features, I can easily identify which students had difficulties with specific sections of the assignments. I can then interject with support when necessary.
During this period of remote learning, we have utilized a range of technology tools. However, there are a few core tools that we depend on more than most. These have been invaluable across the school, with a range of different ages and by teachers with varying levels of confidence when using technology. One of these, undoubtedly, has been Edpuzzle. I look forward to more educators unlocking its potential and utilizing it long after schools reopen.