Teachers adapt to online learning

Cannons Creek High School maths teacher, Tracy Ingram, working from home.

Schools are having to adapt quickly to online teaching to get around the Covid-19 restrictions, and it’s been a sharp learning curve for those with more of a hands-on approach.

Gaia Waldorf School in Oude Molen Village avoids digital technology in favour of teaching its young pupils to be imaginative in the world around them, but it has had to change its stance.

Brian Klopper, the school’s project manager, says teachers have had to embrace e-learning and use imaginative ways of reaching the children.

“The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has made the teachers rethink how they approach their lessons and what to remove, for the time being, without losing the essence of the Waldorf experience.”

Teachers use WhatsApp to share maths videos with younger pupils, then follow up with a video call
to see if they understood the lesson.

Lesson sheets are sent by WhatsApp to more senior pupils, who then send their completed work back to the teacher for evaluation.

Some pupils are using WhatsApp video to present art projects.

Mr Klopper says the school is also considering using YouTube and Google Classroom.

Cannons Creek Primary School principal Tracey Wahl says their pre-primary and foundation phases require hands-on teaching methods, relying on a fair amount of supervision by parents.

The school’s intermediate phase was already using Google Classroom and websites.

“Class meetings and pupil contact have largely been through Class Dojo, Classroom, Zoom and Google Meets.”

This way of teaching can be tough, Ms Wahl says, because teachers find themselves on online duty for 12 hours a day.

“Answering pupil questions remotely is very different to the pupil putting up their hand in class.”

Ms Wahl says the teachers miss the face to face contact and especially the daily hugs and smiles.

“We are a family, so being apart for so long is hard on everyone.

“We use Zoom and the Cannons Creek Radio to stay in contact as much as possible, we enjoy
spending time chatting to one another.”

Cannons Creek High School principal Mike van Haght says they work mainly with Google Classroom and Zoom and try to keep things simple.

They use Google Classroom for sharing notes, videos and work and high school pupils submit their work there as well.

Teachers use Zoom to have face time with pupils.

“We do try to limit the use of Zoom as it is very data-hungry.”

It’s exhausting teaching this way, he says.

“The challenge has not only been to master the different platforms we are now using but also that it is a very different way of teaching at a different pace, a shift of educational responsibilities.”

Vine School is using Google Classroom for its lessons. Head of department Jean Louw says they can also stream videos for art lessons and physical education, and pupils can access audio books and classical music.

Younger pupils connect with their teachers twice a week through Google Meet.

Grade 1 teacher Tanya Adey says that without some of the classroom distractions she is experiencing a more personal connection to each student.

“The workload has shifted from classroom management, to managing my own time and workspace to get the same lessons across in digital format which can be a time-consuming feat.”

Ms Adey says she has video-call contact with pupils but she gets the sense they are missing their classmates.

With lockdown easing to Level 4 tomorrow, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga has yet to reveal how the academic year might change to make up for lost teaching time.