Home learning a lesson in preparation

St Bede's Catholic College, Chisholm first opened its doors to students in 2018. As one of the Diocese's newest schools, it piloted the use of Microsoft Teams for student learning.

Fast forward two years, and this modern approach to engagement, aided by the College's Bring Your Own Specified Device (BYOD) program, proved beneficial during remote learning. As the College's Digital Innovation and Learning (DIAL) Coordinator, Andrew Cornwall, writes “a sense of digital familiarity has paid dividends during the most significant disruption to modern learning”.

As the seemingly inevitable Stage 4 lockdown crept up the M1 in early August, St Bede's teachers and students picked up their headphones and stylus and headed into virtual classrooms once more. However, this time it was with an added air of confidence.

The technological moon-shot of remote learning in 2020 challenged teachers and learners across the nation to operate in often new, digital learning environments. However, while many schools reacted to the new ways of teaching and learning, the St Bede's community was fortunately placed. The school already had a robust device program, was using a modern digital learning environment, and had an effective induction program. The pandemic didn't change how we worked; it adjusted the scale and frequency of the digital tools in our pedagogical toolkits. 

Accordingly, and counter to widespread concern about students falling behind during the remote learning period, results from St Bede's indicate young people's outcomes remain on track. Part of this success can be attributed to a well-designed Remote Learning Plan. In anticipation of the likeliness of future lockdowns, St Bede's further refined its Remote Learning Plan during 2021. On the back of the Stage 4 lockdown announcement, St Bede’s school leaders were able to quickly communicate its effective Remote Learning Plan to the school community.

However, as we know, schools are more than just places to promote student learning.

Undoubtedly, concerns about wellbeing drove much of the educational discourse during and post the 2020 remote learning period and has continued into 2021.

At St Bede's, wellbeing has been at the centre of school improvement. Consequently, data has been collected for some time. Earlier this year, a mini check-in tool based on the WHO five wellbeing index was implemented. When the August results arrived, they were surprising. Overall, students reported they were in better spirits than the previous month. They also reported to have been more active, calm, and relaxed and were feeling better rested. The only indicator that represented an overall setback was minor, and in response to the criteria associated with their daily life being filled with things that interest them. And, while it is still early days for St Bede's Remote Learning Vol. 2, and the survey only represents a small window into student wellbeing, it challenges the current rhetoric regarding wellbeing in remote learning. What if these students, who are already living so much of their life online, are better equipped for the realities of online learning than we give them credit? 

Based on the experiences of 2020, one thing we know for sure is: engagement matters.

Ensuring engagement in remote learning can be difficult, but that has not deterred staff at St Bede’s. In addition to a regular injection of humour by homeroom teachers, other tangible demonstrations of rigorous engagement within the College community include:

  • Extensive and ongoing individualised support from our Learning
    Support team.
  • Engagement check-ins multiple times through a learning cycle by classroom teachers with follow up from middle leadership.
  • Catch-ups via Teams chat and video calls to assist students by all staff.
  • Referrals to Leaders of Wellbeing and Engagement who made contact with families.
  • Year 10 transition interviews to continue school pathways.
  • Use of Insights in Teams to track and monitor students progress.

When it comes to improvement in education, the trajectory is more important than velocity. Underpinning St Bede's teaching and learning, wellbeing and engagement, is the strategic use of tools and technologies. Initial indications are that this approach has put our students in good stead both during periods of home learning and when they're on the school grounds.

“Although I miss my friends, I do love this easier way of learning. Everyone has different opinions on remote learning, but I see it as a great way for students to have less anxiety because they are in the comfort of
their own homes.”
Grace, Year 9

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