When the government closed schools at the beginning of March, we did not have enough time to prepare. We had all our books and materials at school. At first, we thought we would all be back at school within a fortnight. When it became clear we wouldn’t, we started to chat on social media with colleagues and other teachers to try to understand what was happening and how to find a common path forward.
At the beginning, it was chaos. But some simple instructions from school made it easier to handle. The most important thing was to make decisions about which platforms to use (we chose Google Suite and Edmodo) and to stick to them. Teachers who were already familiar with these sent short video tutorials to show the rest of us how to use them. We also decided how many hours of video lessons per day we would offer. We reduced our weekly schedule to one hour per teacher per class, with a maximum of two or three hours of video lessons per class between 9.00am and 1.00pm.
We asked students what their technological and digital situation was at home – if they had wi-fi and computers or tablets. Whatever they lacked, the school provided. At present, we’re managing to provide almost the same timetable (live or through recorded video lessons) as we would usually. One key challenge has been assessment. It’s difficult to evaluate a text or an online test as time goes by so quickly during a lesson. We have been using Edmodo tests, which are quite trusty.
We don’t know yet what school will look like after the lockdown. But we do know that things will be different.
Overall, everybody has learnt very quickly how to deal with DAD (didattica a distanza or ‘teaching from home’). The most important thing has been sharing our own knowledge and every useful tip from colleagues at other schools. Younger teachers have shared their expertise, while older teachers have given some very useful insights.
Students are doing their best and mostly try to cooperate. We are trying to reduce as much as possible the difference in engagement due to social and economic reasons. That has perhaps been the biggest challenge.
We don’t know yet what school will look like after the lockdown. But we do know that things will be different. Teachers, students and parents, even the most reluctant ones, have learnt something about a range of digital technologies. It is hard to imagine that learning won’t shape our schools in the future.