Online Learning

Remote learning is going to be a new challenge for us all. It is almost impossible to overestimate how much teaching takes place away from lessons, often in completely impromptu ways: the conversation between friends over lunch, the short revision session over break or the quick question on the way to chapel. Even within lessons it is rarely the formal delivery of material that has the greatest impact, and it is often the repartee between the teacher and the class that is most memorable. These human interactions will not be straightforward to replicate.

However, it is important to be optimistic and there certainly are some potential benefits. For example, the necessity to work with greater independence offers pupils the opportunity to develop indispensable academic qualities. Furthermore, within the extremely busy school day, time can be scarce, and academic pursuits like reading, both for wider research and for pleasure, can be squeezed out. It has been heavily reported recently that the most productive year of Isaac Newton’s life occurred in 1666 when The University of Cambridge was closed because of the plague. While not everyone can be Newton, one must hope that pupils will exploit this opportunity for deep learning, and it is hard not to be somewhat joyful about losing a term of exam cramming, in favour of more creative academic pursuits.

This enforced period of remote learning is also an opportunity to embrace the enabling possibilities of modern technology. Like many teachers I have spent this Easter holiday improving my IT skills, and while it can feel a little crazy rehearsing online lessons in my living room, it is hard not to be thankful for all the possibilities that are on offer today.

However, what is clear from around the world, is that the success of remote learning depends on the extent to which the spirit of community can be maintained virtually. As described above learning happens best within a culture of all-encompassing academic support, and pupils will crave personal connection with their teachers, and while this will undoubtedly feel different, I have little doubt that it will be possible.

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Mr David Vaccaro

Director of Innovation and Learning