Part 2 from a series of blogs on how the enforced coronavirus quarantine is affecting both students and staff, and how GCSEPod is helping educate and motivate children and teachers alike during the crisis and beyond.
Jody Lee Parker is head of secondary school and co-interim director at The International School in Genoa, Italy. With the country in lockdown since March 10, she explains in the first of a series of blogs, how the enforced coronavirus quarantine is affecting both students and staff, and why she is introducing the UK-based GCSEPod learning platform to help educate and motivate children and teachers alike during the crisis and beyond.
“My hope is that GCSEPod will help ease the pressure on our teachers and encourage our older students towards more independent learning.”
Spring has arrived in Genoa and it’s starting to heat up.
After a mixed few weeks of weather that’s flitted between sunshine and cooler showery days, the thermometer is on the rise. We’re currently inching towards the mid to high 20s, which will be the pattern for the coming months.
We all have our fingers crossed that the warmer weather will slow the spread of coronavirus and that we can get back to some kind of normality.
After two months in lockdown, there are signs of hope.
New coronavirus cases have dropped to roughly 2,000 a day, and the daily death toll to around 300 – half of what it was a couple of weeks ago. It is still 300 too many, but at least offers a glimmer of light at the end of what has been a very long tunnel.
Restrictions are starting to slowly ease. Some smaller businesses have been allowed to reopen, and the government has been closely monitoring the situation to see what the impact has been on the spread of the virus.
There is hope we will soon be allowed back into Genoa’s parks as long as social distancing is adhered to, and that the exercise restrictions will be relaxed.
There is even talk that bars, restaurants and cafes may be allowed to open their doors from the beginning of June, albeit with a limit on customers.
One thing that is still uncertain, however, is when schools and other large facilities like universities, cinemas and leisure centres will be allowed to reopen and how, when they do, social distancing can be maintained.
How can we guarantee in class and in big spaces like the cafeteria that we can keep the children apart? Or are we going to have to go down the route of halving classes and staggering attendance?
It is making it very difficult to plan. We can hypothesise about the different scenarios, but I can guarantee there will be something we haven’t thought of.
But one thing we have been sure about since the lockdown was first introduced and we were forced to close The International School, is doing the best we can for both our 357 students and their teachers.
It’s why we will be launching GCSEPod in the coming week to our Year 9 and 10 students – equivalent to Year 10 and 11 in the UK.
Our school caters for students from pre-school through to Year 12. They come from 35 different nationalities, although 80% of our students are Italian.
Given the age range it has been exceptionally tough to come up with a workable home schooling programme – and even harder on our teachers, many of whom have been working up to 16 hours a day running virtual classes, answering questions, and striving to keep morale and motivation high.
It is clearly unsustainable. Our staff are tiring mentally and physically and with the school lockdown almost certain to continue until the end of the summer term, I fear some will burn out.
My hope is that GCSEPod will help ease the pressure on our teachers and encourage our older students towards more independent learning.
The short three to five minute learning and revision videos (known as Pods), the Check and Challenge feature, which allows students to self-assess and teachers to see who may be falling behind and allocate additional videos, and the ready-made assignments, will hopefully help maintain quality and consistency and ease the burden on staff.
For our Year 9 and 10 students who are at a critical stage in their learning, the fact they can access GCSEPod remotely on any smart device as well as their PC, means they can still easily continue their education.
With the best will in the world, we are never going to be able to replicate a school environment and finish the entire curriculum, but with access to a learning platform like GCSEPod we can at least keep our students on track and finish the year in the best way we can.
We are trying to make things as fun as possible. We know what a bewildering and upsetting time this is for our students. And we are also acutely aware that parents, however much they may wish to, can’t be expected to step into a teaching role, especially with our older students.
GCSEPod’s high quality videos are informative, engaging, visually appealing, user friendly and most importantly cover everything we need to teach. My hope is that they will make it much easier for our older students to comprehend and absorb the information they need. If we can manage that, then it will be one less thing for us to have to worry about at what is an unavoidably distressing time.
The teachers are currently being trained on how to use GCSEPod via webinars and we will be rolling it out to the students as soon as we can.
Our future plans…
I’m really interested to discover how our students who struggle with the curriculum will find it, especially given its interactive nature; if it makes learning more enjoyable and easier for them to grasp the knowledge.
Depending on how that goes then I will look at opening it up to our Year 8’s – Year 9 in the UK.
Our policy is that we don’t hold students back. It doesn’t help them progress or attain academically. Our strategy is to support those students who are struggling and to ensure they can stay with their peer group and their friends.
Putting students back a year isn’t good for them mentally and can lead to feelings of failure.
But GCSEPod has an established track record and, with its help, we will hopefully be able to provide some certainty in what is sadly a very uncertain world.
GCSEPod has an established track record and, with its help, we will hopefully be able to provide some certainty in what is sadly a very uncertain world
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“I can’t speak highly enough about how helpful the GCSEPod team were throughout the whole process. Most importantly, teachers and students have found the resources relevant, excellent, and easy to use.”
Ian Lee, Yew Chung International School of Shanghai, China