School was scheduled to reopen on August 13th for the 2009-2010 school year and in the afternoon of the day before, we receive a government order closing all schools in Mumbai for a week in response to the flu pandemic. This forced us to implement our distance learning program in August even before our students could enter the campus! We kicked off our 2009-2010 school year with distance education across all our grade levels — preschool to Grade 12. From August 17 to 19th, our students went to “school” at a distance. Students were at home and faculty was at school and in their classrooms. (I’m sure that for most of our parents and faculty, this is not something they would have experienced when they were in school.)
Our Distance Learning program was an incredible experience on all fronts! It was a delight to witness the positive vibe, the enthusiasm, and the engagement of our faculty and staff as they wrestled with the challenge of delivering high-quality and meaningful learning engagements from afar. The conversations and discussions were energizing. They provoked all of us to think deeply and differently about pedagogy and learning. We all learned what it means to teach and learn at a distance while we were doing it. It felt like building a plane while flying it. The entire exercise generated a tremendous amount of positive energy to learn new technology tools and processes in a very short time span – TWO DAYS! The experience has dramatically elevated each teacher’s confidence in their own level of tech proficiency and their understanding of tech integration.
We can’t believe that this whole distance learning thing was so easy!! Surely did not expect it to be!! Finally something we don’t have to run for help to the tech guys for coz now even we know what to do!!”
Having survived two days of distance learning, I just want to say that if anyone wants to do a workshop on this experience – I’m on!! It’s been so difficult, but so rewarding!”
All teachers became software evaluators, technology teachers, and tech integration coaches and facilitators . . . all at the same time. Our community had undergone three emotionally exhausting experiences in the past year. This Distance Learning experience has re-energized our entire community and made it even stronger. The unplanned situation tested our systems and people in unique ways. It made our teachers scrutinize their practices and rethink and transform pedagogy and learning. The experience gave an opportunity to those who are natural risk-takers to explore new tools and new ways of enhancing student learning. We witnessed the most unlikely teachers becoming experts in tools and offering to share their learning with their colleagues. We saw teachers demonstrate a dramatic appetite for new ideas and tools to present instruction in an interesting way. Teachers have begun finding new tools on their own; they play with it, and within a couple of days ask us to consider acquiring licenses so others can use it. Our distance learning program, though still in its infancy, is pushing us to evolve a program that we can continue to develop and leverage in numerous ways.
Stay tuned for Distance Learning 2.0 @ASB!