As COVID-19-enforced isolation eases and schools across Africa and the world consider re-opening their campuses, what have the past weeks taught our AISA member schools; what lessons have we learned from each other as we tread the path into an indeterminate future?
Partly due to AISA's Blended Learning Initiative that has been running for almost 10 years, the trend towards blended learning was already underway in AISA member schools BEFORE the COVID-19 pandemic. Since many AISA schools were already blending learning to some extent, the transition to online/distance learning, although not without real challenges, was relatively smooth for these schools.
Examples include the Dar es Salaam International Academy that started working on its distance learning plan at the beginning of the 2019/20 academic year; or the American International School of Cape Town that, due to the water crisis of 2017, had already drafted their plan for potential school closure three years ago; or the International Community Schools in Addis Ababa that had transformed the whole notion of what personalised learning meant well before students would need to undertake this online. Many other AISA schools such as the International School of Kenya and the Al-Rayan International School in Ghana had activated emergency learning plans weeks before their schools were closed.
The challenges experienced by AISA schools' transition to online learning in the past few months are many and varied. Technological tools, online resources, software platforms, staff expertise and learning support in certain schools are plentiful, for others, not. Communication is key. Parental and student understanding and buy-in to this new reality is achieved by schools building seamless support and communication networks. A school's flexibility regarding online learning helps to alleviate student frustration and parents feeling overwhelmed in their new role. Educators adjusting their expectations and providing clear objectives and directions for all assignments/activities support learning outcomes.
Empathy is essential. The 'in-person' educational model we've been used to in our schools cannot simply be replaced by virtual learning – no matter how personalised. An educator's job is extremely social. Teachers gain momentum and perspective by working shoulder-to-shoulder with each other, with their students and their parents. However, virtual learning in a time of lock-down is by nature isolating, and will, therefore, require a shift in the way we think about what successful learning looks like – and how we measure this. Giving everyone permission to not be perfect at all times is essential.
Although the future is hard to predict, one thing is certain; COVID-19 has disrupted class throwing many of us off balance! For us to live, to work, to go to school and to thrive in the future, a new balance is required and with it new and innovative ways of teaching and learning. The message to AISA member schools is clear; even when campuses re-open, blended learning is here to stay.
We thank the AISA member schools who shared how they have adapted to the present and established a pathway towards an innovative future for learning. Read more here: https://bit.ly/3bA45DG