Preparing for closure – don’t make it about Tech

By now the nCOV potential pandemic is world news and international schools over China are in (full) preparation mode on how to continue teaching and learning via online modalities. As part of my preparation, I’m planning to blog daily. Because it’s not about the tech. It’s about mental and psychological preparation to sit this out, continue to learn and teach (what I put up for our community).

If I were to gift every student, teacher, administrator and parent one thing, it would be a copy of Anne Frank’s diary. The new graphic novel version is particularly good. And a blank lined notebook and a pen.

Funnily enough, it struck me that if it weren’t for my librarian/tech integration hybrid role, I wouldn’t even be involved in these discussions. I’m always astounded how far down the list of people thought about, librarians lie, and education twitter folk must be tired of me answering every question on collaboration and curation and resourcing with “have you asked your teacher librarian”.

Whatever. I’ll write this from the point of view of a librarian who happens to be techie and cynical about tech, but passionate about learning and maintaining learning.

What have we put in place so far for school closure

In the days before the spring break, we created a “closure” tab in our Moodle Learning Management system in middle and high school. [We’ve been looking for an alternative for years now, but between our innovations in student learning and agency and the “China” factor, haven’t managed to move forward in that.] Within the tab we have a learning forum where students and teachers can interact asynchronously with each other. The expectation is that teachers will post a lesson each day that a lesson would have taken place (i.e. 5 times per 9 day cycle) and students check in and respond and do the assigned work. Elementary school will continue to use blogs.

What else do we have?

Regulars to this blog will know I’m a huge libguide fan and I have an extensively curated set of resources for our middle school (students, teachers and parents) that can be accessed through our main library page.  Unfortunately our 16,000 book collection is inaccessible, however we do have Overdrive/Sora, and a range of Kindle/audible books for students who borrowed the devices before the break. There are also extensive collections of books on Epic, (available during school hours) so I’ll spend a little time curating some suitable titles for each grade level to share out to students and parents.

We recently purchased a (very expensive) subscription to Newsela, that should prove a boon to students wanting to improve their nonfiction text comprehension / vocabulary and general / specific content knowledge.

Our language department has been using Education Perfect for a while now with considerable success, and we recently started a trial with their Science modules.

For our budding writers, it would be a great opportunity for them to try out things like Wattpad and other interactive writing tools.

We’ve also been experimenting with Microsoft Teams for Education, and while it’s a very promising tool, it’s a business tool that’s being adapted for Education, and there are some substantial things that don’t (yet) make it suitable to take over as an LMS. It’s moving pretty rapidly and has some really nifty bits, and if they listen carefully to their educational users it has potential to wipe a lot of things out in its wake. James Rong from Guangzhou International School is the China expert on that and worth following. Here’s his guide to setting up Teams for learning. 

Personal

The first thing I had to do was tell myself that vacation or no vacation I have to start getting a rhythm going and some good habits. During term time I’m good at habit stacking, up at 5am, gym clothes ready to put on, work clothes & breakfast/lunch packed to go, 5.30 taxi – doing my Chinese Memrise flashcards on the way to work; 6-6.50 gym; at my desk by 7.15am. Now I have the issue that my husband is at work in Nanjing, my son is with his girlfriend. There’s nothing stopping me from doing nothing but watch Netflix or twitter/FB updates. The pollution outside is diabolical (unusually bad for a period when all the factories are closed) – so while I’d usually be up and going for a walk/run along the river, that’s not really an option.

Screen Shot 2020-01-28 at 12.37.26

Once my online meeting is done I’ll set myself some personal goals as well.

So status update:

Currently: D5/10 of the Chinese New Year vacation
Schools closed until: 17 February 2020

Overview of government site

Beijing status 1 pm.

Screen Shot 2020-01-28 at 13.01.18

 

 

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