LEARNING FROM HOME: ‘Screen time is a concern’
ST JOHN’S Lutheran School IT specialist Janene Boonzaaire said the most difficult part of preparing to transition to at-home-learning was minimising their students’ daily screen time.
Ms Boonzaaire has been busy teaching teachers ways to educate students from home as a result of the ongoing coronavirus threat and last week’s announcement by the Queensland Government of a pupil-free week.
“We’ve got various platforms in place that our teachers can choose from to use for their students learning from home,” Ms Boonzaaire said.
“For Prep to Grade 4 we’ve been mostly using a program called Seesaw. It’s a digital platform where teachers can communicate with parents, post children’s activities, mark the activities and put comments for the kids and for the parents, then the parents can add comments in response.
“When our students sign to the online platforms they are able to see what work has been assigned to them for that lesson.”
Ms Boonzaaire said the key was to try and stick to what was already familiar with students.
“It’s a stressful time so we don’t want to overwhelm the students even more,” she said.
“We’ve been trying to stick with what they already know, which at the moment means sending lots of emails since that’s something they’re already familiar with.
“The teachers are just making an effort to keep everything streamlined as well. So the kids in class are learning the same things in the same ways as those kids learning from home.
“This is also to prepare the kids who are still here for if their parents decide to or if they have to transition to at-home-learning.
“We really are just focusing on making it as easy for our students as possible. We don’t want to cause them extra stress that could affect their learning.”
The school’s Years 5–9 students have been using Google Classroom and Google Hangouts.
“We’ve always had this in place and made use of these online tools,” Ms Boonzaaire said.
“But now we’re using them for pretty much every lesson every day.
“It’s a really good way to help prepare the students still in class, while also including the students who are already learning from home.
“Teachers have also been making an effort to have frequent video chats so the students from home still feel like they’re a part of the classroom.”
Ms Boonzaaire said the most challenging part of the transition to at-home learning was keeping the students’ screen time to a minimum.
“We’ve been encouraging them to print off a lot of the worksheets and class work they can access online and to then do the work by hand,” she said.
“Screen time is a concern. We don’t want them just sitting and staring at a screen all day. It’s not healthy.
“Especially for the little ones. I think off the top of my head the recommended amount of screen time for Prep students is less than an hour a day, which is obviously something we’re trying to keep in mind when building our lesson plans for learning from home.
“We have plans in place of activities the kids can do away from their screens. So if there is a school lockdown we are planning to get the kids to do work around the house. So home-ec in the kitchen and PE in their backyard.”
St John’s Lutheran School principal Karyn Bjelke-Petersen said school staff were doing the best they could under the circumstances.
“Our school enjoys a strong sense of community and maintaining links with school families will be a priority for our staff during the next few months,” Mrs Bjelke-Petersen said.
“I am extraordinarily proud of our teachers who are, at present, working doubly hard to prepare for daily face-to-face classes in addition to supporting a number of students who are learning from home.
“It’s wonderful to be living in an age where there are so many digital platforms available for connecting with students and maintaining regular contact, but we’re aware that a number of families within our community don’t have access at home to high-speed internet or a computer. We’re doing what we can to support those individuals.”