From using TikTok and Snapchat to livestreams, Perth private schools’ teaching methods have forever changed due to the coronavirus pandemic and principals say it is for the better.
For some, the online classroom during the lockdown expanded beyond just the school-based web technologies and intranet platforms, with teachers experimenting with social media to better engage students.
St Hilda’s Anglican School For Girls headmistress Fiona Johnston said COVID-19 was a catalyst for many positive changes through digital developments.
“Two areas that we found great success in was our ability to livestream as many events and messages as were possible, and certainly the introduction of St Hilda’s TV was a great way to be able to connect our girls and provide that social platform for our community,” she said.
“So we kept our learning environment as close to the old normal as we possibly could and I think it was a big part of our success actually.”
St Hilda’s TV was developed and edited into five to 10-minute episodes by staff to allow students, including international and regional boarders, to still connect with their friends through sharing of videos and “it was also a great opportunity for our staff to do a few crazy, wacky things while we had the campus to ourselves”, Mrs Johnston said.
“It’s like a soft version of the news – we did a deep, deep dive into St Hilda’s history and we took the girls into parts of the school that they had never been to before: down into the dungeons under Hope Nicholas House; to the school apartment which many of them didn’t know we had.
“We had morning fitness and activity that was incorporated, we had interviews with our school officials and our captains, we gave out certificates and awards up on the screen through names scrolling. A few TikTok things in there as well.
“It was really fun to make and really fun to watch.
“Interestingly the parents enjoyed it as much as the girls, so our audience changed from what we had initially anticipated.”
And there are discussions about it continuing as a student-led initiative in the future.
“It’s one of those things coming out of COVID[-19] that certainly fell into that category of what we want to keep doing post-COVID and we’re still using it very regularly now because we can’t conduct assemblies with 900 girls all in one venue,” she said
Wesley College staff got creative too, and embraced social media to teach some of their classes.
“WebX was the official school platform but we know young people use social media so much more than people of our generation [so] the teachers set up smaller groups where they used their own social media,” College headmaster Ross Barron said.
“So quite often there might have been a group of seven chemistry students who through Facebook and Snapchat were actually having mini tutorials and mini groups as well, as well as getting online with each other.”
He said YouTube also played a vital role in teaching, which included things like chemistry experiments.
“There’s always a YouTube clip showing you how to do it, it’s amazing,” he said.
“Obviously you’ve got to ensure that it is correct but that’s actually used a lot more than the old days of VCR and DVD.
“Everything is online and YouTube is such a powerful medium, you’d be crazy not to use it and you can actually tailor it so well.”
YouTube is such a powerful medium, you’d be crazy not to use it.
Ross Barron, Wesley College
Perth College principal Helen Aguiar said they utilised technology in different ways they intend to keep, going forward.
“For example, our year 5 and 6 students are involved in the Makerkids program, where they have started their own businesses online,” she said.
“Usually they would have run a market stall to sell their products (and they may still do this later this year).
“However this year they have hosted their stalls online, where members of the community can purchase their goods and have their orders delivered.
“It is a whole new realm of learning that our students have been able to explore and it has been wonderful to see how much the students have learnt from this experience.”
Scotch College is also toying with the idea that teachers don’t always have to be in the classroom with their students to achieve class goals for the day.
Headmaster Alec O’Connell said by providing teachers flexible working-from-home arrangements the outcome proved better than calling in a relief teacher for the day, citing when a senior teacher recently taught her maths specialist class while at her South Perth home with her sick child.
“And she was actually transmitting the work via her iPad and sharing the algorithms with her students who were sitting in a classroom in Scotch,” he said.
“If there's a reason somebody can’t come in, instead of just having a relief teacher who comes in and all they do is just give that work out, if they (the teacher) supervise students while they self-monitor, I think it’s going to change what we can do in terms of relief work, I really do.
“And even between classrooms, without moving, you can have three teachers in different spaces in the school and they could easily simply log in to the other class to share what they’re doing.”
Dr O'Connell also said online parent-teacher interviews were a great success and they would be an option in the future.
“Some people found it really more engaging and we found that sometimes the partner who was working the most or had difficulty getting to the parent evening, that could be mum or dad, they could both engage and the level of engagement in both cases was even higher,” he said.
“That surprised me, I didn’t think that would be the case but it reflects how hard it is sometimes to get to the school – and what it’s meant is that we can do quite a few of them during the day and the parents are able to choose what best suits their busy schedule.