Teaching Online During Covid: How One School Made it Work

By Janine Ellerman, Teacher at Hasmonean High School

Hasmonean is certainly an old school. In fact, some parts of the building are so old they are falling down. Yet within the walls of the Hasmonean Multi Academy Trust innovative ways have been found to continue providing Hasmonean students with a first class education during lockdown. As soon as the schools had to close due to lockdown, Hasmonean, through existing platforms such as Show My Homework, Educake and Hegarty Maths were used to ensure that all students from Years 7-13 could access material and continue to study. This was sufficient as a stop gap, but more was needed.

Enter G-Suite and Google Classrooms

Whether staff were prepared for it or not; teaching was about to be revolutionised. For centuries, teachers have stood in front of their captive audience and delivered content. Innovations such as overhead projectors (OHPs), Interactive whiteboards, PowerPoint as well a move toward more student-centric learning have all tweaked the existing model. Corona virus has smashed traditional modes of teaching and this could be a force for positive change.

Teachers have embraced the challenge of teaching online, working round the Google classroom to create editable documents, exciting video lessons and some are using SmartKapp boards to recreate the classroom experience. For some students, the ability to access a recorded lesson at a time which suits them has worked very well; in particular, in families where not everyone can access a computer at any time.

Everyone is learning that teaching can be done in different ways. A huge benefit has been the fact that students are doing much more independent study and research, in particular the Year 11 students who have begun their A level courses and the current Year 10 and Year 12 students who still have full exam courses ahead of them.

Hasmonean has also created ‘The Extension Work Room’, which is a space for all students to develop their learning, particularly for those that have a gift or a talent for specific subjects and topics. As it is streamed and populated by learning area, the students are able to easily navigate their way around and find the resources that they need. From learning to touch type and code, to streaming of National Theatre productions, as well as advanced maths and scientific questions about the necessity of 5G technology, there is something on offer to stretch every student.

Alongside all of this, Hasmonean is hoping to run independent projects on a termly basis. The Extension Room allows all students to flourish at their own pace and within a space which is designed to be informative, useful and challenging.

Some examples of novel practice have included using modern methods to teach in an old school way- one English teacher shares her screen with the text of Jekyll and Hyde so that the students can annotate the text and the class can use extracts as triggers for discussion. Other members of staff have embedded quizzes and YouTube clips into their Google Classroom to create an interactive screen based lesson. The Maths department have embraced the SmartKapp board, finding it particularly useful for explaining those pesky equations! As the notes written on the board can be saved, it certainly trumps the old fashioned white boards in the school building.

Both learning and teaching have proved their resilience not only to cope with the changed landscape of learning, but to develop that landscape for the benefit of all of Hasmonean’s students.