As the world responds to the outbreak of COVID-19, school systems are grappling to keep students engaged and learning. The way in which the Irish school community has responded to the crisis is reflective of the high-quality professionalism of those who work in our schools.
Like all educators, the question for us early on at Hibernia College was what could we do to help? How could we support those teachers who, for so many years, had mentored and supported our student teachers? So, at Hibernia College, we set about putting together a bank of resources that we could make widely available to anyone who needed to know more about teaching in the online environment.
The idea grew very quickly, and we launched a new website to help ease the pressures during these unprecedented times. Our Teacher Support website aims to help teachers support students in both creative and innovative ways, as well as keeping them connected in the online world.
The challenge is real, and we realise there is no one size that fits all. The question of the digital divide has never been more important, and we know that inequalities exist. We know that all students have been impacted in different ways. The worries of my Leaving Certificate daughter are equally matched by the disappointment of my twins, who had their wonderful primary years cut short. Parents too are struggling to keep some kind of ‘new normality’.
Having taught as a primary school teacher myself for many years, I firmly believe that nothing replaces that teacher in the classroom experience. We must not forget that technology is only a tool, but it is a helpful resource that we can utilise in these current times.
In addition to the resources on the website, we are hosting a weekly online webinar series that takes place on Wednesday at 3 p.m. The first webinar looked at the key role of teachers in online learning and the importance of online and offline resources to support distance learning. Some of the tools we showcased included Kahoot!, Padlet and Zoom. We discussed how it is essentially all about communication and making students feel connected. Sometimes, the starting point is setting the expectations, and like all good teaching, it takes planning and establishing the ground rules for students whilst learning online, at home.
My colleague, Francis McKeagney, Head of Digital Learning, co-hosts each of the webinars to ensure all your technical questions are answered. Our next webinar on Wednesday, May 20th will look at how to celebrate the student year and achievements online. We will also talk about Seesaw, which is a platform for student engagement, as well as inclusion. You will have an opportunity to meet with other primary and post-primary teachers and we will introduce you to some more practical tools.
We hope that, in some small way, this website and webinar series will offer support as we continue to educate our students during these challenging times. By sharing resources and tools, we can all come together by staying apart.
Head of School of Education