Find out how Mr Burkhill, Head of Computing (Pre-Prep & Prep), has created our school’s world-class remote learning platform.
How has the transition to remote learning been?
Rugby School Thailand was in the fortunate position of having contact with schools from across China and Asia which allowed us to be somewhat prepared for the inevitability of school closure. This preparation made the initial transition much easier than without such help – it has nevertheless still been a huge challenge. It goes without saying that to shift from physical face-to-face learning, to screen-based remote learning, requires a complete rewrite of teaching pedagogy, training and a reliance on technology that is unprecedented in normal teaching. To achieve those aims in a matter of days is challenging for any organisation.
How did you devise the programme?
We put together the programme primarily by liaising with fellow international schools across China and Asia. The sharing of advice and resources was already in effect before school closures reached Thailand and this enabled the best of the existing programmes to be taken, adapted and rewritten to suit the needs of the systems, parents, pupils and staff of Rugby School Thailand. In turn, we are also sharing what is working well and what is not working so well with the wider education community, in the hopes that we can all stay adaptive, flexible and together, and produce the highest quality of remote learning possible for our pupils.
What has the feedback been like?
We are incredibly grateful for the feedback from parents, the majority of which has been very positive. This allows us to keep doing and building on what is working, and change what is not. This is a world-first shift in education, and it is therefore paramount that all parties involved continue to communicate to get it right. It is impossible to produce a system that fits the needs of everyone perfectly, and remote learning is challenging. Thankfully our programme has had a really positive response and it is far more the difficult nature of remote learning that has been commented on by parents.
You can see some of the wonderful comments we’ve had from parents here.
What have been the main challenges?
The challenges related to converting a school from face-to-face learning to remote learning are numerous, but the key ones we’ve seen are:
- Change of routines
- Change of pedagogy
- Technological disparity
- Technological infrastructure
- Training of parents, pupils and staff
- Merging of work, school and personal lives
From the school’s perspective however, perhaps the greatest challenge is to deliver a programme that will continue to reflect the high standards parents and pupils have come to expect from Rugby School Thailand, whilst still maintaining motivation for all parties involved, to continue the teaching and learning journey for an undefined length of time. The ongoing challenge of course is to identify ways in which a relatively simple physical task in a classroom can be flipped to a ‘virtual’ and remote task online.
What key adaptations have you made since launching in March?
The programme is forever changing. Our main adaptions have been to try and streamline the workflow for all parties involved. This includes regular tutor check-ins to try and maintain as much social welfare for our pupils and tutors as possible, moving to fixed, termly timetables and less clicks to navigate the remote learning website. The more streamlined and routine we can make the programme, the easier it will be for everyone to stay engaged and motivated.
What is unique about RST’s remote learning programme?
According to UNESCO, over half of the world’s student population is now out of school, most engaging in some form of remote learning. Due to the nature of the situation we are in, Rugby School Thailand’s remote learning programme is not unique. Yet, at the same time, has been moulded and adapted to use systems that pupils and staff are already familiar with and can fit into the needs of our community. Every school shares similarities, but every child is unique; such is the case with our programme.
How do you motivate children to work remotely?
Motivation comes from within. Every teacher knows that they must inspire curiosity that provokes a passion, which then motivates. This cycle is hard enough to maintain face-to-face, and is even more challenging in a remote setting. We therefore continue to research, train and trial new ways of doing familiar tasks to keep children’s curiosity flowing. We have adapted the programme to help with this; including a mixture of video recording, live video support, instant messaging chats and a plethora of apps.
How do you think this programme will benefit staff and students in the long term?
There are many different articles appearing through this crisis that detail evidence that people’s attitudes are being changed by current world events. People are no longer receiving instant gratification, patience is a daily necessity, gratitude is being found in the small things. In addition to those points, I think the role technology can play in the classroom will forever be enhanced, people that were not confident before have found new confidence in the situation and systems are developing at a faster rate than ever before. Microsoft recently announced that Teams (used by many schools, particularly in China where Google services are blocked) is now their fastest growing product ever. Google are reporting new levels of system traffic across their services. There are dark times attached to this period, but I also think there is so much good that has, is and will come out from this situation.