The Somersfield Academy Distance Star Learning Plan describes how Somersfield Academy (SA) will ensure continuity of learning when a significant portion of our school community cannot be in school for an extended period of time. The school is committed to offering a high-quality Montessori and IB education to students through distance learning, even in extenuating circumstances.
As distance learning is very different, in many ways, from face-to-face learning, this document describes what this looks like.
We use the term “distance learning” as opposed to e-learning, virtual or online learning because, while technology tools are key components to distance learning, the learning engagements also take place offline using a variety of non-digital tools and resources.
Use of Distance Learning: Distance learning will be implemented if/when the school building is closed and learning needs to continue. It may also be used if a large majority of students or teachers are unable to come to school or for those who are still in school, in order to provide and ensure a consistent learning experience for all.
Whether by distance or by face-to-face instruction, the school’s overarching Mission, Vision and Promise remain our “Guiding Stars”!
AT SOMERSFIELD ACADEMY
The goal of our Distance Learning Program is not to try to recreate face-to-face (F2F) classrooms. Attempting to simply substitute digital tools for in-person interactions is not unrealistic. Instead, the objective is to use online and blended learning strategies to provide opportunities for our learners to work more independently, expand their agency, and demonstrate their learning through the use of tools and strategies that they otherwise might not use in the F2F classroom setting.
Towards this end, teachers are encouraged to use their innovation and creativity to develop lessons that motivate and engage their students. Further to this, teachers are encouraged to be adaptive and responsive to the needs of their students, and to ensure that learning and development continues seamlessly and in a healthy and positive way.
How we manage distance/online learning and teaching
While teachers and learners may not be together in the same physical space and are unable to rely on face-to-face communication, learning can still be rigorous and effective. Recognizing how it differs is important to ensuring its effectiveness.
Somersfield Academy has, therefore, adopted two distinct distance learning/online learning and teaching approaches which seek to achieve an appropriate balance. These are:
Synchronous (happening collaboratively and at the same time with a group of online learners and usually a teacher)
Asynchronous (happening at any time, not necessarily in a group, but with teacher feedback. This includes packets, worksheets and online resources).
The teacher, in consultation with the Division Head and/or the Curriculum Coordinator, will plan the most appropriate tools and vehicles by which to deliver effective teaching and learning.
How we ensure students are not disadvantaged by online and distance teaching
Effective distance/online teaching requires different activities from face-to-face interactions and some of this is delivered online. Learners, however, may be disadvantaged if they are not provided with certain resources for online learning:
Access to devices appropriate for online learning. This is imperative and the school will seek to provide as much support as we can.
Internet access and adequate bandwidth (speed). Poor bandwidth can make many synchronous activities very difficult. For students whose homes have poor bandwidth, a combination of asynchronous activities and email check-ins provides more support.
Friendly schedules - Adapted teaching schedules and shorter class times have proven to be more effective in online learning situations. If class meeting times are combined with collaborative activities, students are more likely to log on and complete tasks or discussions.
Effective feedback. Checking in with learners regularly. If systems allow, students will get valuable feedback automatically from online quizzes and responsive tutors, as well as direct comments or discussion from peers and teachers.
Opportunities for independent learning. Teachers are encouraged to design engaging learning activities and discussions that capture students’ experiences. This also gives teachers valuable feedback on how the students are feeling and also provides opportunities for multiple perspectives in learning that might not happen if students were all physically together.