New West schools, families navigate the world of remote learning

In the eight weeks since March break, New Westminster teachers and families have embarked upon a whole new road to learning – and, while the road hasn’t been without its bumps, it’s showing signs of success.

Maureen McRae-Stanger, the New Westminster school district’s director of instruction, learning and innovation, brought that message to school trustees at their May 12 operations committee meeting.

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McRae-Stanger noted the district has taken a phased approach to introducing remote learning over the seven weeks since March break.

“It has been challenging,” she said. “We have had challenges with teachers having to learn new ways of teaching and learning, tech support pieces, making sure we had tech in the hands of our students – so a lot of moving parts to pull things together. But I think that our phased approach has worked really well.”

Teachers and students have now moved through the first two phases – Phase 1 being the initial connection phase, and Phase 2 being the first exploration of remote learning.

It’s been a journey for teachers as well as for students, McRae-Stanger said, noting the teachers had to develop an understanding of the use of such tools as Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams. Teachers have also explored ways to offer both “synchronous” learning experiences – that is, live, real-time interaction with students through class meetings, tutorials and the like – and “asynchronous” learning experiences such as projects, videos, assignments and activities.

McRae-Stanger noted teachers have also been looking at the issue of how to track students’ learning progress.

 “How do we assess evidence of learning in a remote way? How can we make this valid for students and for families?” she said.

In Phase 3, the current phase, McRae-Stanger said teachers have been taking all of those experiences to a deeper level.

 “We’re seeing some really creative work from our teachers in their online learning kind of platforms; they’re doing amazing things,” she said. “We kind of hit our stride in Phase 3.”

Now, McRae-Stanger said, the district is moving towards a new phase, one she termed “blended learning” – where remote learning will continue, but with some students returning to in-class instruction in June.

A report she presented to trustees notes that teachers will be creating surveys for parents and students on what is working and what additional supports are necessary.

The district is also developing an “Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting” document for teachers to help guide their work and prepare them for June report cards; information on assessment and report cards will also be sent to parents.

McRae-Stanger acknowledged the journey has been challenging and gave kudos to the district’s teachers for their work.

“A big shout-out to our teachers,” she said. “They have really embraced this challenge. It’s been hard, but they have really been trying to push forward for students and get parent feedback and support for that.”

For up-to-date information about the school district’s learning plans, see https://newwestschools.ca/covid-19-info-centre/.

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