How live interactive online lessons work in schools around Wales – Wales Online - Freelance Rack

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

How live interactive online lessons work in schools around Wales – Wales Online

With schools closed since March 23 most children and teachers have seen the way they teach and learn change dramatically.

But for one group of students in Wales, school has carried on as usual.

They join classmates from around the globe logging into live streamed classes every day, just as they did before the pandemic.

The students of Crickhowell-based virtual school InterHigh School won’t be able to go to exam centres to take GCSEs and A levels, which have been cancelled thanks to Covid-19, but their day to day lessons have continued the same.

A teacher at Crickhowell-based InterHigh School giving a live class online
InterHigh School has students across the globe who join live lessons

They log into classes online from home, or wherever  they are, with secure passcodes which admit only those with access.

The curriculum goes all the way from children aged eight in primary through secondary with older students studying for IGCSE and A levels.

Among its nearly 3,000 students are nearly 50 from Wales, including Welsh table tennis star Anna Hursey, now based in China.

Dr Sara de Freitas, acting head of the virtual school, said she has every sympathy for schools having to adapt fast to remote learning.

InterHigh School, which was launched by parents Jackie and Paul Daniel from a table top in Glangwryne in 2005. is now the biggest online school in the UK and one of the biggest internationally.

It has had 15 years to perfect the task of live online classes  with sophisticated software, a bespoke computer system and other measures to ensure security for pupils and staff.

Pupils are learning remotely across Wales but most maintained schools in Wales are not yet running live online classes. Dr de Freitas said they cannot be expected to rush into this as it is not simple, especially when dealing with very large numbers of pupils and teachers.

“If you can’t protect the system you cannot be safe. There are issues with systems like Zoom, for example.

“With us we have everything set up secure to make sure the system is not breachable. People can only get into their classes and not other classes.

“The teacher can control what goes on in the class. Students don’t usually use cameras, although they can do.

“We have worked on developing this since 2005 and schools trying to do this quickly are not going to have that knowledge.”

How classes work at InterHigh School

There are around 18 students in each class.

Students, aged from eight years and up, log in to attend.

Their teacher appears on screen with the pupils’ names also on screen and an interactive whiteboard.

Children can appear on screen, via camera, or show work on camera, if they want, but don’t have to.

They communicate by microphone or messaging. All of this is controlled by the teacher, who also controls who is admitted to the class.

Science experiments are simulated but students also go to labs in schools and univeresities near to where they live for exams.

Dr dr Freitas admits “learning online can be lonely” and it is important to interact. Attention span is also shorter online.

Sometimes students have no choice but to leave the virtual classroom to learn.

“We use simulations to replicate science experiments but can do physical experiments as well as part of GCSE or A level. For that we do go to labs in schools and universities.”

Since lockdown across the world, the school has seen a 2.5% rise in international student numbers. Dr de Freitas believes online and blended learning is the future of education and that will be speeded up by school closures prompted by the pandemic.

“We can offer blended learning and already help 226 local education authorities in England and Wales offering alternative provision for excluded children.

“We also worked with schools in Wuhan during lockdown there and are talking to LEAs in Wales about online learning.

“It’s been quite interesting watching what has been happening. For a long time I have been trying to explain to people the importance of online and blended learning.”

While it now has offices in London, InterHigh, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wey Education, keeps its headquarters in Crickhowell.

So are maintained schools live streaming lessons?

(Image: WalesOnline)

 

Although schools will start to re-open on June 29 children will continuing learn from home even in September and Welsh Government guidance on streaming live lessons has recently changed.

Schools have now been given guidelines to allow them to prepare to deliver live lessons. Wales’ largest local education authority, Cardiff, said it has now provided training to support its schools to deliver online and distanced learning, including virtual teacher training in partnership with the Open University.

A Cardiff Council spokesman said: “Further training will continue to support teachers in delivering both synchronous and blended learning.

“In addition to training, Cardiff Council is providing 3,000 laptops to teachers so that they do not have to use personal devices, protecting both their privacy and promoting safeguarding.”

Miller Coyle was a talented and successful pupil at Stanwell School
Stanwell School in Penarth is one of the maintained schools planning live streamed lessons online for pupils from September if home/school learning continues.

Helen Richards, programme manager for cross regional working  for the Welsh Government’s four school improvement consortia across Wales, said some schools are live streaming, others not.

“It is within each schools own gift to decide if, how and when they develop this aspect of their blended learning approach to meet the unique needs of their learners.

“Some schools currently use live streaming and some will deliver learning using this medium in the coming academic year. 

“We are aware that a number of school leaders are, or are considering,  using live streaming as part of their blended learning approach.

“Regional consortia are supporting schools in developing their blended learning offer for the coming academic year.”

Stanwell School in Penarth is among those planning live streamed lessons. It will be contacting parents next week with consent forms for live streamed lessons. In a message to parents the school said it is trialling live streamed lessons with Year 12 pupils with the intention of extending this to all pupils from September if a mix of home/school learning continues.

This is what some independent fee-paying schools are doing:

Howell’s School, Llandaff

Assistant principal Cathy Darton said: “Our Guided Home Learning is delivered via Microsoft Teams.

“To protect both teachers and students, all students signed an acceptable use agreement which was shared with parents.

“Regular reminders about online safety are sent to students with clear guidance on a confidential safeguarding email they can use or external support such as CEOP and NSPCC.

“Students are invited to the lesson by their teacher who asks them to turn their microphones and cameras on as appropriate.

“All lessons are recorded, shared and an attendance list produced.

“The teacher has the role of presenter, starts and ends the session and can share resources live with the class such as film clips, quizzes, presentations, collaborative documents and uses extensive questions to ensure full understanding.”

The Cathedral School, Cardiff

Head Clare Sherwood said: “We began from the principle that pupils should be able to hear their teacher’s voice or see their face. We also wanted to be able to keep track of pupil learning.

“Over 250 lessons are taught online each week via Microsoft Teams to ensure our high standards of safeguarding are upheld and every live interaction between pupils and teachers is recorded.

“Live lessons take place at set periods throughout the week. The lessons are recorded and stored on our school network.

“The lessons for each day are made accessible at the beginning of the day and they work through the tasks at their own pace.

“The school is not the same without everyone being there together and we are very much looking forward to welcoming our pupils back over the next few weeks and sharing all that we have learned.”

This is what the Welsh Government said:

“Schools in Wales are deploying a wide range of approaches to ensure continuity of learning for pupils with the support of our ‘Stay Safe. Stay Learning’ plan during the pandemic.

 “Our leading online learning platform Hwb continues to play a crucial role in supporting the delivery of education during this incredibly challenging period, with an average of 2.5m logins per month over the last three months – a 134% increase on the previous year.

“There have also been over 9.5m page views per month over the same period – a 157% increase on the previous year. More than 99% of schools are actively engaged in using the platform.

“We’ve also provided 9,339 software licences which have allowed schools and local authorities to re-purpose existing school devices to enable learners to access online learning. We have also provided 10,848 Mi-Fi devices to get households online.

 “It is our intention to use the last weeks of the summer term to make sure pupils, staff and parents are prepared – mentally, emotionally and practically – for the new normal in September.”



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