Skolchef Kristy reflekterar över våra elever och lärare som anpassat sig på ett imponerande sätt till den nya situationen, som nu öppnar för frågor kring vad som är "good enough".

2020-03-30

After 5 more days of online learning with our 3200+ students, there are new ideas, developments, challenges, and surprises.  During the last week, I observed our schools #virtually by attending team meetings and listened to the feedback of students, parents, and staff.  I am continually impressed with the ingenuity of our teachers and support staff – creative, determined, engaged and agile. We have received countless positive messages from parents and students and seen a huge swell in activity on our social media channels.  On the whole, week 2 of online learning was a success. However, new questions have begun to pop-up – when will be able to return to school? How will we assess our practical ensemble subjects? How will we ensure equity without the national exams? Why is there an increase in workload? And, what is “good enough”? Our National Agency of Education (Skolverket) has set guidelines for how to answer some of these questions.  We must now consider what works best for our students within these guidelines.

Four years ago, our school leadership team studied agile leadership.  The idea that we can look at data, listen to feedback, and pivot our actions to meet new situations is a strength Viktor Rydberg Schools knew would be an important future skill.  Little did we know, just how important. A few examples of this, from week 2:

– A few VR teachers have taken the chance to improve the quality of their live video lessons by partnering with LearnOX

– VR school leaders reassign resources to meet the needs of students

– When we know that students are missing their school, VRS student resources record a music video that goes viral. The message of the video – “it is lonely without you here”. See it here

– VR teachers adopt GRID-view in Google meet in record time and integrate it into our LMS to ease the “connection” aspect of our online learning

– VR teachers exploring the power of one-on-one and group oral assessment and workshops/seminars

– Feedback channels at an individual, group and schoolwide level were established and implemented across the board not only to get up-to-date, formative feedback, but to also gather important data for future research

– If agile leadership was what we were going for, we got it.  Teachers adapting, students making an extra effort and the whole organization coming together to focus resources on what is the most important. Pretty amazing, really!

While we are thrilled to see varied assessments and creative lessons. We also have an eye on workload.  Feedback from teachers and staff – “online meetings go much faster”, “all of my students are on time”, “I get so much more done” has led to a somewhat uber effective workload.  We have received feedback from students and parents that, in some cases, the workload feels as though it has increased and the students are remarking of how “tired” they feel after a day of on-screen learning.  While it is exciting to explore all of what we can do with online tools, we must now balance our choices with what should we do. At one school, teachers were suggesting that we extend the day to allow for more one-on-one time.  While we are open to different schedules, we have to be careful to not overextend ourselves and our students. When working in a high-performing environment, it is important to keep an eye on sustainability. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.  Part of my job, together with our dedicated school leader team, is to consider when is our work “good enough” and communicate that clearly.

I am reminded about Skolinspektionens report published in 2018 highlighting how VRG Odenplan supports high-performing students.  Key findings in this report highlighted what makes VRG successful:

– challenging classroom activities

– clear expectations of work level/input

– supportive relationships and an engaging school culture

– school leadership who are informed and involved in the pedagogical development

– strong cooperation between teachers and student care team as success factors

These factors are just as important in our online classrooms, maybe even more.  

 

There are still questions that need to be debated and decided:

-How can we do online assessment that is reliable?

-How much time on task (or how little) is an acceptable workload for on-screen learning? For teachers, students and support staff.

-How do we ensure equity in access to new knowledge and skills with very different parameters in our students’ home environments

-We value collaboration and see it as a necessary skill.  However, now we have to think of assessment differently. As Ann S. Michaelsen (from Sandvika Videregående skola in Norway) wrote in her recent post, Corona school closing: the importance of validity and reliability in assessment – “In other words, we need to change our mindset from online collaboration seen as cheating, to accept that this is the new norm. We need new ways of assessing our students in an online environment and make sure they have the chance to reflect, argue and demonstrate their competence, alone and with the help of others.

 

To answer some of these questions, during week 3, I plan to:

– Virtually visit classes

– Gather our Lead Teachers to hear their reflections and ideas and (hopefully) create some guidelines for our organization regarding the expectation of online effort, create “VR Habits of Mind” and discuss reliable assessment

– Take an online class myself: Global Online Academy’s, Designing for Online Assessment, with other educators from around the world.

…And, I am going to take every opportunity to remind my staff that they are doing an excellent job.  Their work is way better than “good enough” and to achieve a quality, sustainable level of online learning we should probably reduce our plans by half.

 

I would be interested to hear from other school leaders, students, and/or parents – what does online learning look like where you are? Please contact me kristy.lundstrom@vrg.se 

 

Kristy Lundström
Skolchef, Stiftelsen Viktor Rydbergs skolor

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