Back to school (Success story)
Due to the pandemic in the world, face-to-face teaching in Georgian schools has been suspended since March 2020.
Many schools offer distance learning for almost 1 year. Georgian-American school of Batumi works in the same way. This private school operates in the city of Batumi, which was established in 2018 and has about 350 students in grades I to XII. The school did not have much teaching experience, so it was interesting to find out how it coped with the difficulties posed by the pandemic and what experiences it can share with the general public.
The face-to-face study at the Georgian American School of Batumi was stopped on March 16, 2020 and resumed on February 1, 2021. Regardless of the resumption of the learning process, the student has the right to continue his / her distance learning if he / she wishes, for which the school provides him / her with a distance learning format.
We talked about the challenges of distance learning with the director of the Georgian-American School of Batumi, Ms. Diana Khajishvili.
- How did you cope with distance learning?
Distance learning was a great challenge for the Georgian-American school of Batumi, however, despite many difficulties, we believe that we have successfully overcome this challenge. The success was due to the two-component format of distance learning, which consisted of synchronous and asynchronous distance learning. It is also noteworthy that the Georgian-American School of Batumi used an electronic journal to communicate with students and parents before transferring to distance learning, a resource in which all students, teachers and parents of the school had already membership. So we decided to use a platform familiar to the school community and added a video tutorial component to the e-journal during distance learning, so it was not difficult for students to work with an already familiar resource.
- Have the school had a similar experience before?
Georgian-American School of Batumi did not have distance learning experience until March 2020, but in the near future we were planning to create an online learning resource that would be available to our school students.
- What did you have to change to adjust your distance learning?
I think we needed to master new skills and refine them rather than switching to distance learning. Creating online resources turned out to be one of the weaknesses. Teachers should record video lessons, prepare relevant reading material, and also develop exercises and tests that will help students test their knowledge independently. In case if a student performed any of the exercises incorrectly, he or she could re-watch the video lesson and realize his or her own mistakes. The students had time until the end of the week to complete the above exercises. They could complete the task several times until they reach the desired result. To run this process, we needed to mobilize forces and support teachers in these processes. Changes have become necessary in the teaching process because, unlike the school environment, involving students in the learning process and keeping them active is much more difficult in distance learning. Teachers needed to plan and implement activities that would arouse students' interest and activity in the lesson process.
- How did you prepare for the opening?
We planned to return to the school environment in September 2020, by which time we had studied all the necessary conditions for the functioning of the school in COVID reality, adapted these requirements to all the processes going on in the school and received a permit to operate. However, we only managed to bring students into the school environment in February 2021, and in preparing for this process, it was important to inform parents, students and teachers about their contribution to creating a COVID safe environment. We sent out the relevant information through an e-journal, in addition to which the class counselors conducted online parent meetings where they once again explained to the parents all the necessary requirements for the student to attend school and participate in the lesson process.
- What do the parents say? Were they ready?
Most of the parents were excited, but it turned out that most of them were ready to let students go to school. This is evidenced by the fact that only 0.05% of the students of the Georgian-American school of Batumi continued their distance learning. Although attendance during the first two weeks ranged from 80-85%, parents observed the processes and in the second half of February we returned to normal regime.
- How do you protect security now?
We strictly comply with all requirements and recommendations related to the COVID Safe School. In the school environment, we work with students to wear a mask, to keep personal hygiene and distance for their personal, their families, and their community safety.
- What has COVID changed?
On the example of our particular school, I can say that COVID changed the attitude of parents towards school for the better. To be more precise, many parents looked in detail at the lesson process and saw what complex and important processes are going on in the school. Our observations have also had a positive effect on students spending more time with their parents, with many students noticing positive changes due to their close relationships with their parents. However, we also notice negative changes related to COVID, such as an increase in Internet addiction in students, a decrease in social skills, and immobility. Consequently, the school needed to change its approaches so that students returning to school from this reality could return to the school environment gradually and without tension.
- Do you plan to keep the distance learning component in the future?
The resource created by the Georgian-American School of Batumi during this one year is still in active use. 7098 video lessons with relevant exercises were created in one year. If a student misses school for a variety of reasons, through the created video resource, teachers have the opportunity to provide the explained material in the form of a video lesson and thus eliminate the difficulties that come with the student returning to school after the miss. This resource was also useful in the case of students who moved to school with mobility. It has become much easier to correct program gaps in terms of delivering past material to students. Many educators use pre-created video tutorials when students need help to better master the material. It is clear that the use of distance learning component, in particular video lessons in the learning process has a positive effect; therefore Georgian-American School of Batumi will continue to work in this direction, will use the distance learning component as an additional resource in the learning process and will improve the quality of this resource. In addition, teachers have trained learning resources that have been used in distance learning and their use is also highly effective in face-to-face teaching mode. This saves the teacher the time needed to prepare lesson resources.