HPEDSB online ‘Learn at Home’ initiative a learning experience for all

The HPEDSB Education Centre. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette Staff)

 

DESIRÉE DECOSTE

STAFF WRITER

 

In the third week of remote learning and the sixth week of learning at home thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board (HPEDSB) have been eager learners  they support students, families and staff to transition to teaching and learning in ways new to everyone.

“Through this transition we have continually stressed the need for having reasonable expectations; flexibility, equity, and care for all students, families and staff,” said Tina Elliott, Superintendent of Curriculum Services for HPEDSB. “We’ve asked our teachers and school leaders to connect every week with students and families to check in about how learning at home and remote teaching is going. We’re hearing families appreciate the chance to connect regularly.”

With staff training being one of the top priorities, so far over 1,000 educators and support staff have stepped up to the challenge and are participating in online training to refresh or learn new ways to deliver remote learning. The public school board are thrilled with their enthusiasm of educators who are embracing opportunities to learn themselves and have been sharing with each other and offering suggestions on how to better support students since the closures began after March Break.

“The willingness of our educators to try new ways of teaching to support learning in this remote model is inspiring,” expressed Elliott. “We continue to provide a wide variety of training modules as teachers expand the ways in which they are reaching and teaching students in the current circumstances. We’ve also heard from our teachers and families they appreciate the flexibility to complete learning tasks because this approach works best for their family circumstances versus mandating a specific schedule.”

The HPEDSB are very pleased and proud of the efforts of their educators, school and system staff, students and their families who’ve all partnered to make the best transition to learn at home. The regular and open communication between home and school, which is essential to supporting the continuity of learning for students, is much appreciated by the HPEDSB.

“We appreciate the regular and open communication between home and school,” Elliott said. “This is essential to supporting the continuity of learning for students.”

With inequities for students, families and staff in the HPEDSB communities, cases vary from family to family. Access to technology and connectivity being a main point, along with families having the confidence and time to support learning at home are challenges throughout the province. 

“We’ve deployed over 3,500 devices to students over the past two weeks and are currently in the process of acquiring wifi support to assist with the connectivity needs of the most extreme situations,” Elliott expressed. “As we began planning for learning at home several weeks ago, we knew we would have to support the varying ability and confidence of our educators in being able to work remotely through an online or virtual platform.” 

Although many HPEDSB educators use these tools regularly, remote teaching is very different from face-to-face instruction. It requires technology to be the only means in which teachers provide learning. HPEDSB anticipated this would require additional support and therefore created an extensive support plan coaching model. 

“This was important because we knew there would be a range of comfort and abilities among our students and families in using technology to this level,” said Elliott. “We felt confident if our educators were familiar with a variety of online tools and teaching platforms, they could better support students and families, and adapt to what works best. We also knew the absence of consistent Internet access and devices in all students’ homes was a reality. Our solution, unique to HPEDSB, is to provide no-tech learn at home activities in the weekly community papers and we’re hearing very positive feedback about these weekly ads.”

An exciting outcome of learning at home and remote teaching is the creativity, innovation and commitment to communication that’s happening throughout HPEDSBs schools, within the virtual classrooms and within our communities.

“The pictures and comments that staff, students and families are sharing on social media illustrate learning at home,” Elliott said. “The stories are inspirational given these unprecedented times and give us so many opportunities to celebrate; to celebrate our students’ learning, to celebrate our families’ commitment to partner with schools, and to our staff who are continually thinking outside the box of traditional teaching to support student learning, well-being, and success.

HPEDSB teams, students and families are working together in ways that make the school board proud of the connections between home and school. “They are setting and living the example of the pandemic phrase, ‘We are in this together.’,” added Elliott.

To visit the HPEDSB Learn at Home website please visit sites.google.com/apps.hpedsb.on.ca/hpedsb-learning-at-home/home

and to visit the HPEDSB home page please visit www.hpedsb.on.ca/