Teaching Proves As Interactive As Ever Amid Isolation

In these incredibly challenging times, teachers and students from Portsmouth College have quickly made the transition from face to face interaction to online teaching and learning. As an Apple Distinguished School, teachers already have excellent levels of digital literacy and they are confidently delivering lessons using a range of platforms and apps, ensuring that our students are making good progress from home.

A common starting point is Google Hangouts. Teachers are making videos introducing the lesson in person, with students asking questions using the chat feature, outlining expectations and learning aims. It’s also a chance for us to say hello, and check in with our students in person which we see as an essential means of supporting our students’ mental health at this time. Google Classroom is a well-established resource but teachers are now using the virtual classrooms on this platform in far more creative ways. They continue to share key resources and set assignments but are now using online timers for starter activities and for quick recall tasks following more detailed work as a means of breaking up activities into manageable chunks. The link feature is a really easy way to enable students to quickly access a range of materials on the internet which significantly helps target their research. In Science, students have been paired up using Google Meet, where they ask and answer exam questions, sharing understanding and finding and filling the gaps in each other’s knowledge, supported by their teacher who is accessible via a muted mic.

In practical subjects such as the Performing Arts, Sport and Public Services, teachers are increasingly turning to video as an essential tool. Uploading video of professional dancers, actors and sports people for students to analyse and develop their own practice from have been very successful means of engaging students who are isolated at home. Dance and Sport students have used TikTok to share evidence of them developing their individual skills and a Public Services teacher has made a video of herself demonstrating a circuit that students can do with limited space whilst in social isolation to ensure they keep their fitness levels up.

Teachers in Humanities are using Kahoot to host class discussions and surveys to gather opinion, along with quizzes to check understanding. English teachers have created Keynote (powerpoints) that students can collaborate on along with interactive Popplets (a mind map app) enabling students to analyse poems, building on each other’s understanding. They have also set up a You Tube channel and have created videos demonstrating how to annotate a poem, for example. Streaming webchats with poets, novelists and playwrights are also common. Psychology teachers have live streamed themselves using mini whiteboards to interpret statistics in real time (supported by the Google Hangout chat feature) and use the Loom app to narrate over slides. In Criminology, timed Socrative tests have been a very successful means of checking understanding in lieu of a plenary.

These are just some of the many ways that teachers are engaging with students at Portsmouth College (also the Notability, Padlet, Garage Band and iMovie apps…the list goes on). What is also clear is that teachers are significantly developing their own digital practice at the same time, constantly innovating as they look for ways to engage and inspire our students with the aim of evoking their curiosity… from an appropriate distance.


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