May 12, 2020

Migrating classroom learning to the home: lessons learned

Head of School at Nobel International School Algarve in Lagoa, Lagos and Almancil, Mike Farrer, shares his reflections and hopes for education after Covid-19

Schools and parents have grappled with the sudden shift from classroom to home-schooling and education experts have been considering what the best ways are to learn during a period of isolation. The advice is different for each stage of education but what each phase has in common is precisely what we have found here at Nobel Algarve: the human interaction aspect of e-learning is crucial for student wellbeing and progress. This change is one of the biggest challenges most of us have faced for decades and yet a positive outcome may be that this generation of school children and teachers may be laying the foundations of one of the most significant shifts in education in recent history.  I, for one, am excited at how we can use everything we are learning now for improving our education provision.  It is clear that 21st Century learning and “edtech” goes a long way beyond a weekly ICT lesson, giving students their own tablet, or integrating ICT into different subject areas.

Online learning is about creating meaningful opportunities to try new ways of connecting and learning. It doesn´t come naturally to everyone to teach or learn online and we are all learning – which is what is so exciting about working in schools. Nobel Algarve students have been connected to our other Globeducate schools across the world on a new scale; we all celebrated World Poetry Day in March, World Book Day on 23rd April, and in May, our IGCSE Global Perspectives took part in a live summit online led by WWF and Globeducate, working with students from across our school network.

Community is also at the forefront with helping students to adapt to learning without the familiarity of their friends and teachers. At Nobel International School Algarve, our students benefit from a fantastic support network amongst the parents. Our student community has more than 40 nationalities represented and I know there has been a great deal of support from family to family and we are very grateful to the parents for that. We have kept in touch with parent representatives for each class and quickly saw that the scale of support needed for delivering home-schooling was gargantuan. Our curriculum leaders and IT department worked tirelessly and quickly to create robust online learning programme to be delivered through the Microsoft Teams platform – and at every stage we have listened to feedback from parents. Some parents want a full online timetable, others want core subjects to be covered and then to have plenty of scope for family time and outdoor activities. Finding the balance to suit everyone has been very important.

Nobel Algarve teachers are available every day during lesson times and they use a range of strategies including live interactive sessions, flipped learning, individual interviews with students who have special educational needs or English as an Additional Language tutorials, and there has been a rich programme of offline activities such as videos, projects, special challenges, exercises and storytelling for the school´s youngest children. The provision also includes PE and Music lessons, and some collective assemblies for Primary school aged students. Wellbeing and mental health, and sustainability education, have also been given attention in the timetable.

The team at Nobel Algarve can´t wait for doors to open again in the near future and to celebrate reuniting and our expansion into Almancil with our new purpose-built Primary School with British curriculum. When we re-launched our school mission in November to Shaping the World, we didn´t know just how much would change in 2020 and how these words would resonate so strongly with each and every member of our school community. We prepare children to become global citizens who can shape the world.