By Lara Pickford-Gordon
Archbishop Jason Gordon has asked Catholic educators to seize the “incredible opportunity” of e-learning to “leapfrog” the country by helping students and education system “to go digital”.
In an online meeting Thursday September 3 with principals of Catholic primary and secondary schools hosted by the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) he asked them to see e-learning not as a bother but a learning curve. “You are raising 21st century children and they are not going to live in an analogue age… so education has to go out to what the digital child and the digital citizen is going to require for the workplace of 2049,” Archbishop Gordon said.
After the closure of education institutions on March 13, he said schools stepped into the unknown. Archbishop Gordon noted that talk of digitising the education system, blended learning and “flipping classrooms” has been going on for years. Praising educators as “heroes”, he said during the last term principals and teachers demonstrated what was possible by their commitment. “You all are walking on water every single day and doing it without any extra equipment…It is quite amazing what you have been able to accomplish. I want to give you all the support I possibly can.”
He assured that he was pushing to get internet provided for the children without access and held a meeting with five leaders of technology. “They are committed to find a way to offer internet to everyone in the school system so that those who don’t have they will have availability at a nominal cost, that they are working it out with the government.” He reported telling the companies that children should not be able to access pornography and other “bad content”. Archbishop Gordon continued, “They are also looking at the number of devices that will be necessary.”
Touching on the challenge of keeping children engaged for online classes, he understood this was not easy because children can be “antsy”, mischievous or have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “Those are the things we have to look at and remember that we will learn as we go forward. I think some great learning happened last term and I am sure people have some wonderful best practices,” he said. Meetings were held with principals to share information and Information Technology teachers from secondary school were enlisted “to think about what kinds of tools were available immediately to staff”. He added, “I know for some of the principals and teachers they said that was wonderful because at least it gave them a little toolkit to start off with”.
Archbishop Gordon recommended that principals think about “flipping the classroom” to minimise the duration of time children spent sitting in the virtual classroom “in a straight-jacket”.
“Flipping the classroom (also known as ‘inverting’ a classroom) is a ‘pedagogy-first’ approach to teaching in which course materials are introduced outside of class, and in-class time is re-purposed for inquiry, application, and assessment in order to better meet the needs of individual learners” (www.washington.edu).He said the approach can be researched online.
Archbishop Gordon added, “I am sure you yourself have collected some digital material for your teaching so that you can give them the material let them go offline and do it and say in 30 minutes they are coming back on…however long you want to give them so we keep a break between the things.”
Archbishop Gordon urged schools to check-in on students to find out what was happening with them. He said morning assembly could take place or Lexio Divina to get students to share “what’s in their heart from what’s in the text and allow some kids to express themselves”.
After the Archbishop, principals were invited to ask questions and share best practices.