We are sure living through interesting time. I hope everyone is as safe and as happy as they can be in their various bubbles around the place. And you are enjoying school holidays – what ever that looks like for you.
This morning I attended via zoom the PPTA ICT committee meeting. These are more thoughts, recollections and interpretations of what was said. As always, I’m more than happy to be corrected or directed on what I say below. Or if you want more info, please sing out and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.
The meeting was not quite as structured as usual, with lots of points being revisited in different contexts, so my notes were not as complete as usual. This is more of a stream of consciousness around some key topics
- Expectations of schools
The PPTA exec asked the teachers/reps present about the expectations from their schools in regards to online teaching. The people present were remarkably varied in the expectations from their school
- some had gone straight into online teaching last week, with an expectation of maintaining a full timetable
- Others had a more flexible present for 10-20 minutes to introduce an idea, then be available for the hour while students worked on it.
- Others had a try your best but if you schedule online time please make it during normal class time to avoid clashes
- Others were avoiding meeting online altogether and setting work that could be completed – aiming for the normal timetabled hours worth of activity with the work set.
- Another example was the teachers were expected to email home each day (so five!! emails) with the work set for the day
- Another was work was being set by class teachers, but the pastoral care team (whanua or form teachers I guess…..) were doing the face to face checking in a couple of times a week and collating any questions or concerns.
So it was a really big mixture. There was also a wide range of learning management systems (google, Microsoft, Schoology etc) with some schools asking to stick within a particular platform, and others with a much broader option.
All the teachers present were on holiday now, but we were all working and prepping in some degree. I talked about how I didn’t want to put any pressure on my students, but I was also aware some would be coping by smashing out some school work as that was something they could control. I suspect there will be teachers doing this too – where as I have been spending time with Mr 7, trimming the overgrown holly hedge fence around my home and drinking copious amounts of tea. So we need to find a way to make sure teachers stay supported too, while remembering this will look different for everyone
2) NCEA/NZQA/Courses and content
This was a really messy inter-threaded conversation, but from my understanding the main points were
- How do we support more practical subjects like dance or hard material tech with online learning?
- How do we manage changes to NCEA/courses. Eg As a chemistry teacher, I can’t complete the practical internals that we had scheduled. So do we just change direction? (FYI, you can change the standards offered, but you need to touch base with your principals nominee to do so! Check in with them before offering any standard that is not your normal standard)
- This lead to a really cool conversation about what was important. I’m firmly in team NCEA doesn’t really matter right now!! But of more interest was how could NCEA change?How many credits do we really need? How could we gain evidence from different tasks? How could this be more equitable and accessible for all students?
- How do we find a balance for students who will be finding themselves working more, either in essential jobs like the supermarket, or is equally essential but perhaps less recognised like looking after younger family members (or perhaps older). If students have picked up more hours (potential also supporting family who might have lost jobs) is it realistic to expect them to complete assessments?
- What expectations will universities and polytechs be having around entrance requirements?
- How can subject associations be utilised. I know that some have been active hosting webinars and such to support specific subject areas – how could this be supported?
The PPTA exec had also meet with NZQA and the ministry, and assured us that while they could not share specifics, these questions were all being talked through by those parties, who were working very hard to find some solutions. It was then asked that the PPTA keep pestering both the ministry and NZQA for update to limit the spread of misinformation (I’ll just add here if I have something wrong, please let me know and I will fix it ASAP. Always my interpretations!!)
3. Supporting teachers and students.
This was a big one. Round and round we went, thinking of all the diversity and richness that our education system has, but because of this there is no one stop solution. Some key ideas were
- tens of thousands of students will not have access to online learning – either through lack of device, lack of infrastructure (rural properties or areas like northland with poor connectivity) or poverty. Some students biggest concern should not be learning, but finding a safe place to live during the lockdown! How do we support that. Again, I had a comment about schools giving devices, and then the ministry organising this too – how could we streamline this process. I also had an after thought concern about the MASSIVE amount of data being collected on families ability to connect – who has access and what will be done with it? It was also a pretty big ask for schools to collate that info on short notice – well done schools!
- PLD – how much is too much? How much is too little? Where will people be overwhelmed? The PLD alloted for the DT/HM integration can be reallocated to providing online support for schools and kura (I am 99% sure this is the case) and there are some additional resources coming out. Is there double dipping occurring – not so much as people getting too much support, but too many people trying to do the same job, which creates inefficiency?
- On this, what do teachers need? I’m sure lots of you have seen the fail work meeting were the person takes their laptop into the loo with the video on – how do we keep ourselves and our students safe? Not everyone has a seperate room in their house to work from. and some do not have good access to wifi either. Some homes the teachers TELA device might be the only device in the house that is needed to teaching and their students learning….
- And more on the health and wellbeing, some will be balancing their own needs as well as child care or looking after other family members. Some will have essential workers in their homes and be anxious about them. What are realistic expectations here?
- And looking forward, realistically we will not be coming out of level 4 into level zero. There will be (possibly, it really is unknown) level 3, or 2, where some teachers will not be able to come into classrooms, either due to their own vunerability or the vunerablity of those they care for. How will this look moving forward. Some schools were already looking to roster home age groups the week lock down was announced…. how can we balance the health and safety of all our teachers (and learner – some students won’t be able to come back either!!) with the work loads and well being of the teachers who can attend school. How will relievers who often move between schools, or itertinarent music teachers be supported?
Lastly linked to this, there was a suggestion that the PPTA produce some ‘documentation’ around some keeping yourself safe and some ‘how to’s’ for teachers. We had robust discussion about how this might look, given the wide range of devices, LMS, expectations and digital fluency levels of teachers in NZ – it was decided it would be useful rather than overwhelming but pitch and timing would be important. If you are a PPTA member, and on the facebook group, you can head over there, find the post from Matt and type in any suggestions.
So lots of questions, and not many answers! We do live in uncertain times. I do know however that there are teachers working super hard the country over to keep themselves well, and that we will find a way through. AND while it is sometimes hard to remember, there are groups of people working hard to help too.