COVID-19 (aka Corona Virus) is poised to transform education in South Africa, as it is already doing globally as schools are being closed today in the United Kingdom, while here at home schools were officially closed for students yesterday Wed 18 Mar 2020, with teachers due to finish later this week on Friday 20 Mar 2020.
Some questions that come to my mind as an educator who needs to teach students on a daily/weekly basis are;
- How are you going to educate learners who are being sent home for the next four weeks?
- How are you planning to continue with education should schools not reopen on 14 April 2020?
- How can schools embrace distance learning to ensure that students are able to proceed with their studies?
- How can we support our learners using remote learning?
SchoolCoding has decided to support and equip our customers (both educators and learners) with the knowledge, training and support to make use of technology already at your disposal, namely Microsoft Office 365 for Education, incl. Teams to prepare for and deliver remote learning to each and every student.
By showing each and every WCED school how to setup Teams we hope to enable every teacher to setup manage their own class team, which can be deployed within a matter of days, to ensure that although your school campus may be closed, your school remains open, viable and sustainable as we begin to deal with the strange new reality of social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine and the urgent need to limit social contact between individuals as much as possible.
We have been in close contact with Microsoft Education South Africa, who have pledged to support and activate every school in the Western Cape, that falls under the authority of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). All of these schools have been signed up for Microsoft Office 365 for Education through the agreement betweeen WCED and Microsoft South Africa. Many of you are already using Office 365 for staff and students, while others have only started using Office 365 for staff purposes.
Every school that uses Office 365 needs to move quickly to get ready for remote learning, to sustain education throughout the Corona Pandemic, which is likely to be with us for the rest of 2020.
Now is the time to activate your Microsoft Office 365 Education tenant, as this provides your school with a completely free, fully-featured online platform that has been designed to deliver distance and campus learning using all of the technology tools and resources necessary for virtual classes, assignments, assessment and all that entails. Each student and teacher has their own email address, private online learning resources and access to any class to which they are invited to join.
SchoolCoding has the benefit of seeing from an outside vantage point how our 20+ school clients are dealing with the implementation of Office 365 for Education, and we have decided to embark upon a series of online webinars to train and equip schools and teachers to deploy Microsoft Teams for Education as an immediate and long term solution to sustain learning through the coming months.
We visited two schools this week to see what they are doing to prepare for the closure, and were very pleased to see that one school has just deployed Teams, setting up a Class Team for each teacher, and are embarking upon a very steep learning curve themselves, to become familiar with new technology.
Another school were talking about using Facebook and WhatsApp and the D6 Communicator to distribute lessons to their parents, who would need to print these for students to complete work, but had little idea how they would receive the completed work for assessment, corrections etc.
While this may work to announce the work, in no way does it enable effective two-way communication, nor does it facilitate the personal, professional attention to detail that students need from teachers.
As schools prepare for the next few weeks, there also exists a very real possibility that schools may not re-open after the April holidays, and education for the rest of this academic year may need to be completely different from what we are accustomed to. We may all be confined to work from home, distance or remote learning may become a stark and necessary reality for the remainder of 2020.
While we do not have all the answers, we do know how to use Microsoft Teams for Education, and will be hosting a series of webinars from next week. These will be held at various times so that educators can attend the live sessions at their convenience, learn how to deploy and use Teams, ask questions and get support throughout the process.
The first session will be free of charge, to give you an idea of how it works and will be charged at a nominal fee thereafter, to ensure that we can sustain the sessions.
Here’s a taste of some of what’s to come in the Webinars;