The last few months have seen huge change in international schools around the world. In a very short time, the coronavirus and global lockdowns have propelled international schools into a new world of distance learning that has changed the way teachers teach and students learn.
In this article, we hear from teachers at CIS International School in Russia to find out more about how they, their students and their parent body have adapted to distance learning.
Robert Ellis is Head of School at CIS International School’s Gorki Campus
As the coronavirus crisis continues to envelop the world, distance learning has become the norm for students everywhere. Teachers have had to learn new skills and students have had to understand new ways of learning. Furthermore, parents – who have previously been able to leave education up to the educationalists – have had to be involved to support their children on a day-to-day basis. This has been a struggle for all involved, but one that we feel we are beginning to win after several weeks online.
The key issue with distance learning is the lack of social interaction. Teaching, after all, is all about creating relationships and this is always best done in person. Being unable to be physically present does not allow us to read the many cues our students give us during lessons. These cues help us assess whether they understand something or not and whether they need extra support.
Hence, one of the key skills that we are trying to develop with the students is being truthful online. This can be difficult initially for students to express online that they do not understand something and require extra support. They need to be able to communicate this to us which often helps them to a higher understanding because it forces them to consider exactly what they do not understand.
A further key soft skill they are developing online is self-motivation. It is easier to run in a crowd than on your own and this is something all of our students are doing. They have to push themselves to work when maybe they don’t want to and for some, plan their time accordingly to ensure that tasks are complete. This is a key skill which they are all developing and one that will certainly benefit them in the future.
Alongside the development of becoming reflective and motivated learners, they are clearly gaining in ICT skills. For some of our students, they would never view a laptop or iPad as a learning tool. They are now starting to see how it is a tool that can really support them in their journey rather than just being a tool to play games or connect with people through their social media accounts.
So, distance learning has been a challenge but it is often through challenges that we develop fastest. Our students have been put in this position and I have been proud of the developments that our students have made. They have certainly gained some key skills which will benefit them in the future.
Carl Bates is Head of School at CIS International School’s Tashkent Campus
Rewind to February. How different life was. Particularly in school life. Things that were once routine, almost mundane, we now long for. Not to worry, things will return to how they were.
To quote Leo Tolstoy: “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” We will certainly need to be patient. With every passing day, we take a step closer to our old school existence. However, for now, we adapt and learn. I have been so impressed with the fortitude our staff, parents and children have shown in the face of such adversity.
Every single one of us, without fail, has risen to the challenge. Lessons have changed in nature but are no less interesting or engaging. Children ‘arrive’ on time, do their work, and hand it in as usual. Everybody is playing their part. Parents have stepped in as makeshift teachers and teachers have had to acquire new technical skills, the likes of which they had never even heard of! But everyone has done it and supported one another in fantastic camaraderie.
I hope all of us take away the positives from this experience. Develop new-found respect for the hard work so many people do for us in our school community and use the energy to continue to strive for excellence across all of our schools. Our values guide us and it is wonderful to see us live them to their fullest.
William Myers is Teacher of English & Global Perspectives at CIS International School’s Moscow Campus
As people across the world try to work from home to stay safe, everyone has to adapt to new methods. This includes teachers and students at CIS who are distance learning with the help of a few tools.
Whilst most people will be familiar with the rise of programmes like Zoom and Edupage during this time, I wanted to highlight some other good apps and programmes that can help students not only with their online lessons, but when not attending online classes too.
With the rise in popularity of podcasts people are finding more ways to learn about the world using this tool. Unfortunately, there are so many different podcasts with varying degrees of quality. Luckily with Listenwise, short stories/podcasts about different subjects are available to students. The cool features in this programme include the ability to slow down the audio for English language learners, a graphic organiser to keep thoughts organised while listening to the podcast and a set of comprehension questions to review at the end.
The Smithsonian Learning Lab is a fantastic tool for learning about all sorts of topics. Resources compiled by teachers, educators and learners are all shared online. With topics from ‘The Marvels of Greece and Rome’ to ‘Coral Reefs and Plastic Pollution’ to ‘Shifting States: Iraq’, there is something for everyone here.
Duolingo is perhaps the most well known free language learning software. Teaching the basics of a foreign language using fun and interactive exercises, this program has over 30 languages for people who speak English. It also includes English, German, French and Spanish for those who want to study a foreign language in Russian. With an iPhone app it is great for learning on the go.
These are a few tools I’m integrating into my distance learning classes and I hope that they are useful to you not only during this time, but in the future.
Thanks to the team at CIS International School for sharing this article with us. You can read more from CIS International School in Youngzine, the CIS Education Group Journal.