CEWA schools innovate for learning and connection

09 April 2020

With most students now staying home to slow the spread of COVID-19 in WA, CEWA educators and communities have been finding some innovative ways to learn and connect remotely. 

Staff at St Francis Xavier Primary School in Geraldton started their ‘Story Time Live’ video series on Facebook this term, as a fun way to maintain connections between staff members, students and families. 

The videos have been a great way to bring a familiar activity and setting, picture books read in the school library, into students’ learning experience at home. 

The stories have been read by different staff members, after an introduction from Principal Ben Doyle, and have also been used as an opportunity for announcements and school celebrations like student birthdays. 

Along with the popular videos, St Francis Xavier PS has seen an impressive take up of their remote teaching and learning delivery – in one week, there were 2500 messages sent between teachers and parents, and more than 7500 pieces of student work uploaded. 

Iona Presentation College in Mosman Park found that their work adopting digital learning technologies early prepared them well for the rapid transition to remote learning required by COVID-19. 

Iona’s Director of Information and Learning Technologies, Anna Davila, said that the College was able to provide a rich remote learning environment thanks to these foundations. 

“In 2019, the College began to focus on how to best develop 21st century skills in order to ready our students to engage in a global, online workforce,” Ms Davila said. 

“In order to best teach these skills, we hosted professional development on how to use a variety of applications to support our instruction,” she said. 

Iona Presentation College Year 6 Teacher, Jeromie Mack, working online after the College switched to remote education delivery

Iona’s Principal, Anne Pitos, said that it wasn’t just the College’s curriculum being delivered remotely. 

“We also have in place a pastoral care program to ensure no student is isolated or ‘out of sight’ during these times, 

“We will do our best to communicate clearly with them on expectations and performance, doing what we can to reduce anxiety and promote resilience,” Ms Pitos said. 

“Staff are working harder than ever to provide students with a robust and engaging education,” she said. 

At Sacred Heart College in Sorrento and Mater Dei College in Edgewater, both of which are using many of the same digital technologies as Iona and other CEWA schools, staff members teaching hands-on subjects have gone above and beyond to make sure their students can continue learning. 

Sacred Heart Technologies teacher, Enrico Donath, recently had a busy week preparing DIY electric guitar packs for students in the Year 12 Materials Design and Technology (Wood) class to take home. 

The students have everything they need to construct the guitar at home, with guidance by Mr Donath online. 

An electric guitar construction pack prepared for Sacred Heart College’s Year 12 Materials Design and Technology class.

At Mater Dei, teachers in the Home Economics and Hospitality Department have also laid the groundwork for engaging hands-on learning online. 

Teachers created home packs so that hospitality students would have all the ingredients to cook at home, while textiles classes would have fabric ready for their online lessons. 

The College arranged for staff members to drop the packs to students homes, where they did not have the means to collect them. 

Mater Dei Hospitality teacher, Peta Brown, has also taken her work bench and equipment home from the College and set it up with an over-head webcam, so that she can teach Year 11 and 12 students in Hospitality with a familiar and realistic setting suited to their course. 

“The maintenance team drove the stainless-steel bench to my house, the IT team has gone above and beyond, the amazing Home Economics assistants have helped with the food packaging and the College executive team trusted me to whatever was needed to support the students – it takes a team to do amazing things,” Ms Brown said. 

The work space set up at the home of Mater Dei College Hospitality Teacher, Peta Brown, where she conducts online lessons.

“Some of the parents have never seen the food our students cook in class and now they are cooking it at home, 

“The emails I have received from parents have made my heart sing; it’s made the hard work worth it,” she said. 

St Mary’s Catholic School in Boyup Brook has also made the switch to remote learning in recent weeks, with a mix of online and take-home packs supporting student learning. 

Staff members have been busy creating video tutorials, holding meetings virtually on Microsoft Teams, and utilising the SeeSaw app to assist students learning at home. 

The school’s Principal, Ronan Kelly, said that staff had gone above and beyond, while families had done a great job of making the transition to remote. 

“We’ve been preparing packs to deliver to our students that live on farms well out of town,” Mr Kelly said. 

“Our staff have divided up the delivery between them, and today are dropping off the packs,” 

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