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Teachers Get Creative During Pandemic

Hamilton Community News wanted to find out how local schools and students are dealing with the challenges of remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic and spoke with Harry Blyleven. The following is their article.

As educational institutions prepare for how schools will look in the future, teachers and administrators are adapting to remote learning to keep students interested in the curriculum during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There have been challenges,” said Redeemer University’s Provost David Zietsma. “It’s not ideal but everybody has really pulled together as a community.”

He said the university has offered students the proper technological support to learn remotely. As well, teachers have managed to transition from in-person learning to remote learning.

“The faculty is very willing to engage with the new technology,” he said. “But it is a change.”

Hamilton District Christian High’s vice-principal and technology co-ordinator Harry Blyleven said teachers and students had to adapt to a new way of learning in a short amount of time. But over the last two months, Blyleven said it turns out both teachers and children have learned how to be innovative.

“We are being creative in many ways,” he said. “The students are doing well.”

The school already provided some online learning courses, but when the pandemic hit, teachers started using Google classroom and Zoom for their lessons. Some teachers have also produced videos for their students.

“Every teacher will do it differently,” said Blyleven, who has been at the school for 25 years.

Science labs are being done virtually including dissections; students taking physical education post videos to show teachers what they have done; and in shop classes, students received materials from their teacher to build a doghouse.

Students have also gotten involved in blogs and interacting with a wider online audience than they otherwise would have with just in-person lessons, he said.
Blyleven said despite some successes through remote learning, there’s no replacement for in-person teaching and making that personal link with a student.

“Teachers didn’t get involved in teaching to conduct it remotely,” he said. “That in-person connection is lost.”

Redeemer, along with Hamilton District Christian High, have postponed in-person spring graduation ceremonies until October where officials hope to conduct their regular graduation events.

“That is the hope,” said Blyleven.

Zietsma said it is a big deal for Redeemer students to graduate with their class since they are a small close-knit group who have worked hard over the years to celebrate their graduation.

Blyleven said the remote learning has impacted the school’s graduating class, which has lost various extracurricular activities forever.

“I feel sad for our graduates,” he said. “I think we will feel that effect for years.”

Meanwhile, Redeemer is planning for its academic year this fall for in-person classes, said Zietsma. However, plans are being crafted to provide full remote learning to students.

“Redeemer is making contingency plans to ensure that all students can start the term on time and are ready to transition to in-person learning smoothly and quickly as soon as public health and government regulations allow,” said Shannon McBride, communications manager for Redeemer University.

In addition, the university is developing physical distancing measures for the campus and will establish a new on-campus student health centre for the school year, said Zietsma.

The clinic will provide walk-in health services concentrating on mental and physical health and will be operated by a medical professional, says officials.

He said the university has seen draft strategies from other education institutions on how to provide a learning environment for students this fall. But he said he hopes the provincial government will introduce a framework for how all schools can operate during this pandemic.

“We would like the (introduction of the plan) sooner rather than later,” he said.

Mohawk College has already announced that more than 70 per cent of its courses will be delivered remotely starting this September. Courses that require face-to-face learning, such as in-person labs, simulations and assessments are expected to continue, subject to public health guidelines.

Mohawk president Ron McKerlie said the remote learning plan is tentative and subject to change depending on public health’s changes to coronavirus restrictions.

Greg McNeish, 37, a Mountain resident who recently completed the business administration program at Mohawk, said he and his classmates had about four weeks of classes left when the coronavirus lockdown started.

Students, such as McNeish, were able to transition to remote learning.

“They did a wonderful job of not only being available, but keeping us updated on changes to the course, what times they would be available setting things up and just keeping the communication open as everyone was reacting to things coming out every single day,” he said recently after earning his diploma.

All educators are looking to the provincial government to determine what school will look like for the rest of this semester and for the fall.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce is expected to announce a decision about the school year imminently.

Schools across the province have been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The province said in April they would be closed until at least May 31. The minister has said Ontario will increase “in a significant way” the current online learning program to keep students engaged in the curriculum.

“We are waiting for the provincial government to make a decision,” said Blyleven. “I don’t think we will be returning to in-person classes this semester.”

Source: Kevin Werner @ Hamilton Community News
– With files from the Hamilton Spectator and Hamilton Community News