Since classes were suspended due to the COVID-19 epidemic, students like Lew Tsz-chun have been taking part in lessons at home.
“I jot down what the teacher tells us. I can also use the ‘raise hand’ function to answer or ask questions. I like having classes at home. I can sit on the sofa and still enjoy the classes,” the Primary 5 student said.
Tsz-chun’s mother admitted that she had some reservations about such a new form of learning.
“Using just a small device to conduct lessons, I wondered if the teachers would be able to handle so many students. But after joining the lessons, I witnessed how the class performed and it really worked. It is actually similar to having lessons in school.”
With so many students online, technical issues were inevitable, but the teachers were well prepared.
“We produced written guidelines and videos on how to use the applications. We even held practice classes, so they rarely encounter technical problems during the real-time online lessons,” explained Fan Wing-yip, Buddhist Chi King Primary School STEM Education & e-Learning Coordinator.
For the hardware, the school found organisations to sponsor the data cards and lend tablet computers to students who could not afford them.
An average 90% attendance was recorded for the real-time online lessons, with the majority of students able to hand in their e-homework.
The teachers had to adapt too so they could provide lessons to their students remotely and Mr Fan believes they made a lot of progress during the class suspension.
“Some of the teachers were hesitant at first to conduct e-learning or give out e-homework, but we were pleasantly surprised to discover they were fully capable of handling it,” he added.
To support teachers' e-learning capabilities and their competence in using online tools and resources, the Education Bureau created a dedicated webpage to share the skills of using e-learning platforms, the flipped classroom approach and real-time online teaching.
More than 30 videos were produced, with experienced teachers demonstrating how to apply simple applications to produce e-learning materials, produce teaching videos and how to use e-learning platforms or conduct real-time online teaching using web conferencing applications.
Education Bureau Senior Curriculum Development Officer Paul Lee said webinars on different topics were on offer to better equip them with the relevant teaching strategies.
“We have also provided different WhatsApp communication groups to answer teachers’ enquiries on time and also share with them some good practices.”
Mr Lee added that besides new applications and advanced technology, creativity is important.
Online school life
Making full use of the web, teachers held virtual art and physical education lessons. Different activities were also organised to help students develop their “online school lives”, such as live story reading, a book characters day and even a music video-making competition.
“We produced videos to teach the students how to dance, make musical instruments with resources at home, and to dress themselves as superheroes by using recycled materials. Then we asked them to produce their own music videos for the song we composed about coping with COVID-19 with a good attitude. We received positive feedback on this,” said Chan Mei-kuen, School Curriculum Development Officer of Buddhist Chi King Primary School.
The school also found that keeping the data collected during the class suspension came in handy for the preparation of class resumption. Data including students’ attendance and homework return rate helped the teachers to follow up on those pupils who may have fallen behind in their studies.
Ms Chan added that the experience gained during the class suspension could serve as a reference for future development.