Paul Montague, our International Digital Learning and Curriculum Manager, discusses how the knowledge parents have of education has deepened, and how their expectations of their children’s education have altered due to the Covid-19 pandemic impact.
Paul has worked in the education field for 20 years and has significant teaching and learning, digital curriculum, content, assessment, and social-emotional learning and wellbeing experience. His roles have included: Geography Teacher, School Improvement Manager and Advisor, Project Examiner, Government Advisor, Curriculum Development Manager (Pearson), International Consultant for The Middle East (GL Education), and Digital Curriculum and Learning Manager for Edmentum.
In his current role with Edmentum, he partners with, and supports, schools around the world as they introduce a range of Edmentum’s flexible digital curriculum and learning solutions.
Educational provision has been forced to evolve during the Covid-19 pandemic. Schools have adapted and adjusted to the significant challenges of maintaining health and safety, ensuring education continuity, and providing social and emotional learning and wellbeing support. Covid-19 has changed parent’s expectations of education. Parents are now playing an even greater, more active role, in their children’s education. For the first time, many are getting a closer look at what and how their children learn. They are reviewing the quality of the resources, teaching, and lessons that are being delivered and are actively evaluating the quality of provision that is being provided. We know parental engagement is critical. When it is successful it leads to improvements in student wellbeing, learning outcomes and can significantly enhance a school’s reputation. It is now, more important than it has ever been before. This is particularly true in the private international school market where expectations are always higher and competition is more intense.
Teaching at Home
It has been a challenging time for parents, particularly for primary-age children. Amelia, my nine-year-old daughter, and I have responded well to the challenge. It isn’t easy, but it has been wonderful to watch her adjust and adapt to the new normal. She is definitely developing a ‘growth mindset,’ has developed much more ‘student agency,’ and sets goals, plans, and manages her time, effort, and emotions better. She is regulating her own learning, developing effective learning habits, and has developed her own daily routine punctuated by ‘Alexa alarms’, which have replaced the school bell. The bellow of ‘Daaaaaaadd!’ occasionally breaks the calm learning environment when a particular long division question is proving troublesome, a cup of tea is required, or she would like a quick hug combined with some words of encouragement and recognition for the great work she is producing.
Every school’s digital response to the pandemic has been slightly different. I have been very fortunate as, the staff at Amelia’s school, Cyfarthfa Junior School, have adapted brilliantly. With their skill, energy, and enthusiasm, the teachers have continued to engage students in learning as they adapt to new pedagogies, processes, systems, and technologies. Amelia, who is reluctant to ask questions in class, has been able to send private messages to her teacher via Google Classroom and I have been able to communicate with her class teacher freely through email and phone calls. Live lessons have been provided, support sessions are available, and Loom has been used for asynchronous lessons. I work closely with international schools around the world and Edmentum is supporting our partner schools to deliver online, hybrid, blended, and face-to-face teaching and learning to seven million learners. I have watched in awe as bespoke solutions have been adopted and thousands of teachers have adapted and innovated using different combinations of our programs.
Our partner schools confirm that our EdTech solutions such as Exact Path and Courseware, and EducationCity are playing a vital role in supporting parents, engaging learners, and providing adaptive teaching and learning support. Parents have particularly welcomed the asynchronous, often animated, lessons and instruction that are embedded into many of our solutions. They have complimented the synchronous and asynchronous lessons teachers have provided and really reinforced the teaching that has occurred to ensure that learning is taking place.
What do our Partner Schools Think?
Schools that had already integrated EdTech into their teaching and learning provision were at a major advantage when the schools closed, and an immediate transition to distance learning was required. Head of International Primary, Henrietta Jameson at Tenby Schools Penang, is thankful that they were already using EducationCity:“ [We]were in a great position because teachers and learners were already using [EducationCity] as part of their blended learning approach, and it has made a successful transition easier to achieve. We have been…using EducationCity as the support, activity, and assessment solution. It provides students with instant feedback, and students have really responded well to the engaging, gamified material. Our parents benefit because the students are engaged, motivated, and learning independently.”
Zoe Harris, a year 3 teacher at Garden International School in Malaysia, welcomes the fact that EducationCity “is so easy for the children to access themselves…, so it does take that pressure off the parents a little bit as they don’t have to be there all the time. The material is engaging, and they immediately receive the feedback they need to improve learning. Parents and students can also access scores themselves, which means they can see progress easily.”
Our schools were quick to realize that parental collaboration was going to be critical to successful online learning. Our brilliant Implementation Team responded quickly and ran parental workshops for schools around the world that included Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Facebook Live sessions. These have been exceptionally well received as Aya Gamal, Head of Preschool, Foundation and Primary, in the Kipling School confirms “I can’t thank you enough! Workshops were very beneficial/ informative, you were great and you have helped us tremendously in clearly showing parents what EducationCity has to offer. Thank you.” The team have delivered parental workshops, and all schools involved report excellent levels of engagement, usage, completion, and skills mastery in these schools.
Liwa International School for Girls in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, recognized the importance of parental engagement. The senior leadership team created videos to help parents, most of whom are Arabic-speaking, understand Exact Path (which is now being used by 2.8 million students around the world) and guide them on how it links with MAP assessment preparation. At parents’ evenings, the school makes sure the Edmentum video is on a loop, so when parents enter the room, they can see Exact Path and its benefits. Shakila Mohammed, Assistant Principal (K-5), confirms that the parents have been “very impressed with Exact Path. It is easy for the students to use, has engaging content, is standards-aligned, and they can immediately see the progress that is being made.”
Peter Meltzer, the director of Surat Thani International School in Thailand, confirms how Exact Path has helped them solve one of the main issues of remote teaching “measuring the amount of learning that is taking place. Exact Path allows us to see how they’re moving through their learning paths, and we can immediately see when they are struggling and jump on a Microsoft Teams call to support them. This has really impressed our parents as they can see that their children are continuing to improve their level of attainment and are making progress.”
One of the most challenging aspects of remote learning has been adapting to the seemingly endless variety of different platforms and EdTech tools that schools are using. My daughter currently has eight different usernames and logins! Alex Turner, Digital Learning Leader at Garden International School in Malaysia, has welcomed the recent updates to EducationCity, which mean it now “integrates with Google and having single sign-on” [means] we have been using it more and more.” The iPad integration is really important to them because ‘every student from years three to nine brings an iPad into school, or has one at home to support home schooling.’ For them, “EducationCity is the perfect fit.”
MaryAnn Przekurat, the Director of the American School of Nouakchott, in Mauritania, explains howusing Edmentum’s digital curriculum, mentoring and training support meant that overnight they transitioned from face to face to online learning in the middle of an inspection. “It was seamless, it really did save us, and it’s moved us so far ahead of all of the schools in town. Our parents say that if we were back in the USA, our kids would be online, but they would not be getting this. They cannot believe they’re in this small country and they’re getting a better experience than if they were in their school back in the US.”
Many schools are actively reducing and consolidating the range of platforms they use. I’m delighted to say that our solutions are thriving. They are underpinned by learning science and pedagogy, contain brilliantly designed, often animated, resources and provide additional teaching and tutorial opportunities whilst also providing real-time formative feedback to teachers and learners.
Schools that are using our solutions have been overwhelmed by the positive parental feedback they have received. Utilizing the full capability of our solutions to identify and close learning gaps, support catch-up lessons, on-grade-level teaching, and extension activities, all within one easy-to-use and engaging platform, has proved to be a real winning formula for teachers, parents and the schools. Parental engagement is positive, the learning is personalised and the school reputations have been enhanced.
Parental engagement and expectation remain critical. Parents are more knowledgeable from this experience and may expect more flexible teaching and learning models to develop in the future. During his TEDGlobal 2012 discussion, Andreas Schleicher, the OECD Director for the Directorate of Education and Skill, reminded us that “Education is not a place; it’s an activity.” This can mean, with the right partnerships in place, education, theoretically, can be delivered anytime, anywhere. We are perfectly placed to support the development of schools in the future. Our exciting partnerships have already demonstrated how we can build personal solutions, around individual students, so that they can maximize their potential.
What lessons have we learned, and what will, could, and should schools look like in the future? How will parents expect them to evolve and what will parents demand of future schools? Dr. Abdulla Al Karam, Director-General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai, as reported in the The National News, sees an opportunity for a significant evolution in the way education is provided. He predicts that “parents will increasingly seek out tailored learning experiences to benefit their child’s particular strengths” and believes there could, in the future, “be as many models of education as there are pupils with a possibility that children could attend several schools at the same time as a shift to remote learning helps usher in a new flexible era of teaching and learning.”
Our online school, EdOptions Academy, already partners with schools to offer a wider choice of subjects to students and provide credit recovery and advanced placement courses. Many students are, therefore, already attending more than one school to access a greater range of courses and improved schedule flexibility. Our online, on-demand, 24/7 tutors are already working with schools and students to ensure learning is accelerated. Our partner, BASE Education, helps us to support the whole learner by providing social-emotional learning and wellbeing courses. Parental engagement will be even more critical in the future. They have always wanted their children to be happy and to fulfill their potential. Their collaboration during online learning has been essential. Now, they are more knowledgeable about learning and will be more demanding, and have even greater expectations.
Our solutions are award-winning and perfect for blended, hybrid, distance, and face-to-face teaching and learning. They are being used by governments, large school groups, and individual schools to accelerate learning, recover credit, improve attainment and growth.