Remote learning during lockdown
A majority of learners completed homework on IXL during the lockdown. The lowest response per class was 63% (Grade 1). The average for the school is 72%, with 83% the highest. The teachers can see remotely who completed a lesson and how well each child performed.
The teachers gave homework two to three times per week. They could have done so every day, but are sensitive about the cost of it to the parents. Few of the houses in Kayamandi have computers and reliable internet access. Thus, with few exceptions, the learners complete lessons on the mobile phones of parents and use a fair amount of data. The reasons given by parents for learners not completing the homework are the cost of data; parents at work with the phone; no smartphone; phone stolen (in one case when the child had completed some work and then stopped); and also having technology inexperience.
Once we understood the problem, we were confident that we would get free data fast and that we would then be able to extend the interaction beyond only IXL. The parents and learners use “cellular data” to log with mobile phones into the IXL program, an online system. Vision Afrika has its login and setup and uses typical service provider WiFi data. It is technically possible for a data network to provide free data when parents or learners log into the IXL site.
However, for reasons technical and administrative, the open data is not yet available, though we still hope to get it.
The teachers have also send homework via WhatsApp, for children to complete at home. Included are images of children at work selected from those send to teachers by parents. (The teachers did not ask for pictures; the parents were grateful and proud.)
We are encouraged that so many children completed home lessons remotely during the lockdown and also that the teachers were able to teach remotely.
We have to build on this demonstrated capability. We cannot be sure that there will not be further lockdown periods either nationally or for specific areas. More pertinent, we can expect that teaching, in general, will change more rapidly in times to come and that we must keep pace with these developments.
Going forward, we should explore at least three positives:
- Parents were generally grateful that the teachers of Vision Africa continued teaching in the lockdown. Anecdotal evidence is that they were impressed that their children could do school lessons remotely and are now more engaged with the children’s education. The teachers also gained more respect from parents. We should find reasons to give at least some home lessons when the school opens. We should think about ways to keep parents engaged.
- We could use educational and office tools to enable our learners to join in educational play with learners from other schools. It will be complicated, but it is an exciting possibility to explore. It could include video and art and music.
- We must find a long-term solution for data costs to parents when children do lesson remotely. We should also explore whether we could host tech days, perhaps twice a year over weekends.