Learning to Learn Differently

During an assembly just a few weeks ago, I tried to highlight some of the issues that might be a threat, both now and in the future. There were some international leaders of dubious repute on the PowerPoint slide, a nuclear explosion, the wildfires in Australia and a picture of the coronavirus. I think I said at the time that I wasn’t sure how much of a threat the virus might become – but I am now.

We would normally have been back at school this week for the start of the summer term, with the run up to public examinations and preparation for school tests, and then some of best parts of the school year such as sports day, activities week and charity fundraising events. Even if there is some sort of return to school before the summer, it will not be anything like it would otherwise have been.

We find ourselves instead offering remote learning, with work being set and feedback provided via computer without the usual opportunities for the human interactions that are such a key part of an effective educational experience. There has been talk in the world of education recently about how remote learning will make teachers obsolete and render schools unnecessary. I think it took most of us less than 24 hours to realise what a load of nonsense that turns out to be!

Everyone has been on a steep learning curve – staff, pupils and parents – but it has been hugely uplifting to see the speed with which the new reality has been embraced, with exciting initiatives being devised and shared across the school community. Parents have told me already about the resilience their children are having to develop, the learning by trial and error, and the independence it promotes, thereby highlighting how Radnor House’s approach is offering our pupils the chance to learn skills now that they might not otherwise have been able to master until they were much older, skills that serve everyone well and help provide a silver lining to the current dark cloud.

The answer, of course, lies in a balance between social and remote, between people and machines. It is already clear that we need to dial down the formal tasks and dial up the opportunities for collaboration and interaction, however remote. After all, it is cooperation that will get us through this crisis, and Benjamin Disraeli was right when he said that there is no education like adversity.

Written by Darryl Wideman, Head at Radnor House Twickenham

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