If there’s one thing we can all take away from the past 18 months – it’s that we’re all now experts at using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype and many other online communication tools!
We have to issue our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the SMMIS community for embracing and navigating the challenges that have emerged throughout this difficult time, and for making remote learning the success that it has been.
There are challenges for everyone within the remote learning system. Whether it’s maintaining focus and motivation throughout the day, staying social with our friends, or just simply missing the nuances of human interaction – it’s certainly far from easy.
Despite these challenges however, there are a number of positives that have emerged from our experiences of working and learning remotely. The situation forced each of us to accelerate our knowledge and proficiencies across technologies that we might have had little prior experience, discovering how useful and integrative they can be to our work and school lives. It forced us to communicate more efficiently and effectively using these platforms, and discover new ways to connect with people without being in the same room.
In fact these remote learning techniques have been such a success that many schools around the world are considering integrating them into their regular operations, in a technique that’s known as ‘blended learning’. Blended learning combines the very best parts of in-person and remote learning, finding a balance between technology and human interaction. It allows for greater flexibility for both students and teachers, allowing them to maximise the benefits of both approaches in the search for the optimal learning and teaching experience.
SMMIS is already utilising ‘blended learning’ for those serving quarantine or a SHN (Stay Home Notice). They’re staying connected to their classmates through a number of resources – Ms Amanda puts together a pack of books, Ms Otilia sends a ukulele and drum so they can join in with music class on a video call, while classmates write morale-boosting notes.
We can’t be certain of what the future holds and if we’ll be forced back into remote learning, or if ‘blended learning’ will become a regular part of our lives. Regardless of this, we want to thank each and every one of you for your support and patience thus far, and provide some guidance (if needed) on how to keep your child motivated, engaged and stimulated at home, providing them the very best environment in which to grow and learn.
It’s certainly no secret that eating healthy is good in so many ways, so consider this more of a reminder! Healthy eating and a balanced diet is absolutely linked to improved brain function, improved mood and increased energy levels – which are all crucial to getting the most out of your day.
Research shows that physical exercise releases proteins in the brain that can actually help improve memory, mood and cognitive performance. Regular exercise also reduces stress levels, which will in turn have a number of positive effects on how well the brain functions. So if there’s a day where your child is feeling overwhelmed, something as small as a short walk or quick workout will keep stress at bay and help them maintain a positive mindset.
Stay on Top of Studies
A really effective and achievable way to feel prepared and on top of studies is to practice what’s known as ‘the study cycle’. This is a strategy that can help kids get back into (or start) a routine and be more efficient with their time. There are four steps to the study cycle:
1. Before class, preview the material that’s in the lesson preview. Skim the chapter, pay attention to headings and bold words, review chapter summaries and prepare any questions you may have.
2. Attend your class, taking notes and asking questions.
3. Review your notes as soon as possible after class.
4. Schedule time in your week to study the material again.
Discuss this technique with your child – it may be as simple as getting them to explain some things they’ve learned to you over dinner as a quick revision!
Distractions are absolutely everywhere, and it’s so easy for children to lose their concentration when phones are buzzing or computers are flashing notifications. Some ways to help eliminate these distractions are to simply take phones away during lesson times, turn notifications off on computer screens, or make your child sit where you can monitor the activity on their screen.
Whilst there are many great things about remote learning, one of the drawbacks is the reduced ability for socialising. Make sure your child is keeping in contact with their friends and family, regularly organising video calls or home visits (if allowed) to make sure they’re developing their social skills.
Screens are an important part of our lives – both educationally, socially and recreationally, but it’s important to get away from them throughout the day. Have a discussion with your child about taking regular breaks from screens and (if necessary) set screen time limits and security settings on their phone. Additionally, ensuring their computer, mobile or any other devices are in a separate room to where they sleep can help them get a better, more restful night’s sleep.
When we’re stuck at home, it can be easy to slip into unhealthy working habits or live an unbalanced lifestyle. It’s important to make sure that your child is taking some time each day to unwind, relax and do something they really enjoy.
The importance of sleep and its role in brain function cannot be overstated. Children need between 8-10 hours of sleep every night for the brain to function and learn at its maximum potential. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can reduce the brain’s ability to learn by up to 40%.
So whilst remote and blended learning can absolutely be a challenge for everyone involved, there are truly so many ways we can make the most of the situation we find ourselves in. Sit down and have a discussion with your child about what works for them and what doesn’t whilst at home – we’re always looking for ways to help our students achieve their maximum potential. Remind yourselves of all the things you are grateful for in your life, and above all be kind to yourself and each other.