From the Principal

Online Education

For years pundits have declared that online education was the way of the future and that actual teachers would soon be irrelevant as the internet and Artificial Intelligence (AI) teaching ‘bots took over their jobs.

There have been problems with that view of the future so far.

Things like dodgy NBN services have taken a bit of the gloss off the brave new world that might be future education.

But with the pandemic and its attendant shutdowns in full swing, the future of education has arrived — today!

At the moment, following one of the dictums that have come from our political leaders, most of our students are learning at home.

“NSW schools stay open but parents urged to keep children at home to contain the spread of coronavirus.

All schools in NSW will provide online learning options for the remaining three weeks of term one. It remains unclear what will happen after the school holidays. Classes are due to resume on April 27. The Premier said no child would be turned away from a NSW public school during the health crisis. “For parents that have no option, for parents that are workers, school is safe for children to attend and schools will remain open,” she said. NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said teachers with health conditions that could make them high-risk coronavirus patients would be allowed to work from home, and deliver lessons online.”

Sure, some have connectivity issues, some are already starting to feel isolated and there are even signs of early “cabin fever” and, for better or worse, boredom.

In general, it seems that through the great work of our staff, particularly those like our Director of STEAM, Dan Zavone, and our Director of Teaching and Learning, Paul Rikmanis, and their teams, the “quantum leap” into the future has been exceptionally well managed by St Columba.

The work is flowing to the students and it is well designed and imaginative.

Now it falls to parents to manage what comes over the Google net — lessons, resources, guides and support documents — and turn it into a form of structured, individualised household-based learning.

For parents, this bible quote will now ring true:

‘And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” Thessalonians 5:14

For those who are sending their children to school, whether through choice or necessity, we are here for you!

We promise that staff will be physically present, professionally active and attentive in caring for the educational and general wellbeing of your children.

As a school, we are determined to “play what is in front of us” while remaining agile enough to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances over which we have little or no control.

So we go on, but I wonder when the crisis has passed, will the new normal be the same as the old normal or will we find our world has changed?

Will the online experiment prove that online is best or will we find that we still need the personal contact of a learning community, a place where students can be safe with their peers and a place where warm-blooded staff not only teach the curriculum but also model what it means to be a successful and productive modern citizen?

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Mr Terry Muldoon
Principal, St Columba Anglican School
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