What we’ve learnt from learning-at-home

June 9th 2020

What teachers, schools and students will take from lockdown

It’s been an unusual time, to say the very least, with schools and businesses scrambling to make do with a totally new way of working.

Now that the dust has settled, and it looks as though New Zealand’s battle with COVID-19 may be won, it’s a good time to look back at how students and teachers managed, and the lessons we can take going forward. We reached out to students and schools for their thoughts.

Steve McCracken, Principal of Kaipara College

“It was an opportunity to enhance what we were doing”

For Principal Steve McCracken, the pressures of the lockdown period created an exciting time of innovation.

“It was a fascinating time for change – the world is going through a revolutionary period, forced by the pandemic, and for a little school in Helensville, we’ve taken this as an opportunity to enhance what we were already doing.”

The school has been working towards a BYOD approach, with plans to roll it out schoolwide from 2021. The lockdowns, says Steve, sped those plans up. It meant that the logistics of getting everyone equipped for home learning was perhaps easier for Kaipara College than it was for others. But there were still some students who went without.

“The Ministry of Education did a sterling job in providing technology, and we distributed 70 devices, but some of our students still went the whole time without anything,” says Steve.

The impact of losing six weeks in a school year can’t be underestimated.

“That’s a fifth of their programme,” explains Steve. “Our job now is to bring those students up to speed.”

Kaipara staff followed an asynchronous model of learning, with the week’s work placed on Google Classroom. Students could dip into the content around their schedules and teachers would check in when it suited.

“That’s different to the traditional approach where the normal timetable continued. It’s a high-trust model and we got responsiveness and engagement for that. Most kids loved the ability to self manage, many thrived”.

Part of that success can be put down to the support teachers and the school received from Isometric.

“They were exceptional during the lockdown,” says Steve.

So what’s next for Kaipara College? Steve says this is an opportunity he doesn’t want to waste.

“We’re considering how we can give more flexibility to our year 12 and 13 students. Could we carefully consider continuing remote learning? Why can’t we let students undertake work experience or volunteering? I‘m really excited about the possibilities,” he says.

Caitlin, year ten at Avondale College

Missed sport and friends

The usual distractions of family and phone were at play for Caitlin, but she says her ability to stay on task seemed pretty much the same as in class.

“It depends on the teacher and subject”, she says.

What did she miss about school? Her answer was succinct.


Bruce Griffin, Communications Manager at Gladstone Primary

“We’re happy the kids are back. There’s a lot more social learning going on here.”

Over at Gladstone Primary School the picture looked a little different. Communications director Bruce Griffin thinks the needs of younger learners are less suited to distance learning.

“There’s a lot more social learning going on here. College could go online, but when it’s for primary, you need the social interaction,” he says.

“I sat in a few of the Google meets and Zooms, and kids are sitting there muted, and the teacher unmutes them when they want to talk. There’s no feedback or interaction – there are a lot of kids who are looking away.”

Bruce says everyone missed the classroom.

Kids report from the home learning front

‘Boring’, ‘crazy hard’ schoolwork, annoying siblings

Ryan, who’s in year six at Kaurilands Primary School says learning at home was hard and stressful.

“We got lots more work than at school.”

Andrew, in year four and also at Kaurilands, agrees.

“Sometimes it was crazy hard and we got lots of work.

Theo a year five students at Titirangi Primary School found learning from home boring, and struggled to stay motivated.

All three students are planning sleepovers saying missing their friends was the toughest part of lockdown, although ‘sisters’ came a close second.

Martha, a year eight student at Glen Eden Intermediate School, said the structure of the remote learning suited her methodical style, especially because it gave her more time in bed in the mornings. Like her younger counterparts, spending more time with siblings and less with friends was the worst part of the lockdown.

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