August 2020 by Ji Li, published on Education Today September 2020 Issue

If you have watched Brad Pitt’s World War Z, you might recall the opening scene: a new kind of virus was discovered in the Far East, no vaccine could be found. Soon the virus spread across the globe, TV channels were broadcasting pandemic news in different languages 24/7.

When I watched the movie back in 2013, who’d have thought one day this kind of apocalyptic event was going to happen in real life? But here we are…without zombies obviously.

Image from World War Z Movie

Interestingly, back in February, I posted a tweet about Chinese schools starting their new term virtually and how EdTech could be really helpful in difficult situations. At the time, WHO had not yet declared Covid-19 a pandemic, and what happened on the other side of the world seemed so far away from us. But only a month later, the DfE announced schools in England were to be closed due to the accelerating virus outbreak.

Even though I have been working in the EdTech sector for years and helping schools move towards to cloud based platforms, the announcement was still a big shock to me. This kind of situation had not happened before. Were teachers ready to teach over 90 per cent of their pupils online? Were admin staff ready to work remotely to communicate with parents and families? Was the technology and infrastructure ready to be deployed in a massive scale and in such a short notice?

And so it panned out, much to the surprise (or not) to most people outside of the education sector, teachers started to teach online, school assemblies were organised via Zoom or YouTube, and pupils did their PE by following Joe Wicks.

Behind the scenes, there were weeks of preparations, days of training and self-taught sessions on these new ways of teaching. Before the lockdown, our supported schools were already moved onto G Suite and were familiar with cloud tools available to them. However, I thought the difficult part was actually to get parents onboard with new way of learning and to use technology effectively from home. Both of our technicians and school staff worked very hard and collaboratively for the first few weeks, then we found things were running better and better. This once again proved not only how able and adaptable our teachers can be to harness new technology and methods effectively to meet educational needs, but also they can help and train parents to improve their use of technology.

Image from World War Z Movie

Nevertheless, not all parents were happy about remote learning. According to an article published on Education Technology, almost half of parents were dissatisfied with their children’s learning since schools closed. According to the same research, many children were bored and lacked motivation during the lockdown.

I can complete understand the frustration from parents’ point of view: parents needed to work remotely from home too, facing the same struggle with technology, as well as keeping an eye on their children’s learning. It’s stressful and a super hard job, but isn’t that what teachers were doing every working day in schools before the lockdown? Schools are not only responsible for children’s knowledge and skills learning, but also for looking after their behavioural and emotional needs. I sincerely hope parents will now appreciate and understand teachers’ roles much better once their children are able to return to study in a proper classroom environment.

As I’m typing this blog right now, it’s only a weekend away from the full opening of schools. Since I survived the first “wave” of Covid-19, I kind of feel like Brad Pitt at the end of World War Z walking casually through zombies and out of the compromised research facility, with or without the vaccine. However, the question remains, are we now in the age of post-apocalyptic or post-modern?

Related posts