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ASM Director talks about ASM's Move to Online Learning via Global Forum, AAIE

Association for the Advancement of International Education



The WHO as of February 28, 2020 has raised its risk assessment of coronavirus spread and impact to very high around the globe. The highest level of the WHO risk assessment protocol.  





School Closure, Police on Campus and Learning Continues

An On-the-Scene View

–By Wayne Rutherford


The ASM Crisis Team was holding an extraordinary meeting on Sunday, Feb 23 in the Board Room when the government announced the closure of all schools in Lombardy. COVID-19 had exploded in our area of Italy, and in two days, we had gone from zero cases to 15 and then 45. The government's proclamation allowed us to avoid a difficult decision--by making it for us--and we pivoted quickly to 'what's next' and planning for online learning.

I've had experience with online learning during the evacuation of students from Cairo following the June 2013 coup and it was a messy affair with some kids at school and other kids scattered all over the world. The school year hadn't started and relationships had not been built..but we delivered online learning and I had some idea of what to expect.

But 2020 is a long time after 2013, and I think that has made a big difference: teachers are much more tech savvy; online learning is widely understood and accepted as a reasonable short term substitute for in person instruction; home internet connections are more reliable; and we have many more tools for digital learning at our disposal. Our faculty and Administration--and our Tech team--rose to the occasion in absolutely stellar fashion.

Questions lingered--and anxiety hung in the air about contagion and 'being together'--but in one day, we prepped, learned, and collaborated, setting us up to roll out PreK-12 online learning on Tuesday. Faculty and staff worked on campus again on Tuesday as we launched Online ASM to the accolades of our parents and cheers from our students. Photos of pajama-clad learners arrived in our inboxes through the day, and, until the police came to shut us down at 3pm, ASM delivered a nearly flawless Day #1 of online learning.

Teachers continue to work from home as the week progresses. We are only in Day #3 at this point. A couple of things that we are learning:

  • Pace is a challenge: teachers were excited and worked so hard on their first lessons, and I am sensing that in many cases they over planned (which is, of course, better than under planning!) and finding the right pace is something that takes time.
  • Feedback is different online: it takes more time to write feedback than to give oral feedback, and when you are working with online learning, nearly all feedback is written. Understanding that takes time, and then adjustments need to be made to both planning and expectations.
  • Time, time, time: we set up the days so they would be delivered on our regular school day schedule. Theoretically, teachers have prep time and break time, but that has been consumed by prep work and feedback and planning....teachers are home alone, not together. How do we find time to support meeting and planning
  • We aren't supposed to be on campus...can we 'call a timeout' on Mondays for half a day and allow teachers to plan the week forward? Have them meet in a coffee shop if they can get together physically? via a digital meeting platform?

Loved this from my colleague and friend Peter Burnside, who, with his family is evacuated to Minnesota from China. Early in the week, when I was facing some teacher resistance to being in school he wrote: "Your teachers are lucky they CAN come to work and interact with each other. We lost that option."

The duration of the closure may, at some point, force us to reckon with the difficult question: are we delivering on our contract with parents? Are kids learning all that they should? Enough? 

We have moved to some of the collateral damage as the week progresses: field trips, sports trips, MUN trips cancelled. PD trips cancelled. Visiting authors pushed to next school year. PTO Gala rescheduled. Refunds requested from airlines. Insurance companies contacted to see about coverage and mitigation of loss.

A final thought: a wise mentor who had been through his own virus-caused school closure some years ago recommended uncompromising communication, communication, communication. I've taken that to heart and it has paid off. 

Each afternoon, an email goes out to all parents, another to all staff, and a third to my Board updating them on the day's accomplishments and challenges, and our thoughts about moving forward. Not only does it let folks know we are working hard on the situation but also these communications connect the community, and you can slip in some 'real science' to try to calm panic while shaping the narrative about your school's successes and the student learning that continues due to the hard work of your team.

I wish you all good luck in the weeks ahead. Italy seems to have 'shared' the virus with four additional countries, and I am confident that the spread will continue before it abates.

May your experiences with online learning work for young people--if you need to go that route. Please do share your stories via AAIE as we support each other's leadership during these challenging times.  

CLICK HERE for a graphic from ASM teacher, Adam Ruggnetta


News Update

There are now 51 countries reporting COVD-19 confirmed cases, up from 37 countries two days ago.  The spotlight has shifted from China to a global view.  More than triple the number of NEW cases have been reported outside vs within Mainland China. 

Readings for Today
As you work with your school community, maybe helpful is the reference from WAPO about the vocabulary used for describing infectious diseases.

The NYT podcast is well worth a listen, possibly one of the best twenty-minutes you can spend toward understanding COVID-19 and predictions as the coming days unfold.  

Finally, The Economist reviews the readiness of central governments for responding to infectious diseases, and in contemporary times, the coronavirus.