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How One Saigon International School is Implementing Technology in Classrooms

Remote learning has been on everyone’s mind recently.

With the ongoing school closures across Saigon amid the Covid-19 pandemic, parents, students and teachers have all turned to technology to ensure education efforts continue as normally as possible. One school, in particular, has found the transition to be relatively seamless because they’d already invested in technology to support and expand normal teaching and learning methods.

Three years ago, Renaissance International School Saigon implemented a comprehensive overhaul of their digital learning processes. For secondary students, this meant expanding their use of Microsoft Teams so lessons could be stored online with coordinated procedures for uploading, reviewing and monitoring assignments. The change resulted in teachers being able to more effectively plan lessons and review work, while students can more easily collaborate with one another on projects and work across multiple mediums including photography, video and online resources.

“Technology is not the driver of learning, it’s there to support it,” explains Francis Burlingham, the school’s Head of Science and Technology. “It allows us to design learning activities that were previously inconceivable and to transform the learning experience for our students.”

Renaissance teachers have long understood this, and from virtual work portfolios to online tests to uploaded video resources and shared group documents, they’ve utilized digital tools to enhance their offline education models, exercises and theories. All secondary students are required to have a laptop with relevant apps and programs installed, so when the school shut-down took place, life continued with less disruption than might be expected.

For primary and even younger students, the transition to remote learning presented a bit more of a challenge but was still possible thanks to past implementation of technology. They’d already used interactive games on iPads, QR codes to enhance basic research, and cameras to create multimedia projects while in school. Also many in upper KS2 were familiar with using Microsoft Teams. With students out of the classroom, educators continued to take advantage of these resources, sending projects, games and assignments to be cooperatively worked on, and feedback was then provided by teachers in real-time. 

 

Technology’s Role in Soft Skills and Off-Line Life

Certainly, one of the most challenging parts of remote education is some loss of personal touch and interaction. As Danielle Harrison, Key Stay 1 leader and Year 2 teacher explained of the current situation, “It’s sad; it feels like my best friends are not here.” 

For this reason, each Renaissance teacher remains online for the entire school day so they can interact via video and chat, as well as messaging. Such an arrangement also helps teachers collaborate with one another and discover new ways to use technologies and share resources.

Moreover, Renaissance teachers are quick to note that if carefully implemented, technology does not hinder the development of soft skills, but can actually enhance them. This can mean students having opportunities to chit-chat and joke as they would in person thanks to video conferencing or watching age-appropriate videos about other cultures and experiences, followed by a conversation to enhance empathy. Independence, leadership and curiosity can also be fostered when given guided assignments.

Oliver Dowden, Key Stage 2 Leader and Year 6 teacher, noted that technology is also helpful in preparing students for future instances when computer access might not be possible. Students might use the internet to learn how to find a book, but then spend their time turning physical pages. Or a YouTube video might serve as the introduction to an arts and craft project that doesn’t rely on screens or internet connections. 

Technology also isn’t synonymous with computers, Catherine Low, EYFS Leader and Early Years 1 teacher, points out. A toaster, for example, is technology, as is the plastic machine students recently used as part of greater sustainability initiatives. Students today exist in a world with new and constantly-evolving technologies, so rather than teaching them how to use specific devices, programs or machines, it’s necessary to exercise skills related to adaptability and inquiry.

Sometimes students know a certain technology better than the educator or their peers, and therefore the roles of teacher and student can be reversed. This is quite helpful, as it underscores the truth that teachers are not fountains of knowledge, and rather serve to guide and facilitate inquiry-based learning. When students share with their teacher and classmates, they also practice important leadership and presentation skills that transcend digital communities.

 

Digital Citizenship and Family Involvement

A major concern, especially with younger students, is online safety and the responsible use of technologies. At the beginning of the school year, all Renaissance teachers met with parents and students to discuss important subjects including cyberbullying and how to protect oneself from misinformation. The students were required to sign a technology agreement that included rules for staying safe, as well as limitations for screentime and guidelines for using technology safely and responsibly.

Parental involvement is a crucial element of education for Renaissance. Events like Round Square Discovery Day and Talent Show, involvement in charity operations including a 5K run, and open invitations to regular assemblies and performances allow parents to meet and form relationships with their children’s teachers and take an active role in their children’s learning. Technology simply provides another means to form and maintain these connections. 

During this extended period of remote classes, all parents receive daily emails regarding their children’s attendance and performance. At the beginning of each week, the parents are given a detailed plan of what will be covered so that they can assist if needed and simply maintain a presence in their children’s learning. For younger learners, parents often help by opening the games, activities and exercises and facilitating the conversations between students and teachers, further involving them in the Renaissance community. 

As people around the world struggle to adjust to numerous changes in routines and habits, students and parents at Renaissance International School Saigon have thankfully seen education continue as close to normal as possible, given the circumstances. The school has long relied on technology to introduce and explore new subjects, undertake inquiry-based research, collaborate with peers and produce multimedia projects that indulge individual passions, and thus had to change very little for their daily activities. “We didn’t start the online material for the virus,” Burlingham explains, “we started it because it allowed for better learning.” 

 

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Renaissance International School Saigon - Admissions

+84 (0)28 3773 3171 (Ext: 120/121/122)

Renaissance International School Saigon |74 Nguyen Thi Thap, Binh Thuan Ward, District 7, HCMC

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