ACG Tauranga English teacher and faculty coordinator Sue Wood recently asked her Year 10 class to write a report explaining their online learning experiences from a students' point of view.
Tackling the projects with their trademark enthusiasm and humour, the students immediately got to work. And one of the strongest messages that came through was the importance of the Year 10s connection as a learning community.
While our students constantly refer to themselves as being a part of the ACG Tauranga family, throughout the school closures in Level 3 and 4, the Year 10 cohort undoubtedly felt they were part of a learning team as well. This bond was apparent not only in the way they collaborated and engaged with their online classes but also in how they supported each other across student-led study groups and social networks.
We have shared their comments below.
"Despite being physically separated in lockdown, our Year 10 group found many ways to socialise and stay connected. As well as seeing each other in online learning classes, we participated in projects where we broke into small groups and utilised the breakout rooms on Microsoft Teams. This made it feel more like a normal school day, and most of us would have liked to spend even more time in group-based activities.
“Additionally, we found that messaging, playing video games, and video chatting with each other quickly became popular ways of keeping in touch. By maintaining social connections with each other, we were able to find the positive aspects of lockdown.
"In order to have a positive mindset, it was essential to stay busy, which can be a challenge in lockdown. However, the Year 10s managed to keep active by joining Mr Shaw's PE workouts, going on walks, running, biking, dancing, and spending time with pets and family.
"Although we found many enjoyable things about the lockdown, there were a few challenges too. There were some internet issues because a handful of people in Year 10 live in more rural places where Wi-Fi became a significant roadblock. Otherwise, one of the hardest things for Year 10s was focusing [on schoolwork] while being around many distractions like family members, devices and the odd cat jumping onto their desks to say hello. Even though these things can be entertaining at times, they did become distractions that we would not have in a classroom environment.
"We discovered that motivation during online learning looked a bit different from student to student here at ACG Tauranga. As one class member explained, 'I always do the work, so there is no point changing that now. I know that if I don't do the work now, then the tests/exams will be unnecessarily difficult.' Many students found that one of the most important motivators was to keep up with the class and to ensure they did not let their academic goals fall to the wayside.
"In addition, many students acknowledge the key role their teachers played in helping to keep them focused and engaged in online lessons. We also found the Cycle Assessments helped provide clear organisation during online school.
"Finally, it was a lot more challenging to finish projects that had previously been started in classes like Art, Drama and Music because students didn't have instruments to practice group performances or the spray paint for street art. But one thing we learnt for sure – playing Mafia [a social deduction game] as a treat on a Friday afternoon is much easier in the flesh than it is online. So even though online lessons kept us up-to-date and connected us as a team, we'd much rather see everyone face-to-face at school."