Hybrid Learning at Amesbury School

By Urs Cunningham | Posted: Friday January 28, 2022

As schools open for the start of the 2022 school year, there is much talk across the education sector about moving into a system of ‘hybrid learning’.

The term hybrid learning means using an approach for organising learning in a way that allows students and staff to participate in teaching and learning regardless of whether they are at home or at school.

Why is hybrid learning necessary?

In 2020 and 2021 schools in New Zealand operated generally in a binary way - they were either open for instruction and students learned onsite at school, and, for set periods of time, they were closed for instruction and students learned remotely from home.

In 2022 we can see that this is very likely to be different. We are no longer pursuing an elimination model of Covid, but rather we are moving to accept that Covid will be in our community. We will have more cases of Covid in our communities, and with this comes a much higher likelihood of having people in our school community isolating because they have Covid or because they have become a close contact of someone who has Covid. People in the same household as someone who is isolating will also need to isolate. At any given time, we are likely to have staff or students in our school who are unable to teach or learn onsite.

These situations are less likely to cause schools to close entirely than they were in the previous two years, unless there are significant numbers of cases among staff and students in a particular school. It is much more likely that schools will remain open whilst some students and staff isolate at home. This is where hybrid learning comes into play. Using a range of tools and organisational structures, along with a mindset that involves being open to doing things in different ways, we will look to structure learning in ways that allow teachers to continue teaching in some ways from home, and allow students to access learning from home.

What will hybrid learning look like at Amesbury School?

It is important to understand that hybrid learning is not one single process that will begin at a set time, run in a certain way, and then stop at a particular point in time. This new modified approach to learning is more about a different mindset - a different approach to how learning can happen, along with the use of a range of technologies that will allow teaching and learning to happen in different ways and in different locations.

Another important consideration is that we are not going to be able to run learning in exactly the way that everyone in our community would like. Consultation with parents and whānau in the last two years has showed that families are looking for very different things; from families who want very few expectations around what learning is completed, and minimal online contact with teachers at set times because this is restricting and difficult for them to manage, through to families who want their children to be online with teachers from 9 am - 3pm, in the same format as a standard school day. This wide ranging continuum means we will not meet everyone’s needs. Instead, we are trying to create a system where all students can connect with the same learning, whether they are at home or at school.

This approach to learning will not begin at a set time this term. From the start of the term, we will look to meet the needs of all of our tamariki, regardless of where they are based. As the needs change, so will the learning options. In the first few weeks of term, we anticipate that the majority of our students will be able to be onsite at school. In this period of time we will be focused on setting up systems, particularly in Harakeke and Pōhutukawa, where students become very familiar with where and how they access learning resources and online meeting links. This will then help them when they need to do this offsite. The two key tools students in both hubs will be using are Google Classroom and the hub learning website. These are the spaces where learning content will be stored and accessed, and where students will go to meet their teachers and students for online discussions and learning groups. Please note that these online groups and meetings are private and can only be accessed with school accounts.

Here are some key details that will happen if a student is unable to attend school onsite due to being sick or needing to isolate:

- For students in Harakeke and Pōhutukawa, they will be able to have their school Chromebook at home with them if they are away for 3 or more days consecutively. We will arrange contactless pick up of the Chromebook from school if a family member is able to leave the house to pick it up. If no-one in the household is able to leave the house, we will arrange for contactless drop off of the device.

- The learning website for your child’s hub will house all learning contact and resources that students are using at school. Learning tasks, instructions for learning and videos or slide decks (Google Slide presentations) of learning content will all be stored on the websites, in clear and easy to use formats. The ‘Meet ‘n’ Greet session in Week 2 will include each hub showing their learning website and explaining where to find different content. The links for the three learning websites are here:  Koru Hub     Harakeke Hub         Pōhutukawa Hub

- An explanation for the key learning tasks for the week will be added to the hub website at the start of each week.

- Students learning remotely will have their learning tracked, monitored and marked just as they would at school. This will be a little different for much younger students in Koru Hub, because they produce far less work online that can be easily transferred between home and school. However, we will look for ways to share learning that has been completed as much as possible.

- Students will have one key online connection activity with school each day. This activity will change each day and will look to cover different learning areas through each week. For example, one day may involve a live stream session where a teacher shows themselves giving an explanation and instructions for the writing task for the week. The next day may be a small group online meeting with some students and a teacher reading an online book (for younger students) or discussing aspects of text they have read by themselves (for older students). Online activities will often be linked to particular areas of learning, and they may also be more social connections or check ins. There will be a mix of ‘live’ discussions or connections, or recorded content. At the start of each week the times for the online activities will be shared with parents, to help with planning. The times are unlikely to be at the same time each day, because they will need to correspond with learning timetables and activities happening onsite at school.

- We will look to offer parents from each hub who have tamariki learning from home the chance to join an online meeting each week with a teacher from their hub. This would be a chance to check in as a group, and also to ask questions about the learning for the week. These meetings would not be required, and if people do not have questions or do not need to connect with the teacher and other parents, that is absolutely fine. It is simply an opportunity that would be offered and a chance to stay connected with teachers at school. 

We understand that some of this content may generate further questions about what this will all look like. As we go through the next few weeks there will be chances to talk and communicate further about this, and our systems will evolve and no doubt improve once we have some practice with it. On Friday 11th Feb we have our Meet ‘n’ Greet hub sessions. Due to our move into Red level these will now be held remotely and will be a chance to put into practice our new online connection tools. We will hold our hub presentations online, and there will also be a chance to ask questions and clarify information. Use of the hub learning website and the online connection tools will be included in these presentations. The sessions will be recorded so they can be watched at a later date.

This way of learning is new for everyone. We do not promise to get it right from the start, or to structure learning in a way that will perfectly meet all families' needs. However, we do aim to create systems and structures that will allow teaching and learning to continue whether people are based onsite at school or offsite.