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Lockdown teaching - a view from the humanities room

Summer has arrived and we are two weeks into our online humanities term at Wotton House.

Normally at this time of year we would be embarking on some outdoor learning and experiential outdoor projects such as our excavation at the Wilderness. Students would be pacing out scale models of the Universe or geological epochs on our beautifully manicured lawn. Or we might simply be learning under the dappled shade of the London Plane tree that graces the school grounds.

Instead, we are pioneering new style lessons designed for online “zoom” delivery and back up lessons for when the internet is overloaded (or for those students for whom zoom is not ideally suited).

Our humanities lessons are being delivered from our remote classroom in Bristol. We are lucky...we have plenty of resources at our fingertips: if we need a reference from Needham’s Science and Civilisation in China, or Camden’s Britannica perhaps, or to look up the origins of a word in the Oxford Historical Thesaurus? No problem, we have it all here.  

Outside of our own room, the academic world has opened up many “online” doors granting free access to otherwise chargeable resources. Additional resources are becoming available through organisations such as the National Archives, the Historical Association and the BBC. It is a good time for source material!

Two weeks in and whilst the lessons are rather different, our classes have retained the family feel. Indeed our students have additional options through which to engage in class via the chat facility. Our virtual workbooks enable our students to actually read the teacher’s (my) writing for comments and feedback.  

The lockdown has also made it easier to bring in external speakers to join us in the zoom classroom. Our MYP1 class this term has five guests lined up as they explore the subject of belief - if only we could find a Jedi! 

MYP4 have been looking at unintended consequences - topical perhaps, given the situation we find ourselves in.  Our favourite case study has been Schieffelin's starlings, inspired by Shakespeare's Henry IV - an unintended interdisciplinary opportunity. 

As parents of current students will be aware, it is not unusual for our humanities studies to drift off topic from time to time in pursuit of students’ particular curiosities and enquiries. Our online lessons provide us with the real time communication and flexibility to continue to achieve this.

We are very pleased that the nature of our online learning facilities enables us to continue to follow the principles of IB learning, to engage directly with our students as a class or individually and to differentiate, whilst at the same time giving us new ideas and techniques for the future. 

Nevertheless, we really are all looking forward to getting back to school.

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