Schools across Europe: how do you cope with distance learning?

|   BLOG Distance Learning

by Georg Jürgens, European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education

In the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education, we follow the developments around the Corona pandemic closely. Schools in many places are closed and more and more of them are obliged to offer distance learning to their pupils or feel the urgent need to make an offer to families independent of legal obligations. 

We therefore try to help our members by exploring the different answers that our schools and member federations have found in dealing with this immense challenge and by making available a good practice collection from Waldorf and non-Waldorf schools across Europe. This can subsequently be used to develop online trainings for teachers or to facilitate peer-learning between interested teachers themselves.

Today, we would like to share with you our first result of research within our network and ask for your help in sharing further practices.

The Distance Learning Plan of the International School Basel 

Our Swiss colleagues have shared with us the Distance Learning Plan of the International School in Basel. The school also developed a Distance Learning Portal that can be accessed here with the username „guest.school“ and the password „Distance.Learning“. A big thank you goes to the colleagues at the ISB for making available these valuable resources. They were developed by the ISB together with their Asian colleagues and gave ISB teachers a head start in preparing its staff, just in time before the virus started spreading in Europe. Their work can now serve us a potential starting point for developing a genuine Waldorf answer to these challenges ourselves. While a Waldorf school would probably give less weight to the use of digital tools, we share the plan with you, because we believe that the framework chosen might help you to develop a solid framework of your own. 

The plan defines clearly:

  • The role of parents, educators and pupils;
  • The development-oriented approach of the school towards using digital tools;
  • The tasks of the colleagues involved;
  • The channels of communication;
  • The distance learning schedules for pupils replacing the regular school schedules;
  • The timeline for rolling out the plan in the school.

Please help us better understand the situation in Europe

But what exactly is the picture in Waldorf schools in Europe? Do you have guidance for your schools from the federation or are our schools left to fend for themselves? We would be interested in seeing what strategies have been developed and collect them centrally for further dissemination. There are many questions to ask ourselves, and whatever answers you find to them is highly interesting for us:

  • What roleshave your schools defined for parents, educators and pupils in terms of distance learning?
  • How does your school’s or federations approach respond to the developmental needs of children and what is your experience with it so far?
  • In your experience, what are the best screen-free tools for distance learning of different age groups (school books, other books, building blocks, puzzles, board games,…)?
  • How are parents supported in limiting their children’s task-switchingbetween school-related and recreational screen media use (e.g. limit access to devices to certain hours, use time limitation and filter software, …)
  • In your experience, which proportion of the former school hoursshould be spent with official „distance learning“ activities and which proportion should be spent with everyday activities (e.g. shopping, cooking, cleaning, gardening, ..), or physical activities (exercise, walking, …) conducive to learning?
  • In your experience, and given the current Corona prevention measures in place, what are the best ways to support children´s physical, psychological and mental wellbeing (salutogenesis, fostering health…).
  • In your experience, what are the best screen-based (online and offline) tools for distance learning of different age-groups?
  • In your experience, how important/suitable are group activities online (for many students), vs.  1:1 online (telephone or video chat) sessions for your students of different ages?
  • How are you coordinating the work with synchronous tools (like Zoom calls) and what rules are needed to make this work?
  • What are the tasks of the colleagues involved with regards to distance learning and responding to the Corona pandemic in general?
  • What leadership model is needed in these times and how to collaborate with colleagues?
  • Are there any distance learning schedules provided to pupils to replace their timetable, and if yes, what kind?
  • What has been your timelinein rolling out a distance learning plan in your school?
  • What are the short-term and medium term training needsand how to address them under the current circumstances?

How can you share material? 

Please send us an email to infonoSpam@ecswe.eu if you have any material to share. Once we have gathered the material, we will review what you have sent in and look, if there is a potential to facilitate a video conference allowing for peer learning. Thank you for helping us.