There is a lot of talk right now about online learning as term two approaching next week. At this time of the Preschool year we would normally be preparing for the launch of our Nature Play program which is held weekly at a local beach and park. Of course, this won’t be possible in the foreseeable future and it is as heartbreaking for us as teachers as it is to our families and preschoolers.
It seems each day there is new advice or additions to the social distancing rules with some exemptions that can and will change as more time passes and more information becomes available.
During school holidays, teachers everywhere are working behind the scenes as they continue to prepare for a brand new element of their work.
Preparation for the possibility of moving to teaching online began at the end of term one where we were able to plan and create for, at that time, a program for the first two weeks to be unveiled should social isolation continue beyond the school holidays.
At first we concentrated on it being reflective of our children’s current needs and interests, then we combined this information with the goals and expectations of our parents and family. Together we created some simple videos to introduce and welcome them to our online program.
I had a few conversations with people who, wanting to learn more, asked about our experience with this and how we would be ‘entertaining’ the children.
Regardless of this new and unchartered environment, this is a question that has probably plagued many early childhood professionals.
Until play is truly recognised and celebrated as a whole learning experience, the former question may continue to be asked.
Ultimately there will be some level of engagement when interacting with others, including children;
However I believe there is a creative distinction between the definitions of the constructs of ‘entertainment’ and ‘engagement’.
To an extent, ‘entertainment’ could be defined as something passive, and not necessarily requiring verbal or physical feedback from the audience.
In this current context of online learning, the concept of ‘engagement’ is one that I believe holds an entirely different weighting, with the emphasis being on connection.
The experiences we have chosen to add to our program include songs, games and other activities that invite participation from our audience. These were intentionally included to encourage interaction and sharing between children and their families, but in addition, so that they could be included in amongst the repertoire of skills and developmental milestones that children would be learning from us in person (had they be attending their preschool sessions in person.
For example we have recorded ourselves modelling and demonstrating how to play simple games that can be learnt by older viewers to support children in their home environment.
It is also a chance for children to share their own learning and teaching skills to their family members.
This is vitally important right now for children to have as much opportunity as possible to feel that they are successful, competent and capable learners.
There is no replacement possible for having an in person experience, but until we can meet again, and deliver the program in our own unique early childhood settings made for children, we will create the most tailored, and personalised experience we can for the children in our care in the online world.
It will be our way of assessing learning and development along with the valuable contributions and feedback from our families.
Seeing, hearing, discovering and sharing through these platforms are so welcomed right now.