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Bringing Walnut School Online - Part #1

In the last postwe started talking about the eSchool and how it would work. Well, it’s a very large system at work in the background with three different groups working on it simultaneously – the teachers, the research and development teams and the software teams. And to add to the complexity, each one is working from their respective homes! Luckily, our school has a strong back office and a good learning system with systematic curricular material.

However, even with that, shifting the entire operation online has been and continues to be a humongous task! We aren’t just doing a “zoom video call” and calling it an eschool. No, no! That’s not how we do things at Walnut. We have a very thorough and detailed plan with practical difficulties and internet bandwidth constraints considered to make it as less painful as possible. We are probably the only school with such an integrated approach to the eschool.

We are creating all this additional curricular material to try to keep the parents’ sanity through this school-at-home phase. (Imagine a big sympathetic smiley here!) This is going to be the situation for probably a month or so. So, starting the talk to make sure everyone gets on board for this temporary new format.

We will be sharing what we are doing and why we are doing it over the next few emails. These emails will explain the philosophy and general processes. The technical step-by-step instructions will be sent as students get added to their “classrooms”. This is kind of an orientation meeting that we have at the start of the year, only this time we are going to do it electronically! So, let’s start the talk.

The offline-online combination

The overall way in which this will be implemented is in offline mode with some parts to be done online (live).

Offline means that the material and instructions will still be sent electronically, but parents can plan when to do it. It is not a “live” thing where students have to be online at a certain time. This is done because we know that most students do not have their own desktops or laptops at home, they have to share their computer with the family. The parents may need it when they are working from home. Keeping this in mind, it is better to let the students have flexibility in the schedule. That keeps the timetables at home easier to manage.

What device would a student need? It is best to have a desktop or a laptop available when the ‘learning’ phase is happening. Mobiles can work but the screens are very small and learning new content might not be that pleasant an experience on a mobile screen. So, if parents have a choice, try to see if the child can have access to a bigger screen for the learning part. For the assignments, it’s okay to view the questions on the mobile, it won’t affect the outcomes much.

Actually, for the assignments, we are really trying to get the worksheets printed. That will reduce the screen time that the students have to go through. We are just waiting for the printing presses to start and the transportation of paper to happen. Our plan is to print worksheets (starting with the first week’s stuff) and make sets and then send messages to parents to pick them up at decided times (so we can keep it staggered for social distancing etc.) and then the students (especially KG to Std. 5, higher classes too) can have at least one aspect of their school as earlier. Let’s hope regulations allow this to happen as soon as possible.

Worksheets are an important part of the learning system at Walnut, but not the only material we use! As we already know, we have so many electronic components in the material of the Walnut Learning System. All of these components come together to create interesting and enriching learning. And, to make the online experience smoother, we have added even more material in!

In the next emailwe will take a brief glimpse at how students will go about their “school day” at home. Later, we will talk about the 8 different components for each core period and the purpose and thought behind each and the way the subject wise classrooms will function. And in the later ones we will talk about the mindset needed to make the eschool work from home and the way we can keep the students motivated and on-track to minimize academic loss.

It’s going to be a different experience and there will be hiccups on the way. But, with our core team’s vast prior experience and with the strong Walnut Family – it will be a smooth ride after the first bumps. Let’s be sure of that and take this positively in our stride.

Till then,

Stay sane!

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