The Hospital School at Westmead shares tips for online learning

The Hospital School at Westmead Children's Hospital is using online learning to ensure its students are continuing to learn from kindergarten to year 12.

The school has a fleet of telepresence robots, so is experienced at using technology to support learning. Students who are isolated on a ward can use a device to connect to a telepresence robot in the ward classroom. The robots can also be used to connect students who are back at their census schools.

During the move to more online learning in term 1, the school provided devices for students who needed them, sent out learning packs, and started holding lessons online. Staff have also hosted video calls between students and their census schools to discuss learning priorities for students who have been in hospital for an extended period of time.

Teacher Rebekah Palmer said: “We plan for each learner individually by creating an individual program or making adjustments to existing programs. We strongly advocate for inclusion and equity for all our students.”

Principal Mercedes Wilkinson, said she expects students with chronic illness to be more supported than ever in the future because of how schools are now providing learning to students who are not present.

Tips from the Hospital School Westmead for teachers online learning

Rebekah Palmer, Teacher:

  • Keep it simple - for yourself and your students. Simplify and shorten tasks and activities initially and build up capacity as you both learn and go along.
  • Get to know your student in this new learning model - how do they access content, when can they access content and where can they access content? What supports do they need? Look at creative ways that the work can be engaged with - what learning models best suit this new learning - why and how?
  • Talk with your student. Dialogue about learning is crucial and empowering.

Karen Watt, Teacher:

  • Knowing your student is essential. That is one of the key things the Hospital School does well - knowing the students they teach and keeping in close communication with the clinical teams in order to make personalised adjustments.

Joy Gomes, Teacher:

  • Start with the student’s learning style and pitch lessons accordingly. If it is a whole class lesson then incorporate different styles to suit the needs of all students.
  • Ask about student wellbeing and encourage students to speak about how they are feeling and their opinion.
  • Give choices for assessments including self-assessment.

Tips from the Hospital School Westmead for parents supporting children with online learning

Rebekah Palmer:

  • There is no expectation that parents are teachers. Support your children and they will be able to engage and learn better with their teacher when the time is appropriate.

Joy Gomes

  • The best thing parents can do is to provide a safe nurturing environment and take interest in what their kids are learning. Encourage children to take responsibility for their learning and regularly notice and reward them for doing the right thing such that it becomes part of their practice.

Teaching staff and parents can access learning from home resources in the online hub.

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