Cowes Primary School thrives in the digital world

The full breadth of digital technology and growing community support saw more than 500 students from Cowes Primary School thrive during remote and flexible learning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Located on Phillip Island, about 40 of the school's 563 students had been attending onsite while the remainder were learning from home.

Principal Rodney McKenzie said Google Classrooms, Google Meets and SeeSaw were among the most used digital applications across all grades.

In SeeSaw, teachers of Prep to Grade 2 used a special feature to record a voice message and provide feedback to students who had yet to fully develop reading skills.

Teachers in Grades 3-6 posed questions to their class using Google Classrooms. Students could respond to the teacher in real time.

'Teachers have Google Classrooms open throughout the day so that students can ask a question and their teacher can support them with their learning,' Mr McKenzie said.

Teachers have also been sending every student pre-recorded video messages each morning, sharing content on screen and showing how to access material.

'Parents have reported that the kids have really liked that, it's worked really well for us,' Mr McKenzie said.

Having to grasp many different digital applications in a short period of time has seen a real growth in digital skills and associated professional learning for teachers – something teachers will take with them into the resumption of on-site schooling, he said.

'Everyone, and I mean literally, everyone in the education community are putting webinars up online,' Mr McKenzie said.

'As a regional school, travelling to Melbourne was always a huge time commitment, so the ability to access professional learning remotely is something we can easily do, and moving forward I expect there will be more options.'

Another big lesson from remote and flexible learning, Mr McKenzie said, was the rallying around of the community behind teachers after the release of a video mid-way through remote learning.

Teachers and the principal, who donned a big orange box as a costume, danced to music to lift the spirits of the school community during the pandemic. The video reached more than 16,000 people and had more than 10,000 views, Mr McKenzie said.

'It not only gave our students and families a smile, but so many people gave positive comments and when, for instance, school staff were down at the shops, people would stop them and say 'I saw you dancing, the video was really good,' he said. 'It really lifted the morale among staff.'

You can access the video online via Facebook.

The Department of Education and Training is working with students, teachers, principals and families to ensure lessons from remote and flexible learning are being captured and shared. Access resources on the Learning from Home web page, and find out the latest advice on the staged return to on-site schooling on the Staged return to on-site schooling web page.