A lot of the success that the distance learning programme at Jeppe is enjoying during the lockdown period can be credited to the forward-thinking of the school’s ITC and Innovation director, Mr Rob Faltermeier.
Jeppe decided, a few years ago, to make the teaching of 21st Century skills one if its focuses and Mr Faltermeier began that process by registering the school as a Google for Education institution and introduced the boys and teachers to online and distance learning using the Google suite of programmes.
The teachers have had internal training and were sent on training, which was sometimes a challenge given the many demands on their time, but it has paid off now. Google classrooms were set up and the school purchased Google Chromebook laptop computers which allowed certain section of the work to be taught in that way.
“All the boys are allocated a Jeppe Google account, which was a big factor in us getting up a running quickly now and the teachers were well-versed in producing teaching material to be used in this way,” Mr Faltermeier said.
“From the beginning, we weren’t teaching computer literacy or device competency, the boys can generally operate the machinery. Instead, it was about how to behave in the online space. It’s about how to use the cloud to best benefit, about digital literacy and etiquette, and how to use the social media responsibly.”
Those skills have proven useful now that this type of teaching has become the way that things are done. “The teachers started off by revising term one work, and now they are moving on to term two, although we understand that not every learner has the same access, so it will all have to be retaught once we get back. They will be getting the basics though and it should go quite quickly the second time around,” Mr Faltermeier said.
The approach to the academic programme is quality over quantity. “We don’t want to overload the boys with work, and we want to include an aspect of skills training. Learning how to work efficiently is more important than getting through large amounts of curriculum content at this stage.”
Although the ability and capacity to access the programme differs from learner to learner, the uptake by the Jeppe boys has been very good, Mr Faltemeier said. “We have had a daily average of 997 stable users out of a total enrolment of 1033 boys, and we have had 20 hard copy packs delivered to boys who have no access at all. That means just about everyone is participating, but we know not all are able to do so all the time and we are determined that no-one will be disadvantaged by the process.”
The earlier work done has put Jeppe at an advantage in getting the programme up and running. “We were fortunate, I guess, but we have to keep working at it and the response from the boys and teachers has been amazing,” Mr Faltermeier concluded.