“DIGITAL HAND-ON IS DIFFICULT”: INTERVIEW WITH GERHARD HELGERT

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“DIGITAL HAND-ON IS DIFFICULT”: INTERVIEW WITH GERHARD HELGERT

05 May 2021 Comments Closed 40 Views

The past few months during the pandemic have taken a toll on students, teachers and parents. In private schools, too, students spent many weeks in front of the computer in distance learning classes. We talked to Gerhard Helgert from the Association of German Private School Associations about his experiences and expectations for the school after Corona.

Mr. Helgert, during the initial lockdown in the spring, private schools in particular managed to adapt quickly to the new situation and continue teaching online without much interruption. What was the reason for that?

Helgert: We surveyed our member schools and things went surprisingly well everywhere. We simply have short decision-making paths: When the news came that we would have to close and switch to other forms of teaching, we reacted very quickly. The conversion to digital teaching methods went extremely quickly. This was also due to the fact that not only our employees, but also the parents and students identify very strongly with our facilities. And, of course, our teachers are digitally pre-trained in methodology and didactics through appropriate training: We had a media concept in the works, and it paid off. There had already been work on computers up to and including tablet classes at various schools. The children and teachers were therefore very relaxed. But: You can imagine that all this was not always romantic at our school either, but the flexibility and the teamwork of the teachers – also in material preparation and exchange – was good.

What were the experiences in private schools during distance or hybrid teaching?

Helgert: The first thing we noticed and that benefited us is that we were able to respond flexibly. More was possible than we thought beforehand. The daily school routine could be presented well despite the changed conditions: We covered the curriculum one-to-one. Our remedial courses could also continue to be implemented. Not only did the technical equipment work well, but the project and group work also worked wonderfully with the technical equipment. Our students are trained to work independently or to support each other. This resulted in more than just a frontal sprinkling of information. Even the digital physical education lessons worked out well: they jumped over sofas together on video, ran up and down the staircase and, if possible, repeated a vocabulary word or two – the physical education teacher even worked across subjects. It has to be said that our students – differentiated in the various age groups – voluntarily wore their cameras.

Did learning deficits nevertheless arise for some students? How were gaps compensated for?

Helgert: First of all, we have to say that the deficits are not as extreme as we read about in the public media. But it was clear that the students were afraid of being left alone. Now they were at a distance. So the first thing we had to do was improve the infrastructure at home, for example with loaner equipment. The strategy was that no child should be lost. And of course there are also children – we notice this in the work that is sent back and in personal contacts – who have deficits. Then we have to rebuild relationships as quickly as possible: with one-on-one conversations, individual lessons and explanatory videos created by our teachers themselves. It makes a big difference whether students watch some government video, or whether that was recorded by one of our teachers, for example with his wife. The relationship with the individual teacher is critical, and then distance learning works. And also, since the first lockdown, there have been vacation programs with specific units for each subject.

What happened after the first lockdown, what digital concepts were developed in the schools?

Helgert: The use of digital learning platforms has increased significantly. It has become even more natural for teachers and students. Above all, the “digital classroom,” chats and educational films have since become much more firmly entrenched in everyday learning.

Which digital applications and options are used in private schools for distance learning? What of these should also be used further?

Helgert: Of course, there are heated discussions. It varies from private school to private school. We have schools that have very reform-oriented educational concepts. Others are freer and are considering whether they want to continue using up to 40 percent digital options in the school. For example, live streaming within different classes or sharing media in a digital materials pool. I think this is going to be coming to all schools! Because students aren’t going to let it get away from them. They all come back from distance learning periods differently. They are more self-confident and also more independent. We should take advantage of that. We don’t want to go back to purely classical frontal teaching.

27Helgert: Let’s start with the building: Students long for their “home,” and school buildings remain the central places of learning. But as places where social contacts are made and maintained. Private schools in particular are usually smaller; they thrive on knowing and meeting each other and on proximity. The best way to do that is in your own school building – analog and live. Our students are very happy that they will soon be able to meet again. Especially the children who have suffered a lot at a distance need a “laying on of hands”. And a “digital laying on of hands” is difficult (laughs).
Mr. Helgert, thank you for the interview.

Diana Thies-Kuchenbecker

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