A learning cloud for the Tennenlohe elementary school
Our education platform has already been in use at Tennenlohe Elementary School since April 2020 - as a "virtual school building. The integrated system consists of course platform, video conferencing solution and document management. As a result, distance learning was/is conducted entirely via the platform and supports students, parents and teachers in their respective tasks.
Another wonderful use case that Tennenlohe Elementary School has tapped into is the "on-boarding" of new students: the "wiggle teeth" from kindergarten are given access and, together with their parents, can discover and explore the school even before school officially starts. We talked to the school principal, Mrs. Reichel, about her experiences.
What problems did the Tennenlohe elementary school face at the beginning of the pandemic?
Sabine Reichel: When our school was closed in March 2020, it was a big shock at first! The school closure was quickly associated with a major rethink for everyone involved. We quickly realized that distance learning is about more than just creating digital material for learning at home and sending it to parents and children via email. Relationship work, quick feedback, direct communication - these are important motivational building blocks for learning, especially for elementary school students. However, this requires the appropriate tools, such as video conferencing systems, messenger services, apps for creating interactive learning materials, options for digitally uploading work results, feedback and control options, and a cloud. We didn't have a professional solution for all these wishes at the beginning of the pandemic.
- What was the actual state before homeschooling?
Our school was already technically well equipped before the pandemic: Every classroom already had wi-fi, projectors, document cameras, laptops for teachers, I-pads with many learning apps, and also materials for analog and digital programming. However, the digital tools were used exclusively in face-to-face classes. Before Corona, there were already all-day programs and study groups through which our students could acquire a sound media competence. One example of this is our school radio station "AnTennenlohe", which we then also used very intensively during distance learning. All broadcasts can be found on our website www.gs-tennenlohe.de. But: We lacked the "virtual school", so to speak, where people meet virtually for lessons and where asynchronous and synchronous forms of learning are offered. And we lacked the competence to implement this idea.
- How was the issue of homeschooling addressed and resolved?
Sabine Reichel: For the first few weeks, the materials were sent to parents by mail distribution list; some teachers also dropped them off directly at the children's homes and handed them over the garden fence, for example, while maintaining the minimum distance. There were phone calls and emails. All very cumbersome. The mailboxes were often overflowing, the parents had to print out a lot of things at home, and the corrections of the assignments were often made days later due to the inconvenient return via boxes in the school's garbage shelter.
We quickly realized that this could be done better. Fortunately, the student parents Anna and Werner Spiegl approached us. They had the idea of designing a school-owned learning platform for and with us. Anna Spiegl is a certified data protection officer and Werner Spiegl is an IT consultant. Because of their expertise, we were able to implement the idea of a "virtual school". Between April and October 2020, my vice principal Mr. Schmid and I provided weekly training for our staff. Wishes were elicited during the training sessions, which were then in turn technically implemented by the Spiegl family. The Spiegl family has invested a lot of time in the development of the learning platform on a voluntary basis.
- How has the learning platform been received by the children and are you satisfied with the results?
Sabine Reichel: Every child who comes to us first receives access to the learning platform. Even the preschoolers now have access. We teachers can then activate the appropriate areas for the child, for example, the virtual classroom for his or her class, support rooms, the "For all students" area, where cross-class offerings can be found, music and sports courses. Teachers also meet virtually in the staff room, have opportunities to share material online and store large data via a cloud solution. We hold our conferences, team meetings, and work groups virtually, including parent-teacher conferences. Colleagues have conducted learning development discussions with the children online. The booster club and the parents' council also use the "virtual school" to archive their files and meet for planning. In the meantime, parent surveys or needs assessments are also carried out via the learning platform. So now we have a common, virtual place with a lot of possibilities for learning, exchanging, presenting and communicating. This is particularly advantageous for the children because they only have to remember one password to use all the digital applications.
For us teachers, the question of data protection is always particularly important: all the tools used and integrated are data protection-compliant, which is very reassuring for all of us.
- ASTRUM IT GmbH has been digitizing the infrastructure since June. For us as software experts, the learning platform is a project close to our hearts, which is managed pro bono in consulting. How has the collaboration with the team around Werner Spiegl, Head of Consulting, been so far?
Sabine Reichel: The cooperation is great! We especially appreciate that our wishes and concerns are implemented very quickly and efficiently. Since Werner Spiegl himself has two school-age children at our school, he can understand everything particularly well and program adaptively accordingly. We are very happy that the project is managed by ASTRUM. Having a strong partner with the appropriate expertise is an incredible reassurance for us as a school. After all, we teachers are learning experts, but not software experts.
- Will you continue to integrate the learning platform into everyday school life in the future?
Sabine Reichel: Of course. And this is already happening. Many teachers give the children digital homework, which can then be found on the learning platform. We also use the platform now, among other things, for exchanges, consultation hours, team meetings, queries, surveys or parents' evenings. The children continue to find many interactive exercises there to reinforce the learning material. We also use the learning platform to process student results, competition entries, and internal school activities in which the children can upload results. Some reading promotion is done digitally via our learning platform, and this area is to be expanded in the future. We are very happy to be able to rely on our "virtual school" in our everyday teaching and would never want to give it up!
We are happy to accept digitization requests. Our experts provide competent advice and create a learning platform that helps advance digitization at schools.