As part of our on-going series checking in with our amazing teachers and mentors, we spoke to science teacher Sophie Attwood this week! As a Head of Biology, she was in the perfect place to tell us about the challenges of teaching science via online learning.
Hi Sophie, thank you so much for ‘virtually’ chatting to us! Can you tell us a bit about who you are and your career?
I’m originally from the UK, but I’ve been in Dubai for seven years now. I am currently the Head of Biology at GEMS Wellington Academy Silicon Oasis. I am also an A Level and IB examiner and a contributing author for an online IB Biology textbook.
What do you love most about teaching?
I especially enjoy the ‘eureka’ moments students have when they finally understand complex concepts.
How has the way you teach changed in light of covid-19?
Now that everything is online it has been an interesting and somewhat exciting time for teachers to trial new methods of teaching remotely. The main challenge has been trying to include the practical element of Biology into online learning. We have been using virtual labs and have had to focus on skills such as planning, analysing and evaluating, rather than the practical skills, during data collection.
What has been the most challenging element to contend with during the crisis?
Like most people, I think it comes down to connections and whether you are effectively meeting your student’s needs. Making videos prior to lessons, doing voiceovers and going live with students for 10-15 minute sessions during lessons has helped me to continue to connect with the students and given my lessons a personal touch when I am unable to be live for the whole lesson. I also really miss the face-to-face time with colleagues to get ideas and inspiration for lessons. We can do it virtually, but it doesn’t always feel the same.
What do you think the lasting impact will be on education and training, particularly in terms of science?
I think that this period of remote learning will have made students, parents and educators realise that there is huge potential within online learning. The students are being taught the importance of self-discipline and motivation and hopefully this will translate back into the classroom when we return to school. In terms of Science I think that we will continue to use utilise a number of the blended learning approaches when we return to school. As a Biology department we are discussing continuing with virtual labs in order to speed up the data collection process and focus on other skills required for students to complete their Internal Investigations for IB Science.
What advice do you have for people when it comes to online learning?
My advice would be to take your time and not to try out too many things at once or within one lesson. Try one thing at a time and ask for student feedback. If the students don’t enjoy an activity or task or they don’t find it useful we need to know this so that it can inform the planning for subsequent lessons.
How are you coping at home in quarantine?
It has been surprisingly busy and a chance to try new things. We’ve been baking, doing family quizzes and taking part in a series of challenges from WSO – including having to team up for a virtual ‘Kilimanjaro Run’!
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