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Local school’s progressive approach to remote learning balances technology, collaboration and getting outside

SJK School is mindful about learning and students’ overall needs.
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Proactive planning to ensure your staff is well-prepared to mitigate the impact of unforeseen challenges is a highly effective strategy of successful businesses. Nowhere is that more evident than in the education system, where COVID-19 restrictions have required schools to quickly adapt their curriculums to facilitate remote learning for students.

“We were very well-positioned as a school to shift to teaching and learning remotely because we had great systems in place,” said Karen Baird, Director of Teaching and Learning at St. John’s-Kilmarnock (SJK) School in Breslau. “We had established a school-wide learning management system already, and our students were familiar with using this. That’s been an incredible advantage for us.” 

From integrating a suite of Google tools to incorporating online classroom platforms like the Seesaw app, teachers at both SJK and schools across the province have been embracing available technologies and bringing them into their virtual classrooms. As a result, students and families have all been given a quick lesson in the realities of remote learning. While there have been challenges, opportunities have also arisen for teachers and students to explore a variety of technology applications which enhance teaching and learning. This is a positive outcome which has come from an unusual circumstance. 

“We had no idea that the systems we had in place would end up being fundamental in effectively supporting a remote learning situation once our school closed,” said Baird, a 15-year veteran at SJK, a not-for-profit International Baccalaureate school serving Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. “The remote learning plan that we have developed ensures a balance for our students. They are able to continue to advance their learning while also enjoying creative and active engagements with their teachers and their peers. We also balance on- and off-screen tasks and encourage daily outdoor activities.” 

Despite the unexpected shift to remote learning, Baird says students and teachers are working hard to maintain their connection to regular school activities. 

“We understand that it is really difficult for our students as they are missing their friends. Mindful of this need for social interactions, we use Google Hangouts for live lessons and class meetings so that students can connect with their classmates. Through the delivery of real-time lessons, students are able to work in small groups and collaborate in a similar way as they do at school. In addition to assigning high-quality academics, our teachers are ensuring that the students continue to have spirit days with themes and fun activities as a way to resemble the camaraderie that is the fibre of school life. We are currently enjoying a virtual art exhibit of senior student's artwork. On Friday about 400 members of our community will tune in to a live stream school assembly. It is important for us to keep our connections strong even while we are apart.”

As for what will happen when students and teachers are allowed back into classrooms, Baird says there will be a period of adjustment -- once the celebration is over. 

“I think there needs to be a time of coming back together and celebrating, re-establishing the face-to-face community that all schools thrive on. But there will also be an important task for teachers in analyzing and closely evaluating where students are in their learning, ensuring they are where they need to be for the next grade level.”

For more information on SJK School, visit