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They may be confined to their homes by the global Covid-19 pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped the pupils of Mutiara Harapan School (SMH) in the RAPP Complex from showing up for class. Virtual class that is.

Teachers began online classes from the start of this week, ensuring that education continues for the school’s 580 pupils, who are aged 4 to 17.

“I can say that with the online classes I have hosted, the children have so enjoyed seeing their friends on screen,” said Cheryl Wevell, who teaches art at the PYP levels (Grades 1 to 6).

“They have encouraged each other and joked, and it has made the whole experience so much better.”

Using a combination of Zoom, Whatsapp and videos they upload to YouTube, the teachers have been keeping in touch with pupils and their parents.

And while there were a few technical difficulties at first, pupils are already getting used to their new learning environment.

Intan Permatasari, a kindergarten teacher at SMH, said that it was great that modern technology permits students to keep learning at home at the moment.

“Of course, since I teach four and five-year-olds – the youngest kids in the school – parents actually play the most important roles in e-learning classes as they are the ones assisting the kids in setting up the class,” she said.

The availability of all three parties – teachers, students and parents – have to therefore be in sync in order for classes to run, Intan added.

In this regard, the Academic Information Management System in Schools (AIMSIS) portal, a platform that connects parents to teachers, has been especially useful.

Lei Suang, SMH Principal, shared that the school provided training to both parents and teachers on how to use AIMSIS to download learning materials for students’ lessons.

As a parent of four children (aged 9 to 18) who are also learning from home, Cheryl has seen how exciting live online learning can be for students.

“Seeing your teacher online with you is weird but cool – that’s what my son said,” she said.

“We are in an era where technology can, and does, bring classroom teaching to your children at home. We don’t need to halt education just because we cannot send our children to school – it is now in our own homes, on our phones, computers or laptops.

“If you have the Internet, you have the capability to have a classroom right in front of you,” Cheryl said.

Despite the overall positives of online learning, both Cheryl and Intan mentioned that students’ attention spans can be shorter during online classes.

“There is a lot of chatter and excitement, especially if it is the first class you are hosting. Being home, the students sometimes get up and go off to get water or food while you’re doing a lesson, or a sibling will come and peer over a student’s shoulder to see what’s going on,” Cheryl says.

Intan said younger kids can be even more easily distracted in the beginning.

“Many students didn’t stop talking and kept greeting each other at first, as they were distracted by their friends’ faces. Some also couldn’t hear me clearly because other students were too noisy, while other students were shy about appearing on screen,” she said.

But the children are quickly getting used to their new routines.

Irfan, the school’s PE teacher for Grades 7 to 12, said that the children may not be able to play team sports together at the moment, but they are still getting exercise through online classes.

“I’ve modified our classes for the situation. Live PE classes now begin with short discussions about different sports topics. I’ll give a question which the students discuss.

“Then aerobic exercise begins. First, I show them the different movements they’ll need to carry out during the routine. Then we combine the movements into a continuous routine that we do together,” he said.

Irfan said it was important to ensure that the students stay entertained about engaging in exercise.

“We want them to keep fit and train their muscles, but we want them to actually enjoy the exercise, which is why I play fun music during the classes.

“I’ve also been sending them links to relevant YouTube videos about other ways they can exercise at home,” he said.

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