Sometimes a quick decision can result in a positive outcome. Gisborne Boys’ High School History teacher, Maria Jefferson, describes how LearnWell Digital offered so much more than the answer to an immediate need.
In March 2020, New Zealand was about to go into Level 4 lockdown. Gisborne Boys’ High School teacher Maria Jefferson had little more than a day to decide whether to start using LearnWell Digital to deliver distance learning for her Year 13 History class.
“As history teachers we tend to look backwards, not forwards, so the prospect of taking on something new in such a short space of time was pretty nerve-wracking. But when I looked into it and saw that the History content was about 90 percent of what I would have taught in the classroom anyway, I got really excited about it. It was exactly what I needed and it meant that I didn’t have to start everything from scratch.”Maria Jefferson, History Teacher, Gisborne Boys’ High School
It also meant she could focus from the outset on engaging with her students. Maria ensured they were supported through the sudden transition from classroom to distance learning. “In some ways, using this was better than using textbooks because the students weren’t overwhelmed by content,” Maria stated.
“Getting them to read 200 pages during lockdown was never going to happen. But with LearnWell, I could say ‘I’d like you to be a certain percentage of the way through something by a certain date’, which was much more realistic and a great motivator – particularly with them being boys and loving to compete with each other. They could see how far through they were on a particular topic.”Maria Jefferson
Maria also enjoyed being able to add content herself, such as links to videos. “It meant that everything was in the one place for the students. I loved that. I’d also like to learn more about adding content as I just had to focus on the basics during lockdown.”
The LearnWell team and their support made all the difference:
“Most of us history teachers are older and, for most us, while the content is important so too is the technical support. LearnWell Digital is not a faceless online platform and the staff are amazing. In a normal situation you’d spend months preparing for this type of change. But nothing was a problem and they were so patient with me.”Maria Jefferson
Maria noted she would like to continue using LearnWell Digital. She has told other teachers they should look into it and says the system’s use of Word format is beneficial for students. Though many high school students write essays in Google Docs, universities often require submission of work in Word format. “I love the idea of consistency and using Word in LearnWell is a great way to prepare students for university work”.
Initially access to laptops was an issue for Gisborne Boys’ High School – a Decile 3 school. About a third of students did not have suitable devices. The Government’s provision of additional devices to schools has rectified this issue. LearnWell Digital enables students to make excellent use of these devices.