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August 2020: What we've learned so far

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A new style of learning 

How can we take what we have learned about flexible and online learning into the future?

In March Australian teachers, students, parents and carers had to adapt to a new style of learning, a process that demonstrated how passionately committed Australian teachers are to student learning and wellbeing. We saw how resourceful and resilient you and your students could be, and the many creative and innovative solutions you developed to make learning from home productive and enjoyable. Fast forward five months and Victorians are again confined to their homes. This is disappointing and for many heartbreaking, but in the context of schools, education and learning from home, we are seeing how much schools, teachers and students have learned along the way.

Supporting parents and carers

Here at ACMI, we have followed a similar trajectory of adapting our programs to suit the changing circumstances and to meet the needs of schools and learners. Initially parents and carers were also looking for support, not just because of uncertainty about their role but also because their young people were at a bit of a loose end. We focused on creating bite-size, self-directed activities that are great for independent creative learning in and out of the classroom. You might be interested in having a look at the article we published with advice for parents and carers about screen learning.

Our virtual lessons

Our next COVID-19 response involved the launch of our virtual lessons program. For many years, ACMI has had a dynamic videoconference program ranging from mega-events such as Rex the NASA astronaut beaming out live from the ACMI studio, DreamWorks creatives speaking from California to thousands of Australian students, to our regular Meet the Makers sessions. However, this was our first program of lessons that could be booked ahead by teachers as an exclusive and intimate experience just for their class.

These 45-minute interactive lessons span animation, filmmaking, videogames and the history of moving image and innovation, and are designed to enable teachers to integrate the session into their learning programs with a minimum of fuss. Our educators chatted with teachers to think about how to engage learners through a mix of information and activities designed to create wonder, prompt thinking and inspire further inquiry. Each of the virtual lessons incorporates short introductory activities and a follow-up lesson to assist teachers to extend student learning. Teachers have been delighted with the interaction between ACMI educators and students, noting that engaging with one class at a time with input from the class teacher results in lots of fun and many valuable learning outcomes.

Connecting with students and teachers  

As well as giving us the chance to connect with students and teachers again, presenting these lessons has given us a great understanding of strategies for engaging with a class of students logging in from home and for troubleshooting issues before they arise – such as how to watch a video on an iPad or how to switch between different screen views in Zoom. For the most part, though, students are now well and truly comfortable with online technologies – sometimes a little too comfortable. If we don’t switch off annotation, we might find the presenter screen unexpectedly decorated for us. We also enjoyed the young learner who engaged with our program while accompanying their grown-up on a trip to the supermarket – particularly the wobbly view of sneakers as they made their way across the carpark. Our hearts have also melted at some of the observations students share on chat – such as empathy for those who had the job of hand colouring thousands of film frames in the early days of cinema – “their hands would have been tired”.

In search of a silver lining

Regardless of what happens in the future, the silver lining for us as moving image educators at ACMI is that we have learned so much about what can be achieved online. This will be something we will take into the future, so ACMI can connect effectively with schools and students both in and beyond our stunning renewed museum building at Federation Square.