Online Learning in Oman

Our School 
Sarh Al Jaameah Private School (SAPS) is a small private school allocated in Muscat, Oman. It serves grades 1 through 3. Its blended curriculum includes Cambridge Primary International (English, Math & Science), Ministry of Education Arabic subjects (Arabic, Islamic and S.S.), Life Skills and specials.
 
What Our School Implemented 
When the Ministry recently closed schools, no direct or implicit directives were given for the continuation of learning during this time. In anticipation of a school closure, and hearing other educational organizations around the world suspending school, I had my ICT teacher to create Google Classrooms for every subject across all grades. Because I have multi-language and multi-national teachers, I needed to have something that is easy to follow, explain and implement.
I chose to adopt the Google Classroom platform because it is the most teacher friendly tool that I have seen used in schools over the years. There are few limitations to what teachers can upload or link to each classroom. You can post as little or as much as you need to accommodate your individual school goals for virtual learning. In addition, Google Meet is also in the G Suite, which allows teachers to visit the same platform to assist with communication with teams inside the organization.
Tips for Others in Getting Started with Online Learning
 
1. Humanity Above All!
Before you delve into what can be managed on the education front, consider that your health, family and well being are the most important factors in the face of this challenge. Our jobs and online learning are beneficial to those we serve, but none of it matters if we don’t care of ourselves and each other. Remember that when you begin, or continue plans you have for online learning. Remember Maslow’s perspective on learning. It will matter to educators and families alike.
 
2. Do something to keep the school community connected
As we can see, educational responses to the pandemic are different from country to country, state to state and school to school within a system. Some organizations have a plan, while some require little to no continuation of learning. There are a gazillion ways to do this. Find what works for you. Don’t worry about emulating others, but do consider some of the creative ideas that have been shared. Even if you can’t address school wide online learning, create a YouTube page for weekly announcements or encouragement, send emails with web-based sites for extension activities, or make calls to families once per week to check-in with any of the workbooks and packets that may be sent home .

3. Create and use a model that is teacher, student and family friendly 
Work together to create a plan…
  • Begin by drafting a plan that all of your staff can have input on. Brainstorm all of the things you think are necessary, practical and feasible based on your goals, resources and current global situation. This includes non-instructional staff. Everyone may have a perspective that may not be readily evident unless you have a variety of views. What do you want to accomplish? Google Docs are great for planning, time-saving and convenient in or out of the workplace.

Online Learning Plan

 

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4. Consider the capacity of your staff
Remember that everyone is not an expert in using/implementing technology effectively. Choose platforms, apps and resources that are teacher friendly because they are the ones that have to develop assignments and navigate your chosen online learning tools.
5. Set up a mock online learning environment – Perfect to engage in professional learning and development initiatives!
Experiment with teachers before asking families to engage in the process. You don’t want to be trouble-shooting with parents unnecessarily. The process can be cumbersome. I created a professional learning Google Classroom for my staff first, requiring a couple of assignments, responses and uploads based on one of our SIP goals with my teachers:) The plan was to incorporate a blended learning environment prior to the school closing. This allowed me to demonstrate and engage my teachers in person, explaining and translating while on the interactive board and their devices. It proved to be very productive and reassuring. The additional benefit to the staff is that we get to engage in continuous professional learning. Use some of this time to catch up or reinforce school wide best practices or introduce others.

 

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6. Keep student work and planning simple
  • Ensure clear expectations (uniform criteria)
  • Compact curriculum
  • Cover essentials only
  • Minimize assignments
  • Refrain from formal grading
  • Make some of it fun!
  • Encourage
  • Praise
  • Give Feedback/Support
Note – Remember the context for why we’re all even having online learning. If students/families aren’t able to keep up with assignments, consider what they may be trying to manage at home. Encourage them to complete what they can, and remind them that our role is to provide some continuation of learning and access. The whole world has a lot on their plate right now. We are just trying to minimize the gaps we all know will occur during this crisis.
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7. Monitor the progress of your online learning
Teachers can and should provide feedback to students with appropriate next steps, praise for their effort to keep up with work and support parents in this homeschooling environment. Administrators, add yourself to each classroom and you’re able to address accountability and support teachers in the process. Note – All the classrooms show up in your Google Classroom app, but you can disable the notifications, so you’re not inundated with participant responses.
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8. Consider feedback and modify plans where necessary 
We’ve seen many memes and responses to the plight of schools and families’ frustrations. While many of these are hilarious, we need to understand the explicit and underlying messages being conveyed. If the online learning we create is overwhelming, stakeholders will not engage in the process, at least not effectively, making the best of plans all for naught.

9. Use available platforms to communicate with each other
We are using Google Meet. For those folks required by your local education authority (LEA) to implement online learning, choose one of the many platforms to hold meetings online for discussion on some of your school’s online initiatives. Most are now free to access. For some of our international schools, this may be difficult, as most VOIPs are blocked. However, some countries, like Oman have suspended restrictions due to the crisis at hand.
Our staff has had very successful meetings on Google Meet. Both my English and Arabic speaking staff engaged to discuss progress and next steps. It offers accessibility using closed caption, chatting sidebar, optional mute, screen sharing for the initiator/presenter of the meeting and multiple screen layouts. The staff took turns in verbal responses while typing thoughts, ideas and questions to be included in our discussion. Responses are used to follow up.
 
10. Consider and document how you’ll continue to incorporate these wonderful practices in the future!
 
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Natasha is currently the principal of an international school in Oman. As an education specialist (Ed.S.), and founder of Key Education Solutions Consulting (KEDS), she also employs 20 years of experience to engage schools, and families in research-based, best educational practices. Professional learning and development of educators is her passion, particularly in the area of Mindset research, and its implications in educator effort and evidence within the classroom.
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