Tuesday, March 17th, 2020
Dragon Academy Online: Plan and Process
Dear Dragon Parents and Students:
Following my note to all of you last week, below you will find a first draft of our plan to take all courses online for the duration of our home confinement. Should confinement last longer than the initial two weeks, we are prepared to extend. Our objective is to deliver on our promised learning objectives in accord with curricula laid out at the beginning of the year. While this would ordinarily include wide-ranging social and experiential components, the times demands otherwise. We are keenly aware that the educational lives of our students depend on us.
We are proposing the use of the following technology platforms for content delivery and exchange:
4. Google Hangouts and parallel Google Classroom applications (sheets, docs, etc.)
Each of the programs above are likely known and used by students already, though in some cases use might be new. Please bring to my attention or the attention of specific teachers any shortcoming you or your children envision or experience over the life of the program, and don’t hesitate to write or call me with any urgency. All admin team members will monitor their phones and email during the day, though Jan, as elementary school instructor, will have that responsibility as paramount.
We are trying to keep engagements between students and teachers as simple as possible, even while some teachers, having more advanced use with online learning, may experiment in unique ways. This will probably be to the benefit of students since they are so used to being online anyway. Online videos posted to YouTube or Quickschools, problem sheets sent via email and shared google docs, video chats with some or most of the classroom connected simultaneously; these are the components of online education we will use the most, and that should be familiar to most families.
It is possible that some students may attempt to evade class online, or be distracted by video games, television or siblings. To the extent possible, we are asking parents to govern student attendance, participation and conduct. In as many ways as possible, teachers will use “exit ticket” formulations – the completion of a set task which confirms student engagement with a particular lesson or assessment – so that evidence of participation can be produced. Attendance will be taken just as it would be in school. We are expecting that online education over the next several weeks matters as much as that in the classroom, and is a serious enterprise.
It is also the case that online classes will be challenging for those students who struggle with executive function skills. We hope to address these matters during individually tailored one-on-one sessions with these students, while leaning upon parental support where possible.
We should all consider the first two days of classes, next Monday and Tuesday, experiments, though I hope these experimental days have as few breakdowns as possible. But technology being what it is, there may be challenges. We will work through them; they will not defeat us.
Elementary School Online – grades 4-6
Jan will design one-on-one programs for each of the 8 students in elementary school. Here’s a parent notice about the elementary program:
and an outline of the elementary school online program:
Middle School Online – grades 7-8
Working with Jan, Isi, Henry, Aniko Antal, Shawna Dwyer and Andrew have developed a program that entails a combination of one-on-one lessons, posted video, emailed worksheets, research and writing assignments, the combination of which should keep middle schoolers busy all morning and part of the afternoon. Here’s a note to middle school parents about the online program:
and an outline of the middle school online program:
And here is the middle school master schedule:
(Formerly linked to a private google sheet)
We are relying on parents and teachers together to adhere to the schedule Jan has produced, but we are aware that its specifics may not work well for your child. Jan will send out separate emails to each family containing a personal schedule for each middle school student. If changes are necessary, please let us know as soon as possible.
High School – Grades 9-12
High school classes will follow the existing daily schedule with the following exception: all classes will last for 50 minutes instead of running for a full hour. This will give both teachers and students the opportunity to disengage from the online environment for 20 minutes between classes, prepare for the next class, and complete work that may still be outstanding for the class just completed. We’d also like high school students to video check-in with their teachers at the beginning and the end of each class: attendance will be taken at the beginning, and an exit ticket will ensure that students have fulfilled the lesson requirements at class’ end. Keep in mind that with the slightly altered schedule, the last ten minutes of the class will be the 40th through the 50th minute.
Art, physical education and French classes have a few hurdles. Shawna Dwyer has begun creating a series of online videos which she plans to use for lessons, but without some of the supplies currently found at school, students will be hard pressed to duplicate everything that would have occurred in school. She will address this in her videos. Physical education would normally meet at the JCC, now closed for business, use public and private park spaces, or engage in classroom discussion on the personal health sections of the course. Rachel Presutto is designing lessons that may include in-place exercise as well as worksheet and video-based lessons.
Many grade 9 French students have likely left their large French textbooks and workbooks in school, and this presents obstacles. Aniko Antal is working through this dilemma and intends to carry on with French using worksheets and other material to which she has access.
Should parents and students wish, existing tutoring relationships can still take place via video and email links. Please reach out to existing tutors to make plans for tutoring knowing that tutors will complete the same timetable sheets as we use in school, and billing will be the same.
The entire plan above is a work in progress, but one into which we have poured a great deal of time and effort. Please make suggestions for changes as they may relate to you. I will be in touch with a video message to all students by Sunday night, and again between Monday and Wednesday after we experience the first two days of online learning.
Until then, stay safe.
Friday, March 13th, 2020
A message from our Head of School, Kelvin Sealey -
Dear Members of the Dragon Community:
Following the recent announcement of the temporary closure of all public schools in Ontario, we at the Dragon have decided to follow suit while taking most of our curriculum online, setting up a new distance education model of teaching. We will also act upon any further guidance offered by the provincial or metropolitan health departments with regard to longer term closure if and when that decision is made. You can find the most recent Toronto Public Health notice, issued before the mandatory school closures announced later the same day, attached. For now, beginning on Monday, March 23rd, you should assume that most Dragon high school classes will follow their regular time format, while separate schedules will be developed for elementary and middle school classes.
Since each of our three divisions face different curricular circumstances, three separate plans will be in effect. Jan will develop a plan for Elementary School, grades 4-6, that is individualized for the eight students in her classroom. She will also oversee the work Henry, Isi and Andrew will carry out with Middle School students. High School teachers will interface with Vanessa Alsop and Steph Bushnik on curricular and technology matters. Our plans should be ready for distribution to the entire community by Monday or Tuesday of next week, a full week before we’ll need to implement them. Should any family require assistance with computers or network connections, please email me so that provisions can be made to ensure that all families are online and prepared to continue with student education.
While all of us are concerned about the effect a pure distance education model will have on teaching and learning, I’d imagine that grade 12 students and families are thinking about credits needed, graduation – both ceremonies and earning full credits – and college responses to changes in teaching circumstances. Please know that we are aware of these concerns but have not received any information from the relevant authorities about these matters. When such information is received, I will share it with the relevant families immediately.
Personally, though you don’t need me to write this, I hope that all of you stay safe, follow every precaution being suggested by the relevant authorities, and remember that this circumstance will pass. I will have more for you about our short term plans soon.