In March Slovenia switched from face-to-face to distance education virtually overnight. Most educators tackled the new conditions with great zeal, dedication and professionalism. We stepped up together, learned from each other and helped each other. We believe in solidarity and worked to the best of our ability.
A number of teachers at all levels, specialist teachers and educational counsellors viewed the lockdown as an opportunity for new and different forms of work, while others felt insecure, frightened, confused. In such turbulent times, some technical problems arose, related to the use of ICT: a lack of technical equipment (e.g. computers) in some places, as well as a lack in training of professionals for telework. Schools and kindergartens dealt with the problems in cooperation and with the support of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, the National Education Institute and other organisations.
Not only educators, but also children, pupils and students could not avoid this turbulence. For some, distance learning was very convenient, while others found it difficult to learn on their own, they lost motivation and missed socialising with peers. Without the help of parents and other adults, who take care of school children, it would have been even harder for them.
In the second half of October 2020, the teaching process moved to remote again. The public’s reaction to this measure of the Slovenian government is mixed. But we all hope it won’t take too long. We have come to realise that face-to-face contact with educators is irreplaceable. Many students sincerely appreciate their efforts as shown in the photo below, which was taken by students of the Gimnazija Kranj High school.
“Thank you for your patience, perseverance and tolerance in the face of challenges, misunderstandings and the need for new explanations,” the students wrote on the school entrance. The teachers were deeply touched and proud of their students.
“We live in unusual times, but nevertheless, they can also show their sensitive side,” they said.
The National Education Institute of the Republic of Slovenia has prepared guidelines for primary and secondary schools with reminders for planning work and conducting distance learning. The documents define all aspects of lessons implementation, such as:
• establishing contact between the teacher and the students,
• developing a distance-learning routine,
• carrying out activities for achieving learning objectives and maintaining learning continuity.
Various materials, which have been developed and prepared by our advisors, are available to educators for their planning and implementation of educational work during distance learning, for example:
Our institute prepares various online trainings for educators. In short, with one-hour workshops (webinars), educators can get inspiration and ideas for planning and implementing distance learning in a quick and easy way. Long-term training, prepared according to the model of independent distance learning (MOOCs), include topics that address the entire distance-learning process, including evaluation. Examples of such trainings are:
1. Planning diverse learning experiences for distance learning
2. Obtaining diverse types of evidence of learning and knowledge in distance learning,
3. Providing quality feedback in distance learning,
4. Team and collaborative distance learning.
In spring 2020, activities in the Design My Future (DMF) project were carried out remotely. Part of this work was the design and distribution of a questionnaire for educators, to which we received a very good response.
We sent an online questionnaire to the email addresses of educators from all Slovenian regions. We are particularly interested in immigrants and refugees, those from Roma communities, children with special needs and adolescents with mental health problems, adolescents coming from families with very low socio-economic status or extremely talented adolescents, aged 14 to 17. We tried to make the sample of participants really diverse and to include key stakeholders who can influence the design of a safe and stimulating learning environment for young people from vulnerable groups.
We are going to analyse the answers of the participating educators, and in 2021 prepare guidelines for working with students from vulnerable groups. We hope the guidelines will be a way of professional help especially to teachers in schools dealing with the problem of early school leaving of young people from vulnerable groups. The guidelines will also be enriched with real stories of young people who initially dropped out of school, but later returned to the educational process and successfully finished school.
We are also preparing an article for the scientific journal “Šolsko polje” (“School Field”) about the project activities and the expected results.
Amela Sambolić Beganović, Tamara Malešević, Vanja Kavčnik Kolar, Alenka Andrin, Andreja Vouk and Alma Ahmetović from National Education Institute Slovenia (NEI).