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Online Remote Learning: a teacher's perspective

Online Remote Learning: a teacher's perspective

My more unkind colleagues have suggested that, as a physicist, my time has come, as physics (and maths) teachers are famed for social isolation even in ‘normal’ times. I would have argued, but felt more comfortable staring at my feet and running away to practise some equations.

In reality of course we are all grappling with a new way of navigating the day, and for me, this has been a gilt edged opportunity to experiment with some online learning techniques, specifically to explore the wealth of resources available to support students in their learning. I have had an uneasy feeling for a while that I should be doing more in this area, not least because I and a colleague are responsible for The Physics Teaching Podcast, that many of you will have heard of*. The podcast was set up because physics teachers are like toilet rolls… no, stop that, behave!… it’s because they are SCARCE. The shortage of physics teachers in the UK means they are often professionally isolated, without the opportunity to talk ‘shop’ with a colleague…

…so if the podcast was about addressing teacher isolation, then what about pupil isolation?  Well the principle is the same: it’s about making folk feel a connection even though it’s an ethereal one and so I have adapted podcast HQ to become “SH9¾” (see photo) the St Mary’s physics hub-at-home and made a start at bringing students together.  Successes so far?

  • There’s a YouTube video for pretty much everything and their production values are almost always better than mine so there’s a win straight away.  With careful curation, introduction and follow-up they can be powerful learning tools – not least because students can pause, rewind, replay at will
  • Students are if anything more focused as they can work at their own pace with fewer distractions, so there’s a challenge of presenting enough work for those who ‘get it’ quickly while supporting those who might struggle
  • Because messages have to be pithier and much clearer, you think much more carefully about how you present information and answer questions
  • You can’t hear them snoring**

There’s also much to do in summer term:

  • Collaboration is a victim of the isolation but a precious skill, so I need to work out some ways to get students working together remotely: I’ll be reaching out and mining the incredible teaching and learning hive-mind at St Mary’s for sure
  • Routine is important but it’s easy to get stale so if there are further weeks of this, I need to work to keep things fresh
  • For students who struggle, parents will be vital in letting us know. Some children attempt to fly under the radar when they don’t understand. This is bad when we are in the same room, but catastrophic if it happens at home, so please be the eyes and ears and make sure your daughter is keeping up and / or asking if she’s stuck

Finally, the girls at St Mary’s have been fabulous – so resilient and open to this new way of learning. I am genuinely moved by their positivity and resilience in the face of a situation which is unsettling more seasoned individuals. They should be proud. That said, it is easy to feel isolated when you are … err… isolated, and so I have been trying to finish lessons with something a wee bit uplifting – and possibly something the girls may not have otherwise seen. I’ll leave you with a sample selection!

I remember when all gigs were like this…

I challenge anyone to listen to this and not smile 😊(sing along!)


Stay safe, take care and I sincerely hope to see you soon.

Yours in social isolation

Robin Griffiths

Physics Teacher and Year 9 Form Tutor


*you won’t: this is a lie

** this is also a lie: they often haven’t muted their microphone, so…


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