Term of digital distance learning begins for NZ teachers and pupils

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Empty classroom
New Zealand students across the country will be connecting via Zoom, Google hangouts and other internet platforms today, as classrooms remain empty during lockdown. Image: RNZ/123rf.com

By John Gerritsen, education correspondent of RNZ News

The second term of New Zealand’s school year starts today, but nobody is going to class.

Schools are in lockdown along with the rest of the country and more than 800,000 teachers and students are now starting two weeks of remote learning.

The curriculum leader for Year 7-8 at William Colenso College in Napier, Shyna Kesha, said she and other teachers were looking forward to getting back to teaching, even if it was via phone and internet.

READ MORE: PM unveils new support for students on NZ’s ‘deadliest day to date’

“It will be great to see our kids again, I can’t actually wait, I can’t wait to see what they’ve been up to,” she said.

“Students need their teachers, but teachers need their students as well.”


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Kesha said the focus would initially be on simply connecting with students.

“Making sure that they are emotionally okay, physically okay and just ensuring that they know that we are available to them,” she said.

“It’s really important to re-establish those relationships again, especially when our students are coming into a time when they don’t have a full understanding of what school might look like.”

Talking directly
Year 13 student at the college, Layla Christianson, said she was not worried by the prospect of online learning, and was grateful video-conferencing programmes would let her talk directly with teachers about maths and physics concepts.

“I’m going to miss being able to have face-to-face contact with my teachers, but we have the Zoom lessons set up where you’re still getting to talk to them,” she said.

In Northland, Horahora School principal Pat Newman said his teachers would be asking children to do things with the rest of their family.

“I used to suggest a lot of baking, but flour’s a bit hard to get. Checking the flowers that are out, checking what insects, how many birds you can see. If we can have families really getting together now that’s the really important part that will last and will benefit society in future,” he said.

Most teachers would be working with classes they already knew, but a few would be starting new jobs.

Among them is Laura Brennan, who would meet her students at Onehunga High School in Auckland for the first time today.

“I’m going to be introducing myself by a video which I’ll be posting on Google classroom just explaining who I am and that I’m going to be their new teacher,” she said.

Google hangouts
“We’re having Google hangouts and at that point I’ll with the other teacher be introducing myself to the class as well so I’ll be getting to know personalities through there and hopefully speaking to some of the students.”

The Education Ministry said it last week sent 23,664 hard-copy packs of education materials to children in Year 1-10 who attended decile 1-3 schools and it expected to send a further 40,000 this week.

It also sent yesterday laptop or chromebook computers to families that did not have one and expeted to send at least 5000 this week.

In addition, two educational television channels start broadcasting today.

English-language content will air on TVNZ channel 2+1, TVNZ on Demand, and Sky Channel 502, while Māori Television will broadcast content in the indigenous language te reo Māori.

The channels will run from 9am to 3pm on school days.

This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP – don’t show up at a medical centre.
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