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English Teacher, Claúdia Camposinhos, shares the online learning experience at Instituto Nun’Alvres in Portugal.

In the light of recent events regarding the novel Coronavirus, schools nationwide were forced to close their doors on 13th March, albeit to open brand new ones to their students. What seemed to be a faraway future, in which education was innovative, tech-savvy, and engaging was now a reality. No sooner were we all home in quarantine, than we started teaching in other classrooms, with other methodologies and resources. Few were those who had any training in online teaching, but when there is a will, there is a way. And therefore, we set off.

Our students were only given a one-day break to take it all in, and soon they embarked on a new learning experience they could have only imagined for the generations to come. They had individual email accounts created, they were allocated in their same classes at school in Google Classrooms LMS, and with just one click away, they were brought back ‘into’ school.

The 17th March left a mark on their future, that is certain. Resorting to collaborative work through breakout rooms and other cooperative learning apps, teachers could now coordinate synchronous and asynchronous classes, assigning tasks to their students, keeping a record of their performance and giving feedback on their work. No surprise that students felt engaged right away, especially when everything was brand new in their virtual classroom. But this thrill was not only experienced by students; teachers, at the other end, kept exploring new online educational apps they could use to address their classes in a more engaging and effective way. Little did they know that the learners in this pandemic scenario were two-sided: they, too, were engulfed in all the input, testing and doing research on new educational approaches.

In the beginning, everything seemed Dantesque. Besides schoolwork, teachers and parents were dealing with having to juggle their tasks – their children’s schooling, the house chores and a new school at home behind the screen. Suddenly, routine had changed into something unparalleled. Many felt anxious, others overwhelmed, yet all soon fell into place. Online education is a much slower process, and hence, in order to find that perfect balance, continuous feedback on the situation was given by families to headteachers, and ultimately to the Board.

Quarantining may have brought many disadvantages when it comes to education; nonetheless, there is more to gain from this experience than ever: that teachers, too, can excel themselves when working together towards the same objective. That families, too, can support their children in their process of learning. That students can also feel motivated and engaged in their learning experience. And that together, we can reach higher goals than those we had ever aimed for. Because, in the end, as Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. once said, One ‘s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains to its original dimensions.

So shall it be.