Teaching post-COVID: Using technology to transform your Drama practice

Article by Jodie Jurgs – Head of The Arts
Ipswich Girls' Grammar School / 11 December 2020

There is a lot of talk in the sector about the future of education and how we as a community should embrace what we have learnt from the global pandemic and apply it to reshape teaching and learning. As pockets of Australia now head back into lockdown, teachers are again forced to readdress their pedagogy and course design for the remote platform. If we have learnt anything in this time of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA), it is that the future of education must change to better reflect a Universal Design for Learning (UDL). In fact, VUCA demands that we avoid traditional, outdated approaches to curriculum to embrace vision, creativity, and agility in our design of learning experiences. In a world where everything is online, it is essential that schools create digitally rich learning environments to keep up with the fast pace of the world. So how can we make use of the advancements in EdTech to reshape the nature of teaching and learning in Drama? Furthermore, how can we enhance learner outcomes and better prepare our learners for the 21st century workforce in this post-covid landscape?

The benefits of an Arts education are widely acknowledged. Their unique skillset empowers students to deepen their knowledge and understanding of key cognitions and 21st century skills through a framework that encourages thinking outside of the box. Despite the practical nature of Arts subjects, there are clear opportunities to reconsider the design of courses to align our teaching and learning to adopt UDL pedagogy in a way that mimics tertiary education. Rather than using technology to replace tasks, how can educational programs and apps be used to open new frontiers in terms of accelerating learning and personalising the educational experience in Drama?

Online Course Structure

Most schools will have their own Learning Management System (LMS) and preferred programs designed for synchronous curriculum delivery and to enhance digital literacy. The Microsoft Suite is one example of a technology company heavily invested in the Education Sector. Their Educator Centre alone provides teachers with a bank of training, lesson plans, programs, and resources to facilitate the shift towards globalising education. Utilising a program such as TEAMS, will not only establish a central location for students to refer to for all class content, but opens up a multitude of opportunities to engage students in e-learning, and create strong community connection in the digital sphere.

Examples of features that may stimulate inventive exploration in your classes:

In using an LMS to centralise your course, students will have access to all class materials at the click of a button. Of course, like any program, students will need to be guided through the structure to ensure they understand its use. However, once established as a class norm, student learning will become less reliant on face-to-face delivery, encouraging self-efficacy and metacognition.

eLearning Resources

If the goal of blended learning is to remove the educational roadblocks and cater to a more diverse learner style and skillset, then students need to have access to the same information and opportunities online as they would live in the classroom. Furthermore, UDL dimensions must carefully be planned to ensure the various needs of all students are met. If absent, students can ask the teacher for missed work or read over provided notes, but this removed approach to learning does not have the greatest effect size. Rather, the targeted use of technology can assist teachers to utilise UDL, incorporating programs and apps that capture key content and make it accessible to a broader range of learner styles, outside of the classroom context.

Consider devising a lesson whose objective is to analyse and evaluate how design elements were manipulated to shape mood and tension. Unpacking the stimulus performance through class discussion will stimulate thought-provoking observations, tapping into the ‘brains trust’ that is collaborative learning. In addition to these live conversations and observations, you may find it crucial to revise the processes required to demonstrate those key cognitions. Outside of that live interaction and possibly annotated notes, the valuable teaching moments within this lesson may be lost the second students leave the classroom. For this reason, recording videos of explicit instruction can be incredibly effective in retaining student knowledge and removing barriers to accessing lesson content. While the pre-recording of explicit instruction and modelling may be time consuming at first, these valuable teaching resources are then available indefinitely, and can, depending on their content, be shared across units, subject areas and even departments, to develop a school wide approach to eLearning.

Other examples of Online Learning videos/ courses that you may incorporate into your teaching and learning program, include:

General

  • explicit teaching of the cognitions, utilising QCAA tool kits to establish a common language
  • study guide, providing students with a short course to develop their study skills
  • guide to online learning, stepping students through school-based apps/ programs and how students can use these to enhance their learning outcomes

Subject specific

  • dramatic languages explained, to help students recall and understand subject specific vocab
  • assessment instrument structure including talked through scaffolding on screencast

Unit specific

  • Model assessment, screencast with annotations and comments
  • Course introduction to pique student interest. Can also double as a short marketing clip around subject selection.

Formative Feedback and Student Records

The opportunities for Online learning mentioned above place the emphasis on the teacher in producing these instructional clips at ready access to the student. Another opportunity technology affords us in the classroom is in filing records of student work including class discussions (facilitated by teacher and shared as podcast) and the filming of performance drafts (with the opportunity for students to provide feedback posts). Rather than being organised in advance of planned lessons, teachers can use technology ad hoc to capture rich learning experiences on their personal devices and upload them to the central location to enable students to interact with class content outside the classroom.

Through the TEAMS video conferencing feature, teachers can record meetings. Once complete, these recordings are then shared to the post channel, allowing students to comment, leave an emoji, question, and share. This is particularly useful around assessment, as it stores all performance drafts in a central, accessible location, complete with teacher and peer feedback. A great storage of data and trail of formative feedback that can be referenced at any time.

The future of pedagogy

Education worldwide is currently under the microscope as we see increased interest in the use of technology that encompasses Universal Design for Learning. There are many creative applications for technology available that not only enhance student engagement but can enhance learner outcomes. As Arts Educators, rather than replace the valuable face-to-face and practical interactions that come with the nature of our subject, let’s shift our focus to see how we can use technology to bounce forward from Covid-19, and design blended courses that best prepare our students as 21st century learners.