Innovations helping to make the return to schools both safe and smooth after lockdown.
As lockdowns ease and students look forward to returning to physically returning to their schools and institutions, it is important that safety is maintained and the possibility of further waves of the virus reduced. From tent classrooms to live-streamed medical training, here are five innovative solutions to the many challenges faced by educators during the coronavirus pandemic.
1. INITIATIVE PROVIDES ELEARNING SUPPORT TO KENYA DURING COVID-19
Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, education facilities across the globe have been forced to temporarily close for the safety of their staff and students. In Kenya, over 15 million students are predicted to be learning from home, which has prompted multinational technology company Huawei Technologies to launch an eLearning initiative. The Learn ON program provides high-quality resources on an open platform, together with financial support to ensure educational continuity.
The program includes a few key benefits, the first being a €4.5 million Huawei ICT Academy Development Incentive Fund, provided to partner colleges for activities such as online courses and training. More than 1500 teachers are expected to be trained, and over 100 online “Train the Trainer” sessions will be available between through December. Lastly, 50,000 students are expected to be trained through online self-learning, courses and classes.
2. TENT CLASSROOMS COULD ENABLE MORE STUDENTS TO SAFELY RETURN TO SCHOOL
British studio Curl la Tourelle Head believes its concept tent classrooms could enable students to return to school while respecting social distancing guidelines. Pop-up teaching spaces would be assembled on the school’s playing fields or other nearby outdoor spaces and used alongside the school’s existing buildings. Inside, the tents would be arranged so that pupils are separated from each other by two metres.
The concept was inspired by tents being used by nurseries in Denmark. While the concept is currently designed for coronavirus social distancing, Curl la Tourelle Head hopes it could lead to a wider rethinking of the classroom and school design, or even inspire the concept of outdoor schooling. “Other countries including Denmark are experimenting with new models of outdoor learning. We believe that our emergency first step proposal will lead to new settings for learning environments and a much-needed rethink of school planning,” said Wayne Head, director of Curl la Tourelle Head.
3. STUDENTS DEVELOP VIRTUAL CLASSROOM FOR IMPROVED REMOTE-LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Kerala engineering students in India recently won the CODE19 hackathon, for creating a virtual classroom to enable uninterrupted learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their winning entry, iClassroom, connects students with teachers through a social media-type interface. Students and teachers can interact with each other, answer questions, mentor others and conduct online classes.
iClassroom was created by 19-year-old Abhinand C and 20-year-old Shilpa Rajeev, both students at Government College of Engineering in Kannur. According to Shilpa Rajeev, the platform will enable learning communities to interact with each other, share resources and keep track of progress in selected courses, without the need to use multiple communication tools.
4. UNIVERSITY LIVESTREAMS SURGERIES IN VR FOR IMMERSIVE DISTANCE LEARNING
While nothing can replace the hands-on experience of operating theatre training, Tokyo Women’s Medical University (TWMU) is providing the next best thing. Students can now observe surgeries in virtual reality. The overhead camera provides improved observation angles for students and reduces interruptions for the surgeon. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, students peered over surgeons’ shoulders. Now, having to increase the physical distance between people means that such close contact must be reduced.
The University hosts the Smart Cyber Operating Theater (SCOT) project, a near-future surgical treatment room working on and with experimental equipment and technologies. One of the latest additions to the theatre is an Insta360 Titan camera that Livestreams and records operations from the surgeon’s perspective. Currently, two students can virtually observe a procedure in real-time, and the university plans to increase that number.
Recordings of each treatment are creating a huge new resource, shareable locally as well as internationally. The university is already planning to use the material at medical conferences and future classes. If social distancing remains a long-term requirement, education will be greatly changed. VR may be one of the best ways to connect people, in learning environments and elsewhere.
5. COLOURFUL SCREENS HELP SCHOOLS WITH SOCIAL DISTANCING
Around the world, schools in countries hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic have had to shut down. Now, many are working on ways to allow students to return while also observing social-distancing guidelines. To help make this easier, UK furniture design and fabrication firm UNIT Fabrications has developed a series of colourful, mobile screens.
The screens were initially created as a special request by a local primary school, which needed a way to divide its existing space without making the school feel like a prison. UNIT came up with the idea for colourful plywood screens. The screens are low enough to allow teachers to see over them and are mounted on castors to make them easy to move around.
The use of plywood was a deliberate choice, to lend the screens warmth, and get away from the use of plastic screens seen in shops, which can feel more sterile. The wood is laminated on both sides, making it easy to clean, and the screen is framed by exposed plywood fins to soften its appearance. Each year group has its own colour, making it easier for students to stay within their social-distancing “bubble”. In addition to the screens, UNIT has also designed vinyl wayfinding markings to use on floors and walls in the same colour palette.
21st July 2020