On Wednesday 20 October, TIC Council and European Schoolnet hosted a virtual panel entitled “Back to School in the New Normal”.
The panel was composed of speakers from various backgrounds in the education sector:
- Stéphane Coupechoux, Health and Safety expert from Bureau Veritas
- Marilina Lonigro, Teacher & eTwinning ambassador
- Michael Hallissy, Expert in distance education
- Alice Ward, students representative
Co-moderated by Martin Michelot, TIC Council Executive Director Europe Region, and Rute Baptista, European Schoolnet Professional Development Manager, the speakers explored the challenges of reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing an insightful discussion on how to transform the pandemic into an opportunity to change the way in which the school environment is perceived.
Stéphane Coupechoux, Health and Safety expert from Bureau Veritas, explained the main steps to follow in case of an outbreak and the difficulties of implementing them in schools, especially in the most crowded areas. In particular, he focused on the importance of technical measures, like ventilation and vaccination, to be used together with sanitary protocols. In the future, he wishes that all the actors involved would remember the importance of health and safety measures, and how correct use of preventive tools can protect us and the surrounding environment from contamination. Finally, Mr. Coupechoux pointed out that the greatest challenge consists in designing different solutions depending on the age of the students, as they may not always be keen to follow rules and adapt to the restrictions.
On this note, Marilina Lonigro, teacher & eTwinning ambassador, remarked that the restrictions put in place undermined the social nature of the school environment, from the halls to the gyms, the classrooms and the labs. However, the “new normal” is also this: teachers learning new methods of perceiving education on the one hand, and students getting used to new ways of learning on the other hand.
Speaking of new ways of learning, Michael Hallissy, expert in distance education, pointed out that the key element for a positive outcome of blended learning is the cooperation between students and teachers. Conversely, without structural changes in schools, adequate technological tools and appropriate funding from governments, the goodwill of teachers and pupils loses its scope.
Last but not least, after hearing from the experts, Alice Ward represented the voice of the students. She explained that many schools have been already using blended learning even before the pandemic, and thus this has never been an issue for the younger generations. Also, quite surprisingly, she admitted that it was not difficult to get used to the always changing safety measures and that the “new school” was never a burden for them, as they quickly adapted to the new environment.
You may find the recording of the event here.
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