“Schools without walls”

Thanks to the ongoing training offered by the Cognita Schools Group during this lockdown, the entire TEMS team has had the opportunity to continue their training thanks to a series of webinars that have allowed them to acquire new knowledge in different learning areas.

These webinars counted with the participation of different staff members from Cognita Spain schools. In the case of TEMS, our Deputy Head, Jon Coward, held the webiñar “Collaboration in the digital age” in which he highlighted the importance of remaining connected and keep working on everything that has allowed us to work together during the isolation.

Jon stated that “we must encourage international mindedness within our students connecting through different projects across the world”.

Behind every great project is a great professional, and that is why we wanted to talk to Sabrina Espasandin. She is the Digital Learning Adviser at Cognita Spain, a key role in the digital transformation of schools, and the driving force in this initiative.

The impact COVID-19 has had on education, and especially online education, is undeniable. In a matter of days, we witnessed (and experienced first hand) the biggest distance learning experiment in history. Teachers around the world digitised their content and changed their whole class dynamics in just a few days, something that takes months of full-time work in a normal setting. 

From Cognita Spain, we wanted to offer our teachers across all schools the support they needed in such uncertain times so, in the days before lockdown, I started a series of online training sessions that would help teachers lay the foundation for their distance learning lessons. I was personally in awe of our teachers’ adaptability, resilience, and grit. What would have taken months to accomplish, took only days. 

Over my years as an educator and trainer, I have witnessed firsthand the power of community and this is something that has permeated every action of the digital strategy I have designed for Cognita Spain. We hold in-person network meetings with our digital leaders from every school, but also regular online digital energizers to build community, share best practices, and keep up to date with the latest innovations. The need for a space like this was more evident than ever to our socially-distancing teachers.  

The webinars were born out of this need to maintain the strong community we had built, but also take advantage of the collective wisdom we have as a group of schools. One of the benefits of this type of organisation is that we have a strong centralised support system and also a powerful network of teachers who are strong leaders in different fields. The webinars (and their Spanish counterpart, the webiñars) provided a much needed space for reflection and collaboration, an ongoing conversation on the challenges of education in this lockdown period and beyond. The encounters were so productive that they sparked new projects. For example, right after the “Collaboration in the Digital Age” webinar, an inter-school Science project was born, something that would not have been possible had we not created the space for debate and connections. 

Our webinar/webiñar website has received over a hundred visits since its launch in mid-May and the recordings of the sessions have been viewed dozens of times by those unable to attend the live meetings, which shows our staff’s need for continuous professional development. 

Facilitating these sessions has been one the highlights of this period for me. I have learnt from my peers and also seen many of our teachers step up to the challenge, share their learnings during this time, and grow as professionals. If there is something that COVID-19 has taught us (and reminded us) is that technology in the hands of teachers can be truly transformational.