Teachers are being given guidelines to prepare a minimum weekly number of hours of school work depending on their grade — five for early years, 10 for middle schoolers and at least three hours per course for high school students, respectively.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/4/2020 (368 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Free Press

Delivering Crucial Information.
Right Here.

Support this work for just $3.92/week

Teachers are being given guidelines to prepare a minimum weekly number of hours of school work depending on their grade — five for early years, 10 for middle schoolers and at least three hours per course for high school students, respectively.

17 online courses available

An online high school used to teach summer courses in Manitoba is being added to the list of resources for educators across the province to provide instruction from afar.

Grade 11 and 12 courses are provided on a platform called Brightspace, through InformNet, which is operated by Pembina Trails and St. James-Assiniboia school divisions. The courses are now available to all high school teachers free of charge.

“The best way to learn is face-to-face, but if you have to learn online, Brightspace is great,” said InformNet principal Tom Tarrant. (Brightspace by Desire 2 Learn (D2L) Corp. is a popular educational platform used by post-secondary institutes across the country.)

There are 17 courses available at present. Teachers will be able to use the content and connect with InformNet teachers for support, as well as staff in the department of education for professional development. These classes are in addition to the province’s 44 other web-based courses on the same Brightspace platform that teachers and students can access.

Teachers can also use the platform to upload original content, post timed tests and message students.

An online high school used to teach summer courses in Manitoba is being added to the list of resources for educators across the province to provide instruction from afar.

Grade 11 and 12 courses are provided on a platform called Brightspace, through InformNet, which is operated by Pembina Trails and St. James-Assiniboia school divisions. The courses are now available to all high school teachers free of charge.

“The best way to learn is face-to-face, but if you have to learn online, Brightspace is great,” said InformNet principal Tom Tarrant. (Brightspace by Desire 2 Learn (D2L) Corp. is a popular educational platform used by post-secondary institutes across the country.)

There are 17 courses available at present. Teachers will be able to use the content and connect with InformNet teachers for support, as well as staff in the department of education for professional development. These classes are in addition to the province’s 44 other web-based courses on the same Brightspace platform that teachers and students can access.

Teachers can also use the platform to upload original content, post timed tests and message students.

“I would really like to see it either complement what the students are missing or reaffirm what was going on before the kids left,” Tarrant said.

In a Monday press release, the province said upwards of 400 teachers have already signed up to use Brightspace. For students without access to technology, print-based modules will be provided.

Last week, the province unveiled the Manitoba Professional Learning Environment (Maple), a network that hosts curriculum-related resources and allows users to connect with consultants and teachers. Upwards of 1,200 teachers across the province have joined the platform since mid-March.

Work is underway to address specific needs of French and French immersion teachers and students, according to the province’s latest release. There are currently 12 distance-learning courses available in French.

Meanwhile, Brenda Brazeau, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Parent Councils, said Monday she’s concerned about how the province is distributing information about its ever-increasing list of resources.

“For those parents that aren’t home with their children, how do they put these (weekly learning hour guidelines) in places? What tools are you giving them to put these in place?” Brazeau said, adding she’s aware there are tools available, but that many parents are unaware of their existence.

“Are parents being emailed this information?”

— Maggie Macintosh

The baselines set for curricular content are among a list of updated expectations for students, educators and families during the indefinite distance learning period.

The province sent the document to school divisions late last week; it’s expected to be made public by the end of the week.

"These learning goals set clear expectations for students, families and teachers so students will be ready for next year," a provincial spokesperson told the Free Press Monday.

All educators are expected to continue direct learning, work full school days and continue to set goals and assess student progress — and at the same time, stay in touch with students via phone, online platform and by mail.

The document states that parents have a role in supporting teachers while students are responsible for establishing routines, actively participating in learning and being honest and communicative about challenges.

"It’s good to have a general guideline so you’re not being unrealistic, but at the same time, they’re just guidelines," said Valdine Björnson, a literacy and educational consultant at the Reading and Learning Clinic of Manitoba.

Björnson said it’s critical to consider that a task that might take one pupil only one or two hours to complete could take another student 20 hours, depending on learning strengths, technology challenges and support at home.

“It’s good to have a general guideline so you’re not being unrealistic, but at the same time, they’re just guidelines,” said Valdine Björnson, a literacy and educational consultant at the Reading and Learning Clinic of Manitoba.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“It’s good to have a general guideline so you’re not being unrealistic, but at the same time, they’re just guidelines,” said Valdine Björnson, a literacy and educational consultant at the Reading and Learning Clinic of Manitoba.

Both an educator and parent, she added the most important thing is communication with classroom teachers to ensure students are "on the right track."

In terms of teaching content, instructors who fall into the kindergarten to Grade 8 level category are being tasked with prioritizing literacy and numeracy, with "opportunities" for science and social studies, physical education and health, and the arts through cross-curricular planning.

In higher grades, the province has requested teachers prioritize learning outcomes and plan specific curriculum-related tasks. The document sent to divisions states that, for grade 11 and 12 courses, teachers are to "make special efforts" so students have the knowledge and skills required for post-graduation success.

The expectations were developed with divisions and other stakeholders to continue student learning while in-person learning is suspended due to COVID-19, according to the provincial spokesperson.

“These learning goals set clear expectations for students, families and teachers so students will be ready for next year.” – Provincial spokesperson

"It’s all about ensuring students are not penalized because of this situation we’re in and how we can support them," said Christian Michalik, superintendent for the Louis Riel School Division.

Michalik said Monday the hope is that these guidelines will allow students to continue to develop their confidence as independent learners — but overburdening families with work is a very real concern. It’s important to strike a balance, he said, adding he’s already heard from parents about work overload.

A grade 3-4 teacher in the division, Lesley Girling echoed that sentiment Monday. As the Sage Creek School teacher figures out how to teach from afar, she's found success in constantly communicating with students and families about individual needs. She just started teaching fractions as a new concept in math while she's been promoting both independent and group reading among her students as per the English Language Arts curriculum.

While Girling considers the weekly five-hour guideline for her students just that — a guideline — math teacher Dariusz Piatek said he doesn't believe three hours per week would be nearly enough for his course. A Grade 12 teacher at Maples Collegiate, he estimates his students are completing approximately three hours of pre-calculus content every day to keep up with his online lecture, math problems and test preparation.

“It’s all about ensuring students are not penalized because of this situation we’re in and how we can support them.” – Christian Michalik, superintendent for the Louis Riel School Division

Piatek expected some students would fall behind, but he's been pleasantly surprised that between 30 and 40 students of 41 students participate daily. Meanwhile, he said Monday he recognizes, "the world doesn’t end at pre-calculus" — even though it's a critical course for future scientists, doctors and engineers. Many of his students, Piatek added, are heading down those paths next autumn.

As promised by Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen, the latest distance learning document reiterates that no student will be held back due to the pandemic while the lowest grade any high school student will receive will be what they had achieved at the time classes were suspended mid-March. In lower levels, report cards will be sent home in June.

All marks will be accompanied by an indication of whether the student requires what the province is calling "recovery learning."

As Goertzen has made clear, there will be some "catch-up" work to do when classes resume as normal.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

   Read full biography