|Saint George’s School, in Colombia, was founded as a bilingual school. Lessons are taught in both Spanish and English. 5 years ago, the school became a Cambridge IGCSE school. The institution takes on 90 IGCSE students each year, across 3 classes. In April 2020, the school moved into lockdown to help beat the COVID-19 outbreak.|
We sat down to talk to IGCSE Economics teacher Andrea Isaza, and IGCSE combined Science teacher Leslie Carrillo, about the challenges of suddenly moving to remote teaching and how Kognity made all the difference.
When Coronavirus cases started to surge in Colombia in April 2020, schools found themselves thrown into an instant six-month lockdown.
The sudden move to remote learning was tough on the students.
Glitchy internet. Distractions. Difficulty understanding assignments.
It was also tough on teachers. Armed only with books and the school’s learning management system, Economics teacher Andrea Isaza found herself spending hours scanning and uploading grainy photos of textbooks for students to learn from at home.
“At the start of the pandemic, we didn’t have any online tools. It was really time-consuming for me, I had to take pictures of everything, scan everything, and upload all of the resources and information into Moodle. Sometimes, the students wouldn’t find the information — then a friend took a picture, and they would have to take out their cell phones. We didn’t know how long we would be at home.”
Unlike the Science and Maths departments, which already had their pick of digital tools and learning materials (including Kognity) to ease the transition to remote studies, the Economics department struggled. Andrea says:
“When we had to start working from home, it was like the dark ages! You had to try and find information from everywhere and share it in the best way, and there were no tools to help us. The situation was such a big surprise for everyone, so we were not prepared at all.”
Kognity: 1 – Distractions: 0
With YouTube videos and Netflix just a click away, Andrea wanted to find something more engaging than standard textbooks to keep her students focused, as the initial emergency four-day lockdown began to roll into months spent studying at home.
Andrea set out to find a digital tool to take the boredom and anxiety out of laptop learning. At first, this was tricky. She couldn’t find anything curriculum-aligned or suited for the course.
Andrea then learned about Kognity from science teacher Leslie, who had successfully been using Kognity before lockdown hit.
Kognity allowed Andrea to trade in textbooks for an immersive learning experience to fit her digitally-native students. Video examples, 3D models, and practice tests helped draw students into their studies.
“We cannot deny the fact that the younger generation are more ‘virtual’. Kognity is great for them — they like doing the reading, they find it easy to use, I think that’s one of the greatest advantages.”
In addition, Kognity featured curated content from Economics teachers and examiners that matched the entire class curriculum – providing a comprehensive coverage of Cambridge IGCSE™ syllabuses. She says:
“Kognity has been great for us this year. We have never had something like this before. Last year we used traditional printed textbooks, but we’d never found a product like Kognity before. The content is very good. It is complete, it is clear. Honestly, I have found Kognity to be an amazing tool to use in class.”
Less admin time, more teaching time
From grading papers to planning lessons, sometimes teaching can feel like 70% prep and paperwork and 30% spending time with students. At the start of lockdown, Andrea felt like the split was more like 90% planning and scanning and 10% teaching. She says:
“When we got Kognity, it really helped me to save time. Students had direct access to all the important information that they needed on the course. It has been easier for everyone to use Kognity — rather than using textbooks. Now, with the pandemic, it’s all about time and efficiency. That’s one of the greatest advantages of Kognity — you can access great content so easily.”
Kognity helped her focus more on teaching and less on admin:
“I think it’s really time efficient to use an online tool like Kognity. You can set pre-reading before class or schedule a question assignment during class time – it’s very time efficient. It really allows you to take advantage of the 40 minute class time.”
Easing the wave
Over in the Science department, the move to lockdown was far less chaotic. Leslie Carrillo, IGCSE combined Science teacher, had already been using Kognity for several months. She says:
“We really didn’t see a big change when we went home, because we already had the tools that we needed — like Kognity. The big change was having our class time virtually. Kognity helped me a lot. I started using a flipped classroom approach, where the students had to read about a topic and then I taught it in class in more detail.”
In particular, Leslie loved the interactive 3D models for sciences. She also found Kognity super helpful when it came to exam prep. In place of silent mock exams, she relied on Kognity’s exam-style questions that allowed her to hide the mark schemes to allow students to practice as if they were in an exam.
Catch the students falling behind — even when they’re not in front of you
How do you tell if a student is struggling in the classroom? As a teacher, you learn to spot the ones having difficulties learning. The students who are easily distracted, disruptive, or prone to spacing out.
But how do you identify a student that’s struggling from home?
Kognity made it easy for Saint George’s teachers to keep track of the students who were disengaged from their work. Focused on transforming the textbook from a static one-way experience to a dynamic two-way flow of information, Kognity allowed Andrea and Leslie to easily track student performance and support students who were falling behind with their studies.
“For the students who are not so self-motivated, we use Kognity in class and I can keep track of everything they’re doing and how they’re performing. I can let them know that, ‘Hey, I can see you haven’t been reading much, it would be great if you could take advantage of everything here and study yourself’. For these students, compared to traditional textbooks, they end up engaging with Kognity because of the different features, and using it more and in a more efficient way.”
And for the self-motivated students? Kognity inspired longer study sessions and dedicated exam prep:
“For the students who are really interested in learning and are very self-motivated, they are always using the platform in their own time to practice. It helps them to study for their exams. They have even organised study groups together where they use Kognity to prepare for their exams!”
Lockdown is out, Kognity is in
After 6 months of lockdown, the school has shifted to a hybrid model. Students now take it in turns to spend one week at home, and one week at school.
As the school moves to a hybrid model of remote studies and in-class learning, the teachers are still relying on Kognity to keep students motivated and to prepare for class.
Leslie highlights the importance of being able to check what students have been doing at home:
“What is most helpful for me is the reading assignments. I can make sure that they have done the reading ahead of class and I can be sure they know what we’re going to cover. Sometimes, at home, you’re not sure if they’re just on their phone or watching TV. Kognity helps me with that.”
“I think it’s teacher friendly, student friendly, it has been a wonderful tool for my classes because I can flip the classroom. I set a reading assignment before class. I talked to the students about Kognity and they said they really like it, they find it really useful. It has been a great help when it comes to preparing for exams.”
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