On Sunday, Feb. 23rd, rumors started that schools in the Lombardy region of Italy—the country’s economic powerhouse—might close. Confirmed cases and deaths from the new coronavirus were soaring. The healthcare system was teetering, and Italy had to dramatically change course in a bid to halt the virus. By evening, the region was in lockdown.
Within 24 hours, Iain Sachdev, principal at the International School of Monza, had organized his teachers and filmed a short video clip for students, faculty, and parents. School would open at 9am on Tuesday, he said. Be patient, he implored. Taking a school online in 24 hours was a massive feat which would be messy. Everyone would be learning.
Five weeks later, the school is still running—unfamiliar in many ways, identical in others. Teachers teach via video conferencing every day. Kids participate using Padlet, a virtual post-it note system that lets students share ideas; and Flipgrid, which lets teachers and students create short videos to share. Students do individual work, group work, and confer with teachers when needed. Sachdev has overhauled the schedule from 50-minute units to longer blocks. Teachers no longer use email, but Microsoft Teams.