The Record - Issue 17: Summer 2020

116 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om F E ATUR E Continuing Educators worldwide have turned to collaborations to ensure learning continued for the 1.5 billion students who were out of school due to Covid-19 BY E L LY YAT E S - ROB E R T S T he coronavirus pandemic ripped through the heart of education. Teachers, parents and students were all deeply affected. Schools had to reimagine how they delivered learning. Parents had to find a way to fit teaching into their own work and life schedules. And research sug- gests that disruption to normal school life could be severely detrimental to students. Writing for Psychology Today , Matthias Doepke and Fabrizio Zilibotti, professors at Northwestern and Yale University respectively, likened the inter- ruption in learning to that of a summer break – citing the long-noted phenomenon of ‘summer learning loss’, where half of the knowledge gained in a school year can be lost. And neuroscientists writing in The Lancet say that social deprivation among adolescents might have far-reaching consequences in rela- tion to their brain development, behaviour and mental health. It has been critical, therefore, for educa- tion to be able to continue during periods of lockdown. Distance learning through virtual classrooms has been a key contributor to min- imising the negative educational impacts of lockdown for students. “Since January, Microsoft has been working with schools and universities around the world to respond to Covid-19,” said Anthony Salcito, vice president of education at Microsoft, at this year’s Microsoft Education Transformation Summit, itself held virtually, in May. In Italy, for example, in less than two months Microsoft helped to train over 90,000 teachers to use digital solutions through online teacher webinars. Rapid roll-out of Microsoft Teams has ena- bled many academic institutions to continue teaching. “A professor at University of Bologna in Italy shared how the school moved 90 per cent of courses for its 80,000 students online to Teams within three days,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. TheUKgovernment’s initiatives to facilitate and improve remote learning for students included Microsoft Showcase Schools. Three institutions held webinars to demonstrate to other schools how they could use technology and digital tools to deliver lessons online. There has been a role for Minecraft, too. “An elementary school in Japan hosted its graduation on Minecraft, building its own virtual assembly hall and seating to maintain the sense of com- munity and belonging so important in times like this,” continued Nadella. In collaboration with Unicef and the University of Cambridge, Microsoft launched the Learning Passport to help children continue their educa- tion despite school closures. The organisations expanded the scope of the tool, originally an education