No matter what challenges our community faces, our mission at University of Toronto Schools endures. The learning will go on. When COVID-19 shuttered schools across the city and around the world, our entire school community came together in an orchestrated collective effort to shift to online learning. As we broke for March Break, it had become clear that education as usual was no longer an option. We took just over a week to transform UTS into an online school. This extraordinary feat of technical adaptation led to all hands on deck, many late nights, lengthy conversations with staff, the school captains, UTSPA, the UTS Board, and indeed the entire community and an incredible amount of flexibility from everyone involved. We did it! On March 24, our school dove into the brave, new world of online education, striving for the personal touch of live teaching in real time, which continues to ramp up.
The first week went smoothly as staff and students embraced new technologies like Google Meet for live classes, and Google Classroom, Slides and Docs for supporting materials like videos and assignments. Our teachers refined their courses and developed new materials conducive to online learning, and continue to adapt and learn on the fly. Students took part in online co-curriculars like Dungeons and Dragons, chess and Risk.
Many of our dedicated staff juggled their teaching with young children at home, as daycare centres closed, or also with other new personal responsibilities. The world changed, and we changed with it. When faced with adversity, we rose to the challenge, stayed true to our mission and pressed forward, knowing there is always more to learn.
Thanks to teaching and learning techniques already established to leverage digital tools, UTS was able to pivot swiftly and strategically to online learning in the spring of 2020, with the flexibility and nimbleness to respond to often-changing policies around in-person gathering.
Hear more from Dr. Cresencia Fong, Head of Teacher Learning and Research, as she discusses some of the ways in which UTS has been particularly well-positioned in these ever-changing times.
Field trips went virtual for the global pandemic and UTS teachers took their students on amazing educational adventures, without leaving their living rooms. In spring 2020, Mike Farley’s F1 (Grade 7) Geo students went to the farm virtually. They toured the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, ON, where research monkeys and other primates get a new lease on life. Even UTS Principal Rosemary Evans couldn’t resist joining in! They also toured the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary in Campbellville, where they met Instagram star Esther The Wonder Pig and her Dads Steve and Derek, whose book about Esther became a New York Times bestseller.
Marion Andrew took her F2 (Grade 8) science class out of this world, with a virtual visit from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Jenna Hinds.