The Dubai International Academy is one of the most progressive schools in the UAE. Operating out of 2 campuses, DIA implements the IB’s Primary Years Programme for a diverse student pool comprising over 60+ nationalities. There are 2 campuses – Emirate Hills and Al Barsha, together the schools cater to more than 1,800 students.
As the Head of Primary at Dubai International Academy, Al Barsha, I work closely with 70+ educators to design and implement the PYP programme. Collaborative planning and collective vision setting have been a cornerstone of how we think about teaching and learning at DIA Al Barsha. Over the past year, we’ve been using Toddle extensively to support our teachers with the collaborative planning process and our students with portfolio creation. What seemed very much to be an academic year on track was disrupted in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Overnight, our government opted for temporary school closure to ensure the safety of students and staff. However, we were clear in our minds about one thing – closing the school should not mean a pause on learning. We had to ensure that all our teachers felt supported in this unique challenge of teaching remotely.
We knew we had a time constraint on our hands. We needed a comprehensive learning solution for our teachers that not only mimicked the classroom environment but was also simple to use. Upon hearing that Toddle had introduced remote learning functionalities, I was curious to see if it would meet our requirements.
At the outset, it was great to know that all our teachers could continue to plan collaboratively on Toddle. The ability to collaborate in real-time on unit plans and learning experiences made teachers feel like they were in a virtual staff room of sorts! They enjoyed being connected!
We wanted students to be able to access tasks easily and submit work to their teachers, just like they would in their physical classrooms. We were pleasantly surprised that Toddle not only allowed students to submit their work but also went the extra mile by allowing them to do this through multiple media formats. Students could take pictures of their work, capture videos, and even write their responses! Our teachers felt that it could be powerful to have students record their audio responses, especially in the younger classes. We asked the Toddle team if it was possible to add an audio recording feature on their platform and they built that feature in less than a week. The turnaround time was phenomenal and I felt like a co-creator in the process – my voice as a user was heard.
For us, a key part of mimicking the real classroom was to capture students’ voices and provide them with opportunities to interact with each other. I was personally ready to compromise on this while shifting to remote learning – it seemed too hard to do! But I was happy to stand corrected. Through Toddle, teachers were able to start individual conversations and class discussions with their students – all of this while using multiple media formats.
As a school team, we were aware that remote learning would be successful only if students’ families were also invested in the setup. This was all so new to them! We liked that our teachers could message parents one-to-one on Toddle. This helped us stay connected to families and involve them in their children’s learning journey. We really feel like all of us are in this together, connected through Toddle.
Everything we needed to implement remote learning – collaborative real-time unit planning, assigning activities, receiving student work and giving feedback, initiating class discussions, and communicating with families – was made available to us through Toddle. Toddle has allowed our teachers to create a strong classroom culture online, just like in our physical classes.