IB students face different online challenges

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. - During the COVID-19 pandemic, while all of De La Salle Collegiate’s classes are being taught online, juniors and seniors in the International Baccalaureate Program have a unique challenge. 

Eric Wynn (photo to right) is De La Salle's director of the worldwide education program. He says that all of the IB tests, traditionally given in May, are canceled for this academic year.

“What's important is that students do really well on their course work,” Wynn said. “That is what will count for their certificate and IB diploma.”

Wynn regularly video conferences with the entire IB team at least twice a week, and they agree on due dates. 

“We don’t want to overload the calendar, and burn out the kids,” he said.

Wynn is excited about how the course work is going and is pleased that most students have completed the CAS portion of the curriculum (Creativity, Activity, and Service), the purview of school psychologist Andrew Campbell. 

“Just because there is social distancing, students can still engage in individual creativity and service,” said Wynn, who is in his first year at De La Salle. “Students are trying new things. One student is doing a video diary of his quarantine. They can engage in service by raising awareness, such as creating a FAQ (frequently asked questions) for something like National Autism Day and sharing with their class.”

Wynn also sits in various virtual classrooms throughout the day and encourages teachers to be physically present. 

“It’s more interactive and personable,” he said. “Kids want to see their teacher’s face and hear their voice. It’s been a smooth transition. We’re lucky to have all this technology.”

Recently, foreign language teachers Adriana Vidican and Katarzyna Griffith have begun oral assessments in their French and Spanish classes. 

“This is nerve-wracking in normal times,” Wynn said. “Teachers work with students one-on-one. They begin with the student showing the teacher the room, and ensuring no dictionaries or posters are present, no phone opened to a translation app. The teachers literally hold a visual stimulus up to the screen. The student then has to describe the image in the target language, followed by a 15-minute conversation. It is challenging, but we’ve managed to transplant the environment.”

Wynn notes that the two math teachers, Catherine Leix and Shaun Legato, are using school cameras to enhance their math teaching. 

“They can write on a piece of paper, under the camera,” he said, “which is connected to the computer and the video conference.”

Most of the students had completed lab work in science classes before the mid-March shutdown, and are now working on self-directed labs. 

“They are tasked with coming up with an issue in chemistry or biology,” Wynn said. “They have to attempt to solve using their own hypothesis. There is some amazing critical thinking at work.”

Wynn also cites the book circles in the IB English classes of Annmarie Michol and Jenna Page.

“They are having lively discussions about the assigned reading, at 8:30 in the morning,” he said. “I am really excited about that.” 

For the May assessments, essentially a long-term project, it’s just not viable to do traditional testing. 

“We have to find out what they know and how they know it, without a paper and pencil test,” Wynn said. “Teachers are coming up with creative ways to assess, such as having students present a video to explain a chemical reaction or biological process.”

Another area of the IB curriculum is Art that traditionally students have an exhibition on risers, and make it look professional.

“Now, students will have to stage an exhibition at home, and photograph the whole thing and send it to the art teacher,” Wynn said. 

With school coming to a close next month, Wynn is looking at ways to send off the senior class with a virtual celebration. 

“We want to recognize their hard work,” he said. “IB students have chosen a challenging road, and gone above and beyond this year.” 
 

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