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How do our teachers bring learning to life at Haileybury Pangea?

What’s it actually like to teach in an online classroom and, with some of our educators teaching on-campus and online, how do they juggle both timetables? We asked teachers Mark McTier and Jillian Ferguson…

NEWS 28 Aug 2023

Mark McTier is the Senior School Head of Science at Haileybury and also teaches VCE Biology at Haileybury Pangea. Mark is also the coordinator of Science at Haileybury Rendall School in Darwin.

Can you run through a typical day when you are teaching on campus at Haileybury, and Haileybury Pangea too?

I normally start the day early with my tutor group students on campus at Haileybury and then meet with my Pangea students online. As our first Haileybury Pangea class of the week is on Monday morning, we usually have a conversation about the weekend and then discuss content we will cover for that week. We regularly use the online breakout rooms which gives me a chance to check one-on-one how students are going and to discuss their homework progress.

Sometimes we do a science experiment and I use the specialised Pangea filming room equipped with cameras and lighting so I can zoom in on the experiment results. Once the lesson concludes, I upload any class recording to students, prepare notes for the next class and follow up any questions with students, parents or the pastoral care team. If students need additional support, I see them online at lunchtime. In the afternoon, I teach my on-campus science classes.

How do you make the transition from classroom to online classroom?

It has taken time to adapt to teaching online at Pangea—it requires different preparation and technical skills. I have learnt how to use OneNote for delivering notes and content and checking work online. I have learnt how to use the newly refurbished Science experiment filming space with its multiple cameras, microphones, monitors and control box. Recently I did an experiment where we inserted a glow in the dark gene originating from jellyfish into bacteria, to make the bacteria glow. To view the results, I turned off the lights and using the overhead camera and a UV light, I zoomed in on the petri dishes to see the bacterial colonies fluoresce. If I’m not doing an experiment, I run classes from my office and use a second monitor to show students what I am doing, share learning resources and monitor the Teams chat. 

What’s different about teaching in an online classroom? 

My focus is on ensuring students understand complex concepts and the Pangea online model relies on students being strong, independent learners. This is quite different to the traditional classroom where I see students three or four times a week and I have plenty of opportunities to check in on them and keep them accountable. With regards to experiments in an online VCE Science subject, it’s important to demonstrate practical activities where students get a feel for what the hands-on experience is like. This is easily achieved with online simulations and live demonstrations.

What do you enjoy about teaching at Haileybury Pangea? 

I believe it’s so important to be involved in the frontiers of education and Haileybury Pangea is an opportunity to do that. I also think it’s good to lead by example and teaching an online class gives me firsthand experience of what is required from a pedagogy and skills point of view.

How do you keep students engaged and connected in your online classroom?

It is about building rapport with students by making the most of all contact session time. It is also important to work closely with students so they have an excellent understanding of content. Even though I see them twice a week, I keep them accountable and up-to-date using OneNote, the digital notebook app that all our students use. Finally, it’s critical to be passionate about your subject—I hope my enthusiasm and love of Science is infectious.

Jillian Ferguson teaches VCE Visual Communication Design at Haileybury Pangea and Haileybury. She also teaches VCD to Year 9 students at Haileybury Melbourne.

How easy do you find it to transition from the classroom to the online classroom?

My on-campus classes are held in the Sholto Black Art building, I then move to a Haileybury Pangea teaching hub to teach my afternoon online session. Sometimes I teach my Pangea classes from my home office, too.

What’s different about teaching in an online classroom?

The subject and basic structure of the course are the same and students use the same materials to complete their tasks. As there are not as many Pangea VCD classes as on-campus classes, we use email feedback and always catch-up early in the week. Pangea students use an extra device, such as an iPad, so I can see them working on creative tasks as opposed to me walking around the classroom and seeing students work. It’s important to find ways to keep every student engaged and I organise catch-up sessions that students can opt into each week for one-on-one assistance—that is working really well.

What do you enjoy about teaching at Haileybury Pangea?

I was teaching at Haileybury during the pandemic lockdowns and I felt teaching at Haileybury Pangea would use a similar structure. I also wrote the new VCD study design curriculum for our on-campus classes and, having written the curriculum, it made sense to become a Pangea teacher. I enjoyed teaching during lockdown because it was a challenge to adapt our art activities to an online format.

How do you keep students engaged and connected in your online classroom?

Being extremely passionate about Art and my course, I love to talk and design with the students. I enjoy interacting and bringing their world into the classroom. Our projects are real-world based and I make them very relatable to current markets. They can put their own personality and design and drawing skills into each task and create professional projects that matter. These students are the designers of the future and I feel privileged to be with them at the beginning and to foster a culture and love of the arts and design.

Haileybury Pangea teachers, like Mark and Jillian, are part of Haileybury’s vision to ensure that every student – both in traditional and online classrooms – benefit from the School’s commitment to brilliant teaching.

Each member of the Haileybury Pangea team is excited about the opportunities and potential of Haileybury’s newest campus and is on hand to support each student to make the most of their educational journey.