As schools in England re-opened for the final weeks of the Easter term, we returned to three-dimensional learning. After seven weeks of screen time – delivered and shared with as much creativity and energy as we could collectively command – it was a joyful relief to be back in person.
Three-dimensional learning is, without doubt, the best way to go. This is particularly the case in boarding schools.
Certainly, we have shown that a boarding school in remote is possible. Indeed, necessity has been the mother of some extraordinary invention. We have shown that whole person education can be re-invented for the screen and much can be achieved through flipped learning; break-out rooms; online challenges; virtual collaboration. Those still not able to be with us here in Shrewsbury have continued to access Online Supported Learning; to take part in house life; to engage in a virtual co-curriculum. It is vital that we find the best ways to stay together when we are apart.
However, what has been evidenced strongly in our most recent return to in-person learning is that the deepest kinds of learning happen best when we a real community. That is not to say that great learning cannot happen virtually: it can. But, personal development is a multi-aspect process. Some things can be done by remote control; some things are best down hands-on – albeit at a social distance.
What we know, though, is that a Shrewsbury Education has one-off elements that achieve full colour and depth when it happens in three dimensions. Our culture, our educational philosophy, our unique brand of ‘whole person education’ – these are rooted in a sense of belonging to a distinctive community in a real place.
Some of the craft of teaching and learning can be transferred to the screen: we have seen this. Teachers and learners have undergone a paradigm shift of capability over the past year. We have seen significant gains in two-dimensional mode. But a virtual boarding school is, fundamentally, a contradiction in terms.
We knew it before, and we know it even more deeply now: a boarding school community is three-dimensional. As we pass the one-year milestone of lockdowns in England, it is clearer than ever that learning in person gives the broadest range of opportunity. In person, we are constantly connecting, sharing, challenging, transforming, enjoying, celebrating within a real community of real individuals.
It has been profoundly affirming to have you – the three-dimensional learner – back in person. Back, we hope, for good.