Before we were fully affected by the pandemic caused by the Coronavirus, I was carrying out what I have called a “Scientific Expedition to Riotinto and Doñana” with a group of 60 students between 14 and 16 years of secondary and high school – as you can see in the featured picture.
Riotinto is a very peculiar and interesting place from a geological and biological point of view, and one of the headquarters of the program M.A.R.T.E., from NASA and CAB, (Spanish Centre for Astrobiology). The following image shows one of my students measuring the pH of the Rio Tinto water.
Doñana is one of the most important natural reserves in Europe. And we have been doing this excursion activity for four years at my high school, the IES Cervantes in Madrid (Spain). From all the expedition we are preparing, among all the participants a website that hopefully will grow little by little – see in the following photo of the Website in the process of creation.
We left Madrid on Monday, March 9 and returned on Friday the 13th, just one day before the state of alarm began in Spain and, and with it, our lockdown.
The most shocking thing for me was that after returning from Doñana, where I spent almost 24 hours every day with 60 students, two other teachers and three other environmental monitors, outdoors and in beautiful natural settings, I went overnight to lock myself at home 24 hours and without seeing almost anyone, only my small and wonderful family.
By those days, the closure of all schools in Madrid had already been decreed coming with the need and challenge to move to teach online that all the teachers had to face.
This emergency situation also led the Madrid educational authorities to urgently convene online courses for teachers on website management in Educamadrid (Create your blog with Educamadrid) and on virtual classrooms based on Moodle (Create your virtual classroom in Moodle). Which led me to participate voluntarily as an online tutor, since almost 9000 teachers and about 90 tutors signed up. During 10 intense days, plus another 3 days of extension. The courses ended with 70% of teachers completing them satisfactorily.
For me, it was a stressful but very interesting and rewarding experience. It was definitely what allowed me to feel useful in this situation and what helped me to cope with the quarantine.
All of that happened while still leading the online classes with my students. Teaching Biology, Geology and Scientific Culture using virtual classrooms based on Moodle, with forums to answer the queries and questions of my students, with contents and interactive activities using platforms like Science-bits, from the Scientix Resources section, from the Khan Academy, to name a few of them, and with OER (Open Educational Resources) elaborated by me with the eXeLearning authoring tool and published in my virtual classrooms.
I also taught online webinars in which, initially, I attempted to use the SOMR platform (Scientix Online Meeting Room) based on Adobe Connect: offered and made available to all of us, by Scientix. However, I have not been able to use it due to my poor connectivity and the obsolescence of my computer. Who did not face challenges like that in the past few days? We are all on the same boat! In any case, would like to express my deepest gratitude to all the technical support that Tomas Juskiv (EUN Science Education Department) provided me, and to all the Scientix team. In the end, I was able to do lead some webinars with my students, using other tools like Jitsi and Zoom.
While writing these lines I am, in Madrid, in my “confined Easter Holidays”. Next week we will return to our online and virtual classrooms, with the uncertainty of not knowing how this course will end. Also not knowing how and when this pandemic situation will end. Something that I wish, like everyone, to happen soon.
Finally, I wish you all keep strong, take good care of yourself and the ones around!
Author: Ismail Ali Gago, Spain Scientix Ambassador