From ClassRoom to ClassZoom with volunteer Larry Monaghan

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Standard Life volunteer Larry Monaghan provided his thoughts on his experience as a virtual volunteer in Castleknock National School

“Whilst COVID has had a serious impact on our schools and students (not forgetting parents and carers either), Standard Life’s partnership with JA has focused efforts on mitigating its impact and supporting the educational experience of our young people. JA has developed a series of ‘blended’ programmes allowing volunteers to interact remotely with classrooms across Ireland.

However even this approach faces challenges when classrooms across the nation are closed. So I volunteered to undertake one of these programmes with a class where all the students were at home. A complete virtual ClassZoom.

My students were 6th Class at Castleknock National School and we connected, via Zoom, for sessions of 40 minutes to discuss ‘The Power of Design’ – one of the JA programmes.

It was great fun, even if we were missing the dynamics of the normal classroom setting. This is a generation completely at home with technology and more than tolerant of my initial clumsy attempts to create breakout rooms – by lesson 3, I no longer had to rescue breakout room orphans.

Once they got to grips with the subject, it did start to feel more like a class than a grouping of 24 isolated students. It also reinforced the lesson I had learnt previously, never underestimate a child’s capacity to adapt, learn, create and surprise. It did help that this class was already well versed and practiced in game and presentation design.

It was a great experience with a wonderful bunch of children – not forgetting the excellent assistance from 4 members of staff at each lesson.

Most children are now back at school and, as a result, JA will focus on delivering the blended programmes where the students will be classroom as opposed to ‘whatever room in the house is available’.

I would highly recommend volunteering for JA, it is an opportunity to support our local communities during this challenging time. Schools and their students are keen to maintain their engagement with the wider social environment and we can help to realise this.”