The Schools Linking project provides opportunities for meaningful positive social contact and this could not have been more important than during the isolation of lockdown.
Dr. Lindsey Cameron delivered a talk for the Linking Network on 22nd September 2021 to present findings on how virtual linking was received during the global COVID-19 pandemic. The Linking Network supports schools and communities across the UK by delivering “Linking Programmes” that allow students to meet others from different schools they would otherwise not meet.
Linking was found to be able to develop children’s communication, enquiry, and critical thinking skills; as well as reduce prejudice through enhancing students’ understanding of different groups. Despite being administered virtually, the impacts of virtual linking were profound. Students positively received this new way of linking, and were still able to explore identities and develop skills to talk about themselves more confidently. It was also found to help tremendously with lessening feelings of anxiety when meeting new people and building confidence around social settings.
As children were isolated to their own social bubbles, many enjoyed the ability to virtually interact with children from another school. Research participants have also observed how virtual linking allowed children to remember that they’re not alone in this situation, and that “the world is out there”. It is apparent that virtual linking allowed classes to maintain a sense of connection throughout the pandemic.
However, the research also noted barriers to virtual linking such as competing priorities during these changing times, communication break down (between schools) due to technical issues, and links deciding to pause or withdraw from the programme. Fortunately, there were a number of techniques that still made virtual linking successful and enjoyable for students. This include online games enabled by a shared link over Zoom, or exchanging physical work such as stories, artwork, and other information.
For upcoming Linking training, Cameron highlighted the need to allow time to plan the logistics of technology, being flexible with linking plans, communication with facilitators, and showing appreciation to teachers.
Find out more about Dr Lindsey Cameron’s work with The Linking Project here.