2020 – What a year! The nature of school life has shifted immeasurably over the past year and has required teaching staff to become more confident with teaching and supporting pupils using edtech learning platforms and other technologies.
At the height of the lockdown there were globally 1.6 billion children out of school. It quickly became apparent that pedagogy would have to shift to accommodate learning during this unprecedented time. Technology became crucial in ensuring that teachers could stay connected with their pupils (and each other!)
Now that pupils are back in school, the need for teachers and pupils to be digitally up to date has not depleted. It is still just as necessary, as increasing numbers of pupils are having to self-isolate.
The term ‘blended learning’ is becoming more and more prevalent in schools. For anyone not familiar with what this means, Wikipedia offers the following definition:
Blended learning is an approach to education that combines online educational materials and opportunities for interaction online with traditional place-based classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some elements of student control over time, place, path, or place.
At many schools, lockdown prompted the start of a professional dialogue around how to develop edtech use in order to support ‘blended learning’ for pupils during periods of remote learning at home.
We have been seeing schools using online learning platforms to deliver a carefully structured blend of live class teaching, combined with the setting of online tasks and quizzes for the pupils to complete. Further to this, teachers have had to quickly adapt to new ways of assessing work and giving feedback to pupils.
Ensuring staff are up to date
Teaching staff will have a range of different IT skills and experiences and will differ in their levels of confidence with using technology. So how can schools ensure their teaching staff are up to date with what is needed for effective learning and working with edtech as effectively as possible?
A good starting point is an electronic survey to ask teachers to give an honest reflection about how confident they feel with the ICT systems the school have in place regarding setting and assessing work remotely for their pupils, as well as delivering live lessons.
It’s also really important to check at this point that teachers feel confident with safeguarding protocols for IT use (especially when it comes to live teaching). The Keeping Children Safe in Education framework has been updated to include live teaching guidelines and it is imperative for teaching staff to be aware of the guidelines it sets out.
From the results of your survey you can then form small groups with the most confident edtech users as the lead facilitator of each group. The groups should then be given time and facilities to develop their skills in an informal setting and without any pressure. It’s also key that the training doesn’t take place at the end of a long day of teaching when teachers are tired and just want to go home (or get on with one of the other million and one things they need to do!)
A follow up email should then be sent following the training session, along with support materials (ideally training videos and supportive documentation) to help further with filling any knowledge gaps, and so that the staff have something to refer back to – often training can be overwhelming and there’s a lot of information to take in, so providing materials which the staff can come back to as often as they like is really important.
Just like with ‘in-person’ teaching, teachers will try something out only to discover that it just doesn’t work with their class and it’s important for teachers not to become disheartened about this and to be prepared to try something different until they find what works best for them. And when they do find something which works well- encourage them to share their success with other staff who many also be struggling!
For on-going success with using edtech to support and facilitate remote and blended learning it will be important to provide opportunities for on-going training and support.
Teachers don’t just complete their teacher training qualification and then just get left to teach forevermore; they attend workshops, training sessions and other CPD opportunities to carry on developing and improving their teaching practice – the same should be true for using edtech for remote learning!