Pupils, teachers and parents are finally celebrating a return to the classroom following extensive school closures during the pandemic.
However, there is a risk that the positive lessons from online learning might be lost if we do not take the time to reflect to see what has worked (and what has not) during the last year.
The transition to distance learning highlighted the ‘digital divide’, with as many as a third of children lacking any internet connection at all and the creator of the worldwide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee recently calling on governments to invest in universal broadband by 2030. Unfortunately, this issue is yet to be resolved despite many pupils continuing to self-isolate or shield.
Pre-pandemic, some primary schools had a limited knowledge of educational technology. For many it was something they planned to explore in the future, with the immediate focus simply on getting children physically into school.
There was a steep learning curve for those teachers who were unaccustomed to online learning, who did not necessarily have suitable equipment at home and needed training and support.
For example, safeguarding did not work well for everyone. Lots of pupils failed to log in when they were supposed to or did not complete work. Some learning platforms did not provide a real time live feed to verify it was a pupil themselves who was actually completing the work.
This was a particular cause for concern as teachers and support staff could not visit homes to ensure pupils’ safety due to social distancing measures.
Remote learning – First steps
For many schools, remote learning started with staff meetings online and sending out worksheets via email. There was a rapid expansion and soon schools started to deliver assemblies, story time and singing lessons via Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google hang outs.
The BBC and OAK Academy provided excellent online content for all ages and to cover most areas of the curriculum and this gave schools access to more content.
Teachers started to realise the range of resources that were out there - from video clips to lesson plans, from animations to games. They found they could create quizzes to check understanding at the end of a topic or as a fun lesson starter. Some schools grew in confidence and shared good practice with exemplars and benchmarks.
Over time, school communities discovered that pre-recorded lessons offered a huge opportunity for pupils to ‘fill in the gaps’ as they could watch them more than once. These lessons also freed up teacher time to support learners who needed a little more attention.
Educational technology – taking a longer view
A recent report from Ofsted has outlined that schools will need a versatile online platform so that pupils who are not in the physical classroom can have access, ‘not only to the full content of the lesson but also digital tools to facilitate real-time scaffolding and feedback’ and will receive ‘the same curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and level of socialisation to support their learning.’
The benefits of blended learning also extend to teachers, as remote platforms can play a crucial role in reducing teacher workload and stress levels.
With this in mind, it’s vital that any digital solution takes into account the needs and wellbeing of both pupil and teacher alike. A range of factors can help achieve this including:
- Safeguarding tools which include alert mechanisms, video/chat support, marking and various other industry-leading tools.
- Lots of variety – video content, live delivery, animation and game-based activities are engaging especially for young pupils and attractive to children with different learning preferences who might need increased stimulation.
- Materials that are designed to go above and beyond and really stretch pupils’ abilities. Lots of quiet, well-mannered children who may have struggled in traditional classroom settings have really thrived and shown their capabilities during lockdown.
Ian Hargreaves, Technical Product Manager at EDClass.