Ensuring a safe return to school through strong leadership and effective technology
The education sector has shown great resilience throughout lockdown. The return to school has provided challenges for staff with frequent changes in policy. The government has recommended staggering teaching times and establishing ‘protective bubbles’ and schools must also factor in the possibility of local lockdowns. The priority to date has mostly been to ‘keep the lights on’ but now schools need to put contingency plans in place.
When this year’s crisis hit, schools had to pivot to digital
forms of learning at incredibly short notice. For many schools, there was a
rapid departure from the norm – hybrid or
blended learning may have been a long-term strategy, but few schools had
plans in place to switch to online learning overnight..
Inevitably, there was an element of firefighting in handling
the immediate crisis. Teachers drew heavily on IT teams, as well as their
chosen edtech suppliers and course designers, to get their virtual lessons up-and-running,
providing students with digital content and regular catch up sessions.
It will be important to take a different approach this term,
leading to a longer-term strategy that works seamlessly. Now is the time to put
measures in place to safeguard learning across all situations or outcomes and
most importantly, to ensure the continuity of education.
Schools can create engaging hybrid learning via modern learning platforms.
It is vital that schools establish clear expectations of
what hybrid learning success will look like and communicate this vision to
teaching and administrative staff as well as students.
They must embed a successful hybrid model into the school’s future
learning culture. Those anticipating a prolonged period of online learning
should commit to providing great learning experiences so students achieve agreed
and clearly defined learning outcomes. Most importantly, the quality of
teaching must continue to be the same standard as if pupils were still in the
Establishing an effective blended-learning strategy
While we cannot foresee exactly how the coming school year will develop, these initial adaptations to the learning environment will no doubt require a careful and well-balanced blended learning strategy, one that minimises unnecessary disruption as much as possible. This will require far more complex and sophisticated education technology and teaching solutions.
Schools must put the necessary technology in place to enable
a smooth transition to fully online or hybrid learning at short notice, should
the need arise. Teachers should be regularly updating content and creating an
online pool of engaging learning materials in a variety of formats, whether
audio, film, interactive quizzes or even establishing a class forum.
This way students will be able to learn anytime and anywhere, regardless of geography and personal circumstances, and stay in contact with their teachers and fellow classmates.
Changing the learning cycle: delivering a fully asynchronous learning
While such changes and relative uncertainty abound, student
progress will need to be measured in more advanced ways. Moving beyond simply
counting how many students have completed their assignments, online learning
will need to become far more dynamic and data-driven. Teachers will require
continuous insight into individual learning pathways to connect specific online
and offline experiences.
With classes online and in person, and activities completed
in school or remotely, they need tools to keep track of where students are, and
how they are progressing with their studies. In this instance, the ‘one size
fits all’ approach is no longer viable, teachers must know how each learner is doing
in comparison to the rest of the class.
With live learner data, teachers will have a complete overview
of students' progress – from which tasks have been completed, where they
excelled or where they might need to improve. Artificial intelligence (AI)
diagnostics will provide deep insight into how individuals are coping, enabling
teachers to step in and identify where a student may be struggling or falling
behind in their work. In doing so, schools will ensure teachers will be able to
teach all students, irrespective of external factors.
Ensuring staff are adequately trained to use edtech
Training for staff must be a priority. At the beginning of lockdown, across the world, we saw that many teachers had received little to no introductory training in the effective use of education technology. They may have gained some experience over the past few months, but it is important that staff are trained to use and apply different technologies effectively throughout their classes.
Teachers need to be given the opportunity to familiarise themselves with edtech and explore how best it can be applied, or even tailored, to their classes or subjects.
online pedagogy, staff will need to have a general understanding of different
online tools and workflows. Senior leadership must support in Continuing
Professional Development (CPD) for teachers.
It is important
that educators are onboard from the beginning, that they understand the
benefits of edtech and most of all, how to use it. With support, they can
explore new ways of learning and identify the most practical learning solution
for the current situation.
then begin to make their working lives easier. A modern learning platform can
function as a hub for all learning experiences including classroom-based,
blended or hybrid instruction, fully online, competency-based learning, and
even CPD for the educators themselves. It would provide a single port of call,
simple access for teachers and students and the required scalability to
accommodate a sudden increase in activity. Together with organised tutor
training on platform tools and ongoing support from technical teams, such
technology can help alleviate concerns as teachers navigate their new normal.
Effective leadership – working with your technology provider
student needs through a flexible, engaging hybrid learning model will require strong
leadership and strategic planning. Firefighting has its place, but now is the
time for fireproofing.
From this month,
edtech providers and their technical teams will play a central role in course
or subject delivery and design. Edtech providers should be seen as ‘partners’,
offering advice on course structure and delivery. The right partner provides
more than just technology – they also support implementation and training,
offering instructional design advice to help deliver against each institution’s
strategic vision for online learning.
It is vital
that staff and teachers communicate with one another, and also with their
chosen learning provider, to raise any concerns. This will be an opportunity to
iron out any issues or pre-empt potential problems. to ensure that the
technology is well-established within their classes and can meet the needs of
both students and teachers, A trusted senior leadership team must be in place, that
has the authority for rapid decision-making and the skills to step in when and
if mistakes occur.
may indeed remain uncertain for a while, effective, long term blended learning
strategies, coupled with effective leadership will provide a much needed safety
net. Now is the moment forleadership teams to assess how equipped their
schools are and to ensure that learning and technology strategies are in place
to meet future educational needs and cope with unforeseen events.