5 Steps to Implementing Technology for Effective Remote Education
To hear more of Sarah’s expert opinion, you can watch our webinar on remote catch-up learning. It’s available on demand now – click here to book.
If you had told me this time last year that I would be writing a blog on implementing technology in effective remote education, I would have shrugged my shoulders and wondered what on earth you were talking about.
Yet, here we are, many months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, when schools were first closed to the majority of pupils, some were more able to provide continuity of education. This was for a number of reasons, but predominately because they had planned for this eventuality and that they were utilising some remote learning packages already.
I am not going to advise which package you use. You have probably already spent a number of months working out the difference between Microsoft Teams, Google Classrooms and Zoom. The functionality is often similar and as the pandemic has rumbled on, various updates have rendered these services easier to use and more respondent to the needs of teachers. So enough of the things I am not going to talk about, and let’s focus on the things that I am.
In thinking about how you can use technology for effective remote education, there are number of steps you should take.
Step One: Identify your digitally vulnerable groups
Firstly, let’s start with identifying your digitally vulnerable group.
As a school, you are likely to have been in a position where you had provided work for remote education to students from March onwards. You are also in the position in which you are aware that some students may have not been able to access the work.
This will not just be about whether or not children had access to laptops or tablets, but also may include children that had poor connectivity or not have the space within their homes in which to work. You may have a sense that these groups are more vulnerable to be able to engage within their continuity of learning.
Step Two: Find practical strategies to mitigate that issue
For the digitally vulnerable, you have a number of choices depending on what the nature of the issue is:
- Provide the digital resources for remote education, if that fills the gap.
- Acknowledge that if there are significant localised restrictions to education, that those are the children that you ask to continue to attend school.
- Alternatively, you can provide paper-based resources for those children and continue with regular phone calls and the such to help give some resemblance of continuity of education.
Step Three: Practice using the tech with your students
Whether or not there is a second wave of heightened lockdowns, we have the slight advantage of knowing the implications of school closures. Use your time in school as an opportunity to see whether or not children know how to use the tech you have decided to use.
Has a child had to go into isolation? If this is the case, then encourage them to log in and virtually join in with the class. You can then showcase to the other pupils, basic functions and etiquette of the resources which you have decided to use. Where is the mute button? Do they know how to switch the camera off? Are they perhaps worried about other people seeing where they live and can you demonstrate changing the background so that others can’t see what is behind them?
You can experiment with this in the classroom: it can be a good way of allaying children’s fears before they potentially have to use it for the practical reason of attending a virtual classroom.
Step Four: Ensure that staff are aware of core functions of your chosen tech
Staff may have similar concerns to pupils. One of the things that senior leaders may have noticed, especially those teaching in expensive urban areas such as London, is the real issue of accommodation. Not everyone has a separate room in which they can teach a class, and as a senior leader, you must be mindful of this. You can do this in a few ways:
- Whilst staff may not wish to ask, demonstrate how they too may hide their background, so that students do not have an awareness of their teacher’s living situation.
- It is also important that you clarify with staff what their expectations are in terms of children’s interaction online. For example, does a teacher feel that it is very important that children keep their cameras on so they can check a child’s understanding? Or are they confident (perhaps because it is an older class) that young people will ask for clarity if needed, rather than relying on facial expressions?
- Other staff may wish to record the teaching and share with others. Some may want to do this in real time, others before the delivery of the lessons: however, there are some teachers that may feel deeply uncomfortable with the potential of being visually on camera. Check in with staff about not just what they feel confident with, but what they feel comfortable with.
Step Five: Create strategies for when things don't go as planned
Not all children will attend remote learning events. As a senior leader, you need to ask yourself: do I have a clear plan if children do not turn up to their remote learning offer? Will we be telephoning parents/carers to check in? How can I make sure that we are safeguarding children if they do not attend set sessions? It is important that you liaise with your normal team and see the remote learning offer as an extension of the in-house offer.
Other questions to ask yourself are:
- What about if a child’s internet is particularly poor, but this was not realised in the original audit relating to the identifying those who were digitally vulnerable?
- How will the school identify this need and make sure this child is still provided with continuity of education?
- Do you have an alternative plan for perhaps if the teacher is unwell and unable to provide a lesson?
To answer these queries, you should create and regularly review a remote learning strategy. The National College’s Essential CPD course on Effective Blended and Remote Education is the perfect starting point – to access it, you can click here.