Learnings from Lockdown

Almost overnight, lockdown shook the education landscape to its core. School IT managers moved fast to transfer schools’ teaching and collaboration software online. Teachers acted quickly to learn new skills to ensure their pupils continued learning remotely. SLT members worked evenings and weekends to ensure staff were kept up to date and remained positive in the face of extreme uncertainty.

Despite rallying around to keep pupils in education, students struggled to maintain motivation away from teachers, peers and trusted learning tools. Once schools returned, it was proven that the classroom, and the people and technologies it contains, are truly the centre of learning.

Promethean World have undertaken their latest State of Technology Report for 2020/2021 and have gathered opinions from over 2,000 educators during lockdown. They have uncovered which strategies and technologies schools relied on and how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the future of learning. This article explores the report in more depth and examines the learnings from lockdown. 

What Did Lockdown Teach Educators?

According to the report, tech for engagement is now a strategic priority for almost 40% of schools but most teachers struggled to motivate pupils during lockdown

Virtual learning kept self-motivated pupils engaged but students who require ongoing teacher support were at a severe disadvantage. As time went on, it became evident that more and more pupils and parents were losing motivation outside of the classroom setting. In general, educators feel lockdown has not benefitted student engagement; over a third (39%) estimate students were learning for less than one hour a day. 

Almost 80% of educators agree that technology helped them do a better job in education in 2020. Online learning platforms have been the most popular tool, used by 66%. Educators have also sought further ways to support their teaching — in one week, almost a quarter had subscribed to or used a new piece of software

Teachers were reliant on technology for basic lesson delivery in 2020 which brought to light a need to focus on training and development, and to bring schools’ software and hardware up to date.

A more digital-first, interactive learning approach is clearly needed across the board, but it must be effective. Pupils thrive in a classroom environment and there are tools available to support class-based learning in more ways than it is used. 

Work Life Balance 

In terms of a work/life balance, before the pandemic, 8 out of 10 teachers believed workload was contributing to high levels of stress in schools. But even without the additional pressure now faced by teachers, this wider issue could lead to burnout. 90% of educators say their work/life balance changed during lockdown. Some for the better, some for the worse. Many teachers made themselves available for teaching out of school hours this academic year, but with this comes a renewed sense of purpose back in classrooms. Teachers feel more confident using technology during lessons and for out of school work, revision and student support, which is one positive to come out of months of lockdown and home-schooling.

Will Schools’ Attitudes to EdTech Shift?

According to the Promethean World’s the State of Technology in Education Report the majority of teachers didn’t feel adequately equipped for remote teaching and those with access to fundamental facilities were in the minority.

The report also revealed neglected training presents an issue for effective tech use. Similarly, fewer than 1 in 5 educators (19%) received training in how to support remote learning, with classroom teachers reporting the least training compared to senior staff. Despite these setbacks, teachers found time to train themselves to use the tools needed to keep pupils learning during lockdown. As such, COVID-19 has been a catalyst for change — tech has been used for collaboration, hybrid and remote learning which presents a fresh opportunity for schools to take a digital-first attitude.

Since lockdown, many teachers are excited to take the enhancements technology provided into the classroom and, the more confident teachers become, the more they want to learn.  After all, EdTech implemented effectively can do even more than inspire learners and improve teaching. 

The Importance of Collaborative Learning

As we have already mentioned, using tech for engagement is now a strategic priority for almost 40% of schools. As well as this, all educators, irrespective of job roles, recognise the value of technology for communication with pupils, parents, and colleagues. A huge 90% of educators now believe traditional teaching and technology will be seamlessly combined in future

Collaborative learning can develop soft skills such as decision making, flexibility and problem-solving. With a collaborative learning approach, pupils make individual progress in tandem with others, working towards a common goal. Students are accountable to one another and, with appropriate direction, can self-manage. Pupils learn to better understand and anticipate difference, recognise it in themselves and others, and use it to their advantage.

And why is it so successful? As we’ve seen, pupils work best in groups rather than in isolation, like in lockdown. Well-planned collaboration allows all students to recognise and value the importance of their own contributions. It emboldens them with the confidence to teach and learn from others – not only their peers, but their teachers too.

A New Approach to Safeguarding

Lockdown has reinforced the importance of automated, data-driven processes for educational settings. Schools need systems which are adaptable to different building occupancies and shifting challenges. Many schools are working towards digital transformation, not just from an online learning perspective but for administrative tasks and for safeguarding — some using infra-red temperature testing and contact traceability tools.

Yet video conferencing was, and continues to be, an area of concern for IT staff and SLTs due to issues with safeguarding and security during lockdown. With no standard approach applied, there has been a worrying lack of regulation. With schools looking to retain a digital-first approach to tasks like homework setting and remote learning if required, it comes as no surprise that online safety has become an even higher strategic priority for schools. 

So, we have learned that safeguarding is more than an IT issue. During lockdown school leaders and teachers were expected to think fast about realistic threats to schools and pupils posed by fast-tracked technology rollouts for remote learning. Now more than ever, it’s important for schools to invest in thorough safety training: staff should be taught about online safety as part of safeguarding procedures. They should be briefed on using online content, school policies and safe use of systems

Schools must conduct due diligence of EdTech and any third-party software or hardware. Task IT teams with ensuring existing and new tech fall in line with school policies and ensure that IT has a clear insight into any, and all devices running over the school network. 

Will Classroom Activities Change?

During lockdown, educators and pupils became increasingly reliant on remote tools to stay connected to each other. And while technology has been pivotal to home learning, that doesn’t mean pupils are getting a better education because of it. 

It has been reported that the attainment gap widened during the coronavirus lockdown, with larger gaps emerging among primary school age pupils. Many educators believe technology will positively impact student education in the coming years, but an even greater number believe that lack of access is increasingly a barrier for learning and widens the gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged families.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly of all, educators have learnt since lockdown that tech should always, first and foremost, complement face to face interaction, rather than replace it

Original article provided by Promethean

Being a Headteacher has always had its own special challenges but since Covid-19 hit, the role has taken on many new dimensions. This article explores how one Headteacher has led their school to adapt their educational offering throughout the coronavirus pandemic and how they have led their teachers to support students and parents throughout lockdown.
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