Remote education-for a better future

So, for now education has had to accept that we need to get stuck in to transferring its entire existence into young people’s homes. Not only does this raise the challenge of finding the devices for kids to use and then the even harder challenge of getting them to use them, but it also raises far bigger questions about how this actually works…

The education sector has been overwhelmed. Exhausted from last year, ramping it up in 2021 was not in the plan. Plus, it’s January-say no more…

The Noise

The debates are raging about what is ‘the correct’ way to approach this new provision and even the likes of the DFE and Ofsted are grappling with the advice they give. Meanwhile, leaders are struggling with high numbers of key workers in school and still, despite ‘Lockdown’, bubbles are popping all over the place.

I too have been consumed by the debate. As an ex-teacher and leader, passionate about rich curriculums and building character, I have been a vocal advocate for more ‘live’ lessons. My kids love engaging with their teachers and peers online, for me that ‘community connection’ is vital in this time. However, as I listen to others explain how students can work at their own pace in pre-recorded sessions, I too can now see the benefits.

The truth is best practice can’t yet exist, also our communities are different, and we need to decide what we want to achieve for our own settings and our personal variables…

Why?

It is my view that this is a situation where we need to be really clear around what we are trying to achieve. This takes us to the very core of what education is all about for us personally, the big ‘why?’. Also, is this different in a pandemic? What is it that our communities need that is different from before? And an even bigger but perhaps more optimistic question, how can this change education for the better?

This time has really sharpened the focus on the role of education in society. Parents claiming Key Worker places without ‘real’ need is contentious, but it really does illustrate how much school is a valued resource for families; both inside and outside of the educational context.

Social Innovation…

Whilst it’s really tough right now, this is also a really exciting time for education. Pedagogy is being challenged to the max and as it changes, these innovations will disrupt the future of education.

In my view nothing we will never replace the energy of people in a room, but it’s utterly fascinating how emojis, chat functions and cameras are swiftly evolving to compensate for lack of non-verbal communication.

It’s worth noting that as education is in a time of social innovation, albeit forced, this is also a time to play. Play with ideas, get creative, make mistakes, for this is what is needed for us to progress; and know you are part of a historic change in the way education can be accessed and approached in the future.

Technology V Teaching and Learning

A lot of what is preventing innovation and creativity is the tension between teaching and learning and technology. This is to be expected as teachers grapple with platforms, wi-fi connection, and connecting with their class either live or pre-recorded.  But there is also a tension between perceived best practice ‘lessons’ and the pursuit to find ways to replicate this remotely.

PowerPoint, I believe, is currently a massive red herring. We all default to this as it mirrors our ‘normal’ teaching methods. It can be used to highlight key vocab, questions, demonstrate methodologies, show text etc. However, I believe that whilst it can be a very useful tool (and I am not suggesting it shouldn’t ever be used), it is currently limiting the evolution of online learning as it is often used as the starting point for lesson content.

I would suggest teachers consider taking PowerPoint out of a lesson when planning it. Just thinking about what you want to teach and how best to present this online/in the home. This will free teachers’ creative brains to focus on the teaching and learning, and then, if needed (I understand for certain subjects it’s invaluable) add PowerPoint back in.

Young People…

In my experience, schools are doing a great job of talking to students about their wellbeing and ensuring that pastoral care is part of their online provision. The world is a frightening and unpredictable place right now and this is bottom line essential.

I also believe that young people are developing independent skills which have not been applied to this extent in previous generations. How are we supporting them to develop self-discipline, to not be reliant on extrinsic feedback, and to grow intrinsic motivation?

Stronger

We are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, and in all this noise we can forget that this is our daily reality. As long as we ‘walk before we run’, and are kind to ourselves, we will learn a lot during this time.

We have an opportunity to support this future generation to take this experience into society so that they are stronger than those before. And that will be worth it.

Thank you, education. You’ve got this.

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