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In today's article CEO Owen Napier shares his thoughts on Edtech After Covid and Maintaining the Gains.
Over the past 14 months we’ve seen an unprecedented disruption to the way we all live, work and learn. While the many negative impacts of Covid are clear, the pandemic has also been a driver of positive changes, some of which have been brought about through the enhanced use of technology.
Positive technological change has been widespread in UK schools, enabling remote learning and keeping teachers in touch with colleagues and pupils alike.
However, with schools mostly open and classrooms mostly full, there has been an understandable desire to return to the old ways of doing things.
Nobody is advocating a continuation of eight hours a day in front of a computer screen; but the EdTech sector and schools should work together to ensure that some of the best practices are retained.
Here are our Top 3 suggested priorities:
1. The Power of Asynchronous Learning
Early in the first lockdown, forward-thinking, tech savvy schools were able to switch to live remote teaching using Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom. This enabled continuity for their pupils and allowed the curriculum to be taught at more or less its usual pace. But they soon started to encounter issues.
Teachers and pupils reported “Zoom fatigue” and parents struggled with the time commitments of work calls and virtual lessons for multiple children; not to mention, access to the devices required.
Soon, a more balanced approach emerged whereby teachers had live contact with pupils for short periods each day, but the majority of lesson content was delivered via pre-recorded video and digital resources. Essentially, this was the realisation of the “flipped classroom” model that has been around for over a decade and we think it has huge merit after the pandemic.
Pupils learn at different paces, and some are more receptive to learning at different times of the day. By continuing to provide a rich range of lesson content and pre-recorded video delivered by familiar teaching staff, schools can enhance provision and help to support and stretch learners at different stages.
2. Streamline and Synchronise
Last year over two million new accounts were created in Google and Microsoft platforms for the delivery of home learning through the DFE’s successful platform provisioning programme, as Computeam and other leading providers from across the sector set up over 7000 schools with a brand new digital learning platform.
It would have been impossible to manually create and maintain so many user accounts and ensure they were grouped together correctly, so we used synch tools to generate the right accounts from each school’s MIS.
We also deployed tools to ensure that the details from one account were then synchronised to others removing the need for users to log in multiple times every day.
These innovations mostly happen behind the scenes, but they are an important area for schools to continue to invest in on an ongoing basis (synch services will cost around £500 a year for a primary school and around twice that for the average secondary school).
Switching off the synch will probably result in little immediate disruption, but over time the smooth running of a system that has been taken for granted will start to frustrate users, pushing them away from their new digital platform.
3. Keep Meeting Virtually
Most of us have had our fill of web meetings and many are keen to go back to meeting in person.
But virtual meetings should continue because they are shorter, greener and more efficient.
At Computeam, we can engage with clients far more easily than we used to and we are seeing record numbers of teachers attend our video training session.
It is far easier to ask everyone to log in for an hour from 4pm – 5pm, perhaps after heading home, than it was to arrange a twilight in person session for a school and it costs half as much for us to deliver.
The key is to identify which meetings are best held in person and which are most beneficial to keep online – for example there is already a vocal movement among teachers to retain the time-saving, overrun-proof innovation of the virtual parents evenings!
As with any period of innovation, there were good and bad things about the way technology was used in schools during the pandemic. While we’re all keen to move on from the chaos of the past year, identifying and retaining the positive changes that have been made is a worthwhile endeavour for schools and EdTech providers alike.
If you’d like to discuss this, or highlight examples of positive technological change in your school then please do get in touch with us.
If you would like to be added to our mailing list to receive our newsletters, please email SWIFT Project Co-Ordinator, Jude Owens.