Future terms: Building on the home-schooling legacy to revitalise learning
Watch the fifth instalment our Future Terms online panel series, exploring which solutions are worth keeping as schools adapt and re-invent in the long-term.
This panel session aired on 25 June 2020. Watch the full recording below.
- Amy Mitchell - Head of Programme Insights and Digital Learning at Teach First
- Cassie Buchanan - Executive Headteacher at Charles Dickens Primary and CEO at Charter Schools Educational Trust
- Daisy Christodoulou - Director of Education at No More Marking
- Ladi Greenstreet - Head of UKI at Accenture Ventures
- Matthew Hood - Principal at Oak National Academy
- 0:01 - Amy Mitchell introduction
- 2:58 - Cassie Buchanan opening statements
- 10:10 - Daisy Christodoulou opening statements
- 15:26 - Ladi Greenstreet opening statements
- 21:18 - Matthew Hood opening statements
- 31:10 - Question: How can the value of collaborative learning be preserved through online or asynchronous learning?
- 36:40 - Question: How do you deal with online learning for students who do not have access to the required technology?
- 41:22 - Question: How do questions about cybersecurity apply to education?
- 50:17 - Question: Does the variable provision of online learning demonstrate the need for a common curriculum?
- 53:03 - Question: With this increase in home learning, do you see current working practices being useful for days of absence in a post-COVID world?
- 55:06 - Question: What, if anything, can be done to replicate the emotional support and security of a school-based environment if children are at home?
- 57:06 - Question: What is the one silver lining of this situation that you think should stick with the sector?
Schools and the wider education sector have responded in innovative, flexible ways in the wake of school closures. What have we learnt about how to do things differently? And which solutions are worth keeping as schools adapt and re-invent in the long term?
Considering the changes that have had to be put in place during COVID-19, what online and blended approaches will we continue to use? And what aspects of online learning will prove less useful in future?
Positive sides to online/blended learning
Schools have been forced to adapt, which has shown just how innovative and flexible they can be. All industries are adapting to a new normal, and the education sector has taken on many of the methods used by various industries with more modern and technologically advanced practices. It's been a challenging time, but it's also shown how much the education sector needs to evolve and how much it can change given the opportunity.
Parents have experienced first-hand how complex teaching is, and the country has witnessed how vital and valuable teachers and the education sector are. They cannot be replaced, we need the structure of school life. Although COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated the increased need for flexibility, it has also proven the need for face-to-face teaching in school and the importance of school buildings themselves.
COVID-19 has brought about more specialist teaching. It has shown us that high-quality teaching in specific areas is much more conducive to learning than generalised teaching across all areas (of our panelists, Cassie in particular spoke about how this has been proven in her school). The panel agreed that the pandemic has also shown us the necessity of collaboration amongst teaching staff, other school staff, pupils, parents and government. Communication is key to development and success in the sector.
COVID-19 has given teachers more time, flexibility and autonomy when it comes to their training. The panel agreed that more resources are being made available to allow for this, underscoring the need for teachers to be able to control their own development and spend more time on it.
The panel also focused on the possibilities that technology creates for the school sector – particularly technologies that are already widely available but which schools aren't widely utilising. The panel agreed on the need for more asynchronous learning, but emphasised that we should look not to replace the classroom with tech, but to bring tech to the classroom. Traditional methods can be enhanced by tech, making possible seamless integration between face-to-face and online teaching methods. The panel cited healthcare as an example - technology has improved doctors' and nurses' work, but can never replace doctors and nurses themselves. What technology allows is improved efficiency, removing obstacles and allowing teachers to focus directly on their pupils' learning. The panel mentioned assessments and homework as a perfect example of workload that could be revolutionised through technology and automation.
The panel also discussed using technology to overcome absences - when pupils or teachers are absent, work could be set and assessed using the methods already being used in lockdown. This could be a great opportunity to end issues caused by absences - less spread of illnesses, less stress, more trust between schools, teachers, pupils and their families.
Negative sides to online/blended learning
The panel argued that our technological shifts have not been dramatic enough, partly due to concerns about security. However, much modern software is built with this in mind, especially if it's intended for use in education.
Panelists noted that tech is expensive and school budgets will need to shift to facilitate further progress. There are significant unanswered questions - eg, how do we get devices to children who do not have any? How do we provide support when devices fail or are lost or damaged?
The panelists all shared a concern about how the current ways of working during the pandemic are affecting motivation and feedback. Real-time feedback is essential both for teachers as they plan their lessons and for pupils, to provide stronger motivation and development. The panel all agreed that there is no replacement for teaching on a one-to-one level – many of the positive stories about teaching during COVID-19 have been about teachers and pupils who had strong, established relationships before lockdown. These relationships can't be founded or developed to the same degree online.
The discussion moved to pupil age. Panelists talked about how some techniques to motivate pupils, like celebration videos, are unlikely to work with very young children. The consensus was that older children will be able to cope with online learning a lot better.
Lastly, they discussed teacher training - learning to teach often focuses on dealing with behavioural issues first and learning how to deliver the curriculum after that. Behavioural issues don't emerge in the same way online as they do face-to-face. In some regards this is a good thing, as teachers are developing their ability to teach, focusing on ways to help get the curriculum across to pupils, but on the other hand the current teaching methods may need to be adapted to improve this. The panel noted that online learning may be showing us a need for a centralised curriculum.
The panel ended with their thoughts on the future of teaching. They emphasised evidence-based learning and collaboration, as well as the need to build more resilience into the schooling system. The pandemic has proven that the system isn’t sufficiently robust and needs to be better prepared for future crises – perhaps not on the same scale, but the panel agreed that it still need to be more adaptable, with deeper contingency planning.
They also discussed how the public as a whole need to be more invested in education and how the momentum and awareness built up during lockdown can support this. Lastly, the panel reiterated the need to build on technology usage while using what we've learnt during the pandemic to fully understand the importance of face-to-face teaching.
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