The rapidly evolving Covid-19 picture is causing us to all think about how we can adapt our traditional teaching methods in the short-term to enable learning to continue during school closures. Clearly remote learning is no substitute for great classroom teaching which will always come first, but under the circumstances we are going to need to adopt and maximise impact using digital classroom offerings blended with printable resources and worksheets.
Whilst it is challenging in these unprecedented times to think longer-term, school leaders should be considering how they might best accelerate elements of existing strategies rather than investing in new technologies with a promise of being able to support teaching and learning remotely. There is a risk that as we all develop our continuity plans (most of us have been at this all weekend!) we fill a hole with a technology recommended by a Colleague or a Governor, which is purchased at cost when there are free tools available with equal functionality.
A number of software companies are extending free use of their software over coming months. For older learners Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams are the two most common digital classroom offerings. These tools are particularly powerful because they make it simple for teachers to set lessons and all materials in one place, receive and mark work remotely and monitor progress. Plus students are able to collaborate with their classmates and access their lessons anytime.
To help with the continuation of communication for schools, Herts for Learning are providing Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom options to schools that have not started to use these technologies but feel they would benefit from using some of their functionality immediately to help them plan better for remote working.
We will also be providing free training to schools both on Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams given the current circumstances; schools wishing to express an interest in registering staff for these courses (which will be delivered via Livestorm our webinar Technology) should do so at Technical@sd.hertsforlearning.co.uk. We will be very realistic with schools as to the benefits we think they will be able to achieve with these technologies based on their experience to date with them.
For primary phase learners Purple Mash are offering their tool (used extensively across Hertfordshire primary schools) for free for the duration of a school closure: using Purple Mash when school is closed. Seesaw (which has a free version) is often used with younger children: Seesaw to support remote learning.
For schools not ready to go digital, or mindful that a digital divide may exist in their community both TTS and Twinkl are offering free resources, including printables that schools can use to promote home learning
For advice and support on digital classroom offerings, the Technology in Schools Team at HfL can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01438 844777.
Further blogs to read