Edtech: What are the best ways to adapt learning methods now we are all remote?

The education landscape is changing. In 2019 the Department for Education launched EdTech initiative to help cut teacher workload, support professional development and improve student outcomes.” This was introduced way before it could be foreseen that Covid-19 would change the teaching landscape and that learning at home, home schooling and teaching remotely would become the new normal.

Since Covid-19, schools, colleges and universities are shut, except for children of key workers. This has created a huge fracture from the normal education curriculum. Education institutions are now having to investigate ways of offering educational services, in part as a way of ensuring the wellbeing of students and pupils, who face potential anxiety and concern amid an interrupted educational experience, is maintained.

The question facing teachers and lecturers is, what are the best ways to adapt learning methods now we are all remote? The rise of digital technology over the past decade had made it much easier for teachers to be able to still give lessons over the internet. Many software companies now offer collaboration tools that make it possible to communicate and send large amounts of data online.

Online learning      

The most common way that education will be dispensed over the coming period will be online through a variety of Education and NEA approved sites. For example, Education City and Twinkl for primary schools, Moodle and other online learning providers for adults and students.

These tools will likely now form a larger part of the online learning curriculum than ever intended, as parents’ jungle work life and home schooling, and teachers have a way of assigning work and reviewing progress during the lockdown.

Video and audioconferencing

Cisco’s Webex for example has seen a 22-fold increase in use in China over the last few months and over 5.5billion minutes of conferencing time has been clocked in the last 15 days alone.

Teachers in the UK are yet to widely adopt this technology – due to current NEU advice to ensure pupils without the necessary infrastructure are not left out of the learning program and that there remains a secure way for everyone to login and complete their learning.

Webex tools allow teachers to interact with their students in much the same way that they will have done when physically at school or university. This will allow students to remain connected to both their teachers and their classmates in a learning environment. Not only will this keep education running as close to normal as possible, it will also help to maintain the sense of community within a learning group. This latter element is crucial to pupil wellbeing levels.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds says:

“We are living in a digital world with technology transforming the way we live our lives – both at home and in the workplace. But we must never think about technology for its own sake. Technology is an enabler and an enhancer. For too long in education, technology has been seen as something that adds to a teacher’s workload rather than helps to ease.”

Digitisation of resources

University students need a wide range of resources in order to complete their degree. By digitising these resources and making them available off campus, students can still access what they need in order to complete assignments away from the library. This allows students to access critical resources at a time and place convenient to them, without accessibility to a campus required.

Digitisation of resources also allows academics to more broadly share their findings and share this knowledge more freely in a student community, so learning is not confined to a lecture theatre.

Cloud Based Platforms

Another tool that sits especially well with the digitisation of resources is the use of cloud-based platforms. Examples include Rackspace, OneDrive, SharedDrive from Microsoft – which when combined with a Microsoft Office 365 license also enables Teams to be rolled out. This would help with dissertation, coursework and project-based group work, as well teachers to teacher and from teacher to student.

Teachers and lecturers can securely share and store valuable resources off the university premis, in a cloud-based platform.

This is a great way of dispensing resources to an entire cohort quickly and easily. A bonus of this is that students are able to make notes and ask questions that the other students can answer life. It also aids the management of resources and ensures the latest versions are always updated.

Cloud based platforms for study resources also aid the collaboration aspect of education, enhancing both the educational experience and sense of community – key factors in maintaining the wellbeing of students during a period of educational disruption.

The collaboration legacy

Collaborative tools will allow teachers and lecturers to keep the education of millions of young people during periods of home schooling or school closure. The tools serve a practical purpose in providing the ability to access educational resources remotely but perhaps more importantly, go beyond this and help to keep students motivated and connected to eachother and to their teacher. This supports their wellbeing and creates a sense of wider community as they would experience in the class room or lecture theatre.

One such example would be PurpleMash – an app used for primary teachers to even use it just to create a class blog – to keep lines of communication open with young pupils. This can go far with mental wellbeing – those perhaps too young to understand why school is closed and why they cant see their teacher or friends at present. It also benefits the teachers who may feel powerless to help their pupils at present yet want to hear how they are getting on without the management of receiving individual emails each day. 

When the crisis is over these tools will have gained further traction in mainstream education, leaving behind a collaboration legacy.

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