Almost overnight, lockdown shook the education landscape to its core. School IT managers moved fast to transfer schools’ teaching and collaboration software online. Teachers moved quickly to learn new skills to ensure their pupils continued learning remotely. SLT members worked evenings and weekends to ensure staff were kept up to date and positive in the face of extreme uncertainty.
But despite rallying around to keep pupils in education, students struggled to maintain motivation away from teachers, peers and trusted learning tools. Once schools returned, it was proven that the classroom, and the people and technologies it contains, are truly the nucleus of learning.
What did lockdown teach educators?
According to our State of Technology in Education Report 2020/21, tech for engagement is now a strategic priority for almost 40% of schools, up 30% in 5 years. Yet most teachers struggled to motivate pupils during lockdown. Why?
Virtual learning kept self-motivated pupils engaged to an extent. But students who require ongoing teacher support were at a severe disadvantage. And, as time went on, it became evident that more and more pupils and parents were losing motivation outside of the classroom setting.
In general, educators don’t feel lockdown has benefitted students’ engagement either. Over a third (39%) estimate students were learning for less than one hour a day.
Find out how schools coped without the classroom in our blog with insights from Teacher Tapp.
Almost 80% of educators agree that technology helped them do a better job in education this year. Online learning platforms have been the most popular tool, used by 66%. Educators have also sought further ways to support their teaching — in one week, almost a quarter had subscribed to or used a new piece of software.
Teachers were reliant on technology for basic lesson delivery in 2020. And this brought to light a need to focus on training and development, and bringing schools’ software and hardware up to date.
A more digital-first, interactive learning approach is clearly needed across the board, but it must be effective. Pupils thrive in a classroom environment and there are tools available to support class-based learning in more ways than it is used.
In terms of a work/life balance, before the pandemic, 8 out of 10 teachers believed workload was contributing to high levels of stress in schools. But even without the additional pressure now faced by teachers, this wider issue could lead to burnout.
This year, 90% of educators say their work/life balance changed during lockdown. Some for the better, some for the worse. Many teachers made themselves available for teaching out of school hours this year, but with this comes a renewed sense of purpose back in classrooms. They feel more confident using technology during lessons and for out of school work, revision and student support.
Read how teachers kept their minds healthy and coped with change during 2020.
Will schools’ attitudes to educational technology shift?
The majority of teachers didn’t feel adequately equipped for remote teaching. Those with access to fundamental facilities were in the minority: around a third said they were able to set and receive work remotely, and only 10% said they had a platform for broadcasting a video lesson.
As our State of Technology in Education Reports show, neglected training presents an issue for effective edtech use. Similarly, fewer than 1 in 5 (19%) received training in how to support remote learning, with classroom teachers reporting the least training compared to senior staff.
Despite these setbacks, teachers found time to train themselves to use the tools needed to keep pupils learning during lockdown. As such, COVID-19 has been a catalyst for change — tech has been used for collaboration, hybrid and remote learning which presents a fresh opportunity for schools to take a digital-first attitude.
Since lockdown, teachers are excited to take the enhancements technology provided into the classroom. And, the more confident teachers become, the more they want to learn.
Afterall, edtech implemented effectively can do even more than inspire learners and improve teaching. At the same time, ongoing tech training is required to unite the tricks learnt during lockdown with long-term classroom learning goals.
Read how new attitudes to edtech could streamline IT processes, underpin budgets, make device management more straightforward, and enhance school security.
The importance of collaborative learning
As we have already mentioned, using tech for engagement is now a strategic priority for almost 40% of schools, up 30% in 5 years according to our research. As well as this, all educators, irrespective of job roles, recognise the value of technology for communication with pupils, parents and colleagues.
Indeed, 9 out of 10 educators now believe traditional teaching and technology will be seamlessly combined in future.
Collaborative learning can develop soft skills such as decision making, flexibility and problem-solving. With a collaborative learning approach, pupils make individual progress in tandem with others, working towards a common goal. Students are accountable to one another and, with appropriate direction, can self-manage. Pupils learn to better understand and anticipate difference, recognise it in themselves and others, and use it to their advantage.
And why is it so successful? As we’ve seen, pupils work best in groups rather than in isolation, like in lockdown. Well-planned collaboration allows all students to recognise and value the importance of their own contributions. It emboldens them with the confidence to teach and learn from others – not only their peers, but their teachers too.
Get in touch to arrange a free ActivPanel demo to see how our interactive front-of-class tech could drive more collaborative learning in your school.
A new approach to safeguarding
Lockdown has reinforced the importance of automated, data-driven processes for educational settings. Schools need systems which are adaptable to different building occupancies and shifting challenges.
What’s more, many schools are working towards digital transformation, not just from an online learning perspective but for administrative tasks and for safeguarding — some using infra-red temperature testing and contract traceability tools.
Yet video conferencing was and continues to be an area of concern for IT staff and SLTs, who faced issues with safeguarding and security during lockdown. With no standard approach applied, there was a worrying lack of regulation.
With schools looking to retain a digital-first approach to tasks like homework setting and remote learning if required, it comes as no surprise that online safety has become an even higher strategic priority for schools this year.
So, today, safeguarding is more than an IT issue. During lockdown school leaders and teachers were expected to think fast about realistic threats to schools and pupils posed by fast-tracked technology rollouts for remote learning.
Now more than ever, it’s important for schools to invest in thorough safety training: staff should be taught about online safety as part of safeguarding procedures. They should be briefed on using online content, school policies and safe use of systems.
Also, schools must conduct due diligence of edtech and any third party software or hardware: task IT teams with ensuring existing and new tech fall in line with school policies, and ensure that IT has a clear insight into any and all devices running over the school network.
For more tips on updating your safeguarding policies, take a look at our blog.
Will classroom activities change?
During lockdown, educators and pupils became increasingly reliant on remote tools to stay connected to each other. And while technology has been pivotal to home learning, that doesn’t mean pupils are getting a better education because of it.
In fact, according to TES, the attainment gap widened during the coronavirus lockdown, with larger gaps emerging among primary school age pupils. Indeed, 25% of educators believe technology will positively impact student education in the coming years, but 75% believe lack of access is increasingly a barrier for learning and widens the gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged families.
Classroom activities will streamline when it comes to interactive learning methods. Teachers are more practiced in which tools enhance learning, and which are surplus to requirements. As such, confidence in the growth potential of interactive front-of-class tech has increased threefold since 2016.
Educators have learnt since lockdown that tech should always, first and foremost, complement face to face interaction, rather than replace it. Take a rounded classroom strategy, for example. It aims to change the traditional classroom layout and puts teachers in the centre of the learning environment, using technology.
Stephen Holden, Executive Headteacher at Tottington Primary School explains that tech is there to aid and support learning in his school, not for his school to be seen as ‘tech savvy’. Watch him explain how in his school, front-of-class technology is used to ensure all pupils can collaborate on projects, see the information and hear effectively.
A growth mindset approach, meanwhile, encourages pupils to see their position in the class as flexible, and achievement as attainable. It’s a useful tool for motivation, raising pupils’ expectations and encouraging them to take ownership of their learning at the same time.
Read how a growth mindset helps boost learning, develops a curious mind and seeks out knowledge while encouraging pupils and teachers to feel more confident with tools and technologies in the classroom. Or, take a look at more education insights in our newly released State of Technology in Education report 2020/21.
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