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The Edtech Podcast: the elements of freedom

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Is the UK education system compatible with empowered teaching? 

In the What Matters in Edtech podcast series, Rachel Ashmore, Senior Education Consultant at Promethean, teams up with other education professionals to discuss this question, and assess ways of delivering freedom for educators. 

This episode of the podcast looks at how school leaders and educators can drive a future-focused learning environment that allows educators more freedom to truly teach. It talks about maximising teachers’ time, developing flexibility and trust, and how to best implement tech that supports teaching and learning. 

Listen to the full podcast here:

The podcast discusses how schools can:

1. Reduce teacher workload

Cat Scutt of the Chartered College of Teaching and Learning outlines a potential conflict in schools: whilst educators do have some level of autonomy, many don’t feel empowered. This, perhaps, is less to do with policy and more to do with the accountability system. 

She suggests that there could be a disconnect between the perceptions of Ofsted’s expectations and the reality. Teachers may feel disempowered and overwhelmed, contributing to practices that aren’t helpful for teaching but vastly increase workload, such as triple marketing. 

Rachel Ashmore also explains that this freedom hinges on access to high-quality teaching solutions that actually work for educators. This includes adequate tools and connectivity, as well as access to relevant training and development programmes. Most importantly, schools need to allow the necessary time for embedding new solutions into the classroom for them to improve learning.

2. Improve learning environments

Stephen Holden, Headteacher of Tottington Primary School, explains how he transformed his school’s rating and reputation, and freed staff from negativity in the workplace.

The main contributing factor is school culture and ethos, and galvanizing a group of people to have a common purpose. In Tottington Primary it started with leadership and teamwork — technology is purely a secondary factor.

“Decide who you want to be as a leader,” Stephen says, “and stick to it. You don’t achieve camaraderie through fear.”

3. Free up valuable time

Occasions when the whole school is gathered together, such as inset days, are incredibly valuable. These sessions, however, are often a missed opportunity.

Stephen Holden suggests that more schools could use inset days to help everyone understand the wider vision, rather than discussing policy or getting bogged down in the details. He also likes to use these opportunities to make everyone feel they are part of something valuable.

Sarah Horrocks, Director of the London Connected Learning Centre, goes on to explain the value of creating this sense of community. It’s important for teachers to have a way to unite and share their expertise. 

Finally, to maximise teachers’ time, perhaps accountability should be less about observation, more about conversation, the podcast suggests.

4. Collaborate with other educators

The guest speakers also discuss how social media has allowed teachers to feel more empowered. 

Social channels have allowed teachers to go beyond the classroom and their schools to connect with educational professionals all across the world. It has created a positive movement led solely by teachers, not imposed by leaders or external bodies. 

5. Modernise lesson delivery

Finally, Stephen Holden suggests experimenting with your physical learning environment to boost learning outcomes. For many schools the traditional classroom format and layout has not changed vastly for centuries. 

Today, there’s no need for educators to be chained to the front of the room. A rounded classroom strategy aims to put teachers in the centre of the learning environment so there are no cheap seats in the classroom. This relies upon technology as well as collaborative learning, rather than one-way lesson delivery.

He suggests placing audio or visual technology around the room, such as bluetooth speakers or interactive panels like the ActivPanel Elements series, making learning fun and engaging for pupils. It’s worth noting you don’t need access to high-end technology to experiment with the concept.