What we’ve learned in this unusual year…

Whatever else you might say about 2020 (and we can think of plenty…), it’s certainly been a year in which many things have been unexpectedly discovered, from how to hold a virtual school assembly to what colleagues’ homes and their zoom-bombing pets look like.

For our last blog post of this most challenging of years, we thought we’d share some of the lessons we’ve picked up since everything changed in March. 

We’d love to hear what you’ve learned, too – about technology or teaching or yourself… It might be the discovery of a new tool or app, how to use an existing technology differently or an insight into blended learning. It might be a revelation about how to make Zoom meetings work better or a tip for better work/home balance. It could be a piece of advice somebody else passed on.

Tweet us @LdnCLC to share your 2020 lessons.

Krzysztof Jurek, IT systems manager

  • Schools with nearly identical technical setup and resources can and do have very different results in utilising their resources 
  • Staff training and their confidence in use of the available resources is probably more important than the available resources themselves 
  • “We’ve always done it this way” was/is very often the biggest obstacle from schools services being upgraded

Caitlin McMillan, teaching and learning consultant

  • Digital access is a much more nuanced and complex issue than you might think Children with older siblings. Poor home internet connection. Parents working from home. All of these could mean that primary age children have very little access to tech at home, even if they are not identified as vulnerable 
  • You can play audio through zoom in the screen share function to start your meeting with some music – it’s a lovely way to kick off 
  • Teachers are unbelievably resilient and creative – online assemblies/recorded lessons/digital PE sessions etc

James Goddard, project manager

  • Schools play an essential role in children’s wellbeing. School community is really important and parents have gained a new found respect for teachers. (“Schools providing social services including home delivery of school meals has been heartbreaking and warming simultaneously,” adds colleague Ben Butcher)

Peter Lillington, teaching and learning consultant

  • Small adjustments to timing, sequencing and variety of activity can make all the difference when running something online, even a conversation
  • Very short and simple low bandwidth videos (whatever the tool or platform) of a teacher or presenter introducing can be a surprisingly good resource both for adults and for students, before, during and/or after an online session
  • Teachers feeling empowered and trusted to decide what’s best for their students and knowing how to make adaptations and adjustments to any online component is a win-win situation, but needs a number of factors in place
  • Teachers and leaders have responded amazingly to massive challenges and have continued to do their best up to the end of the year, despite numerous obstacles and complications, often putting themselves last
  • A select number of tools can be used to make the two DfE promoted platforms of Google for Education and Microsoft 365 more student and family friendly, and that the global situation has made the large corporations improve and enhance their offer, and that other platforms such as See-Saw, Purple Mash and others continue to offer highly specific educational value and shouldn’t be abandoned without proper review
  • More than ever the need for ongoing online safety and digital literacy awareness and tips for the whole educational community, with misinformation and disinformation rife

Ben Butcher, business and operations manager

  • Throwing devices and connectivity at the problem of digital inclusion isn’t the full solution, necessary of course but unfortunately some of those government devices are still not being used despite the growing digital divide. As one teacher put it “getting kids online comes second to putting food on the table for our parents”. Change is needed at a more social level
  • Heads, teachers, TAs and parents all deserve our praise for everything they’ve done this year – we’ve also learned first hand how amazing school business managers and administrators are who have dealt with the logistical nightmare of covid with grace and tenacity in the background, keeping schools open under the most challenging of circumstances. They are the school’s unsung heroes
  • The power of the most simple tools to create collaborative online work environments. Despite all the new tools and apps coming out Jamboard is probably my favourite tool used this year
  • I think an important lesson to learn (on a more global scale) is that we’re not invincible and that we need to safeguard our people and the planet more effectively if we’re going to hand over a world worth living in to future generations. Perhaps even more important is the fact that we were given evidence of the power of the collective when we reduced our emissions so significantly during the first lockdown that we pushed earth overshoot day back to the latest date since 2005…

Afeefa Wilson, media assistant

  • A fulfilling experience going into schools to do workshops  and showing them how to use their space, resources and to be producers over consumers of their device.

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