Remote Learning should spark a digital revolution in schools

By Iain Hunter follow Iain on Twitter – @musical_IH

This lockdown has been very different to the first. Back on March 23rd last year I remember thinking how on earth we were meant to to deliver a curriculum remotely without the resources we have now? We had our emails, we had Show My Homework, we had other remote learning sites such as MyMaths, Edmodo and the lifesaver that has been Focus On Sound. However lessons were only existing on a to-do list on Show My Homework and I spent my days creating resources and writing schemes of work.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved that time to spent doing what I’ve always meant to get round to doing in normal times, but it was far from a satisfactory form of digital education. This lockdown has been very different. Microsoft Teams has meant that our school can closely follow the school timetable and expectations are extremely high for both students and teachers. Office365 has also opened up the world of working digitally with students creating work on One Note and submitting assignments. Everything has become integrated making collaborative working much more normal. It has meant that have needed to completely change their way of learning, and some break decades old habits to teach their subjects successfully.

I love embracing these new ways of working. I’ve hated sitting through the quagmire of the staff shared areas of all the schools I’ve worked in as I can never find what I’m looking for. Microsoft Teams (other video calling apps and collaboration spaces are available) has meant that everything is saved where it should be. Excel spreadsheets can be made ‘live’ and edited by multiple colleagues at once, and shared with colleagues who can use this when discussing in meetings and phone calls with parents. Worksheets are never lost, there’s no need for scissors and glue, lost exercise books or textbooks. Work can be copied and pasted from external websites and shared from one note. YouTube clips can be imported and annotated. Work can be marked by the power of the stylus on an iPad screen. I’m a massive convert to this way of working!

This has got me thinking. This experience of remote learning really should spark conversations in senior leadership team meetings up and down the country about the going completely paperless. Completely digital. There are examples of this way of learning in many different schools in the country. I observed one school in West Sussex where every member of staff and student had an iPad and not a lose worksheet in sight. Students were creating music using Garage Band and recording themselves making music live. Progress can be evidenced immediately with work saved centrally and marked instantaneously. Score writing programmes and apps such as Dorico and Sibelius can be used in the palm of each students’ hand.

It really is the future! Of course there’s a cost implication to all of this technology. There’s the Office 365 subscription, plus the cost of equipping every student and teacher with the technology they need. I recently heard an advert where the proposed cost of an iPad is £6 per device per month. Now is that really going to be much more expensive than several thousand exercise books, textbooks, reams of paper, glue sticks, scissors, pens, pencil and photocopier toner cartridges…oh, and the cost of repairing those photocopiers when they inevitably break. There really are few downsides to this.

We often hear the arguments about handwriting in matters like this, but I ask myself when the last time I wrote something down. We have smartphones to make notes these days. I really do think I’ve seen the future during this lockdown. Now all it needs is for SLT to take the bold move and go for it

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