It’s been a remarkably
challenging time for teachers and students as they cope with shift to lockdown.
As we reach the summer break, we talk to two teachers about how they’ve coped
and what’s worked well for them and their students:
Teaching in Lockdown
For John Palmer, CAS Community Leader for the Three Counties Computing Hub, it has been quite a turbulent time but one of utmost productivity.
His Worcester home has become an office, school and home all-in-one, balancing the needs of his family and children with iPads, keyboards and a Raspberry Pi 4). As John said; "I can use Citrix to connect my Windows laptop to the school network, so it’s almost the same as being at our desks at school, all five of us wrestling over use of the laptop periodically!".
At John's school, The Chase in Malvern, they have used Google Classroom for their Computing courses, to set assignments and allow teachers to monitor progress and provide support and feedback.
- His Key Stage 3 students have been making excellent progress with code.org projects () and the iDEA scheme.
- His 72 Year 10 students are using Craig n Dave resources to enable young people to continue their normal theory diet of flipped learning, workbooks and quizzes. His year 10 students have set up repl.It accounts so they can continue with Python programming challenges using this online environment.
- His Year 12 students have been balancing Google Classroom resources and assignments, planning their projects and learning C#, WPF and OOP using a variety of websites and online resources, and well as using the Isaac Computer Science resources and game boards for theory.
Life at home
John’s home life is reflective of many teachers with children working from home. “Access to technology in the “home school” has been an issue for many (including us)”.
“My youngest daughter Isabel (aged 9) has plugged my Raspberry Pi 4 into the TV in the dining room / office and has been working Scratch 3 projects inspired by Code Club and those on Scratch Ideas”, John says.
“By and large normal service has been maintained by creative use of technology, but we’re looking forward to getting back into school when it’s safe to do so for some meaningful face to face contact.”
John expects that there will be a blend of home and school based learning for a while, and is investing time in finding and creating online materials.
"I’ve been hearing good things about Code Combat and Seneca Learning and the NCCE website also signposts a range of resources and websites that can be used to continue educating and supporting young people whilst they are at home."
What has been the impact being away from your fellow teachers and students?
John has noted that the impact of lockdown has had the edge taken off it through the use of technology, but physical separation has had its challenge. He points in particular to “missing those “water cooler” moments” such as keeping an eye on screen time, staying physically and mentally healthy,and adjusting to new routines.
He and his fellow staff are now well-versed in catching up with colleagues, students and family / friends using Teams / Meet / Zoom and look forward to the occasions when they can catch up face to face, while suitably socially distanced.
John commented, “I think many are secretly looking forward to going back to school a bit more regularly, but of course are unlikely to ever say this out loud!”
John highlights CAS support as a vital part of supporting teachers through this transition period. “Whatever the future will look like, your local CAS Communities and Computing Hubs are here to support you, so you are not on your own!”
Patricia Pearson is the Computing lead at Prudhoe West First School in rural Northumberland and had these thoughts;
“We are a lovely, friendly, happy first school in Northumberland. Lockdown came as a big shock. I think none of us really thought it would happen and then bang! It did! We found ourselves in new territory with more questions than answers. The biggest one being 'how can we keep in contact with our children and let them know we still care'. Our home learning provision has never been pushing schedules and worksheets, but more about checking in regularly with the families we support and having an easy way to communicate some fun and worthwhile activities. It was apparent very quickly that one size would not fit all. We couldn't assume that everyone had access to technology, parents with time to dedicate to home learning or even a quiet space to learn.
“So, we set out a plan to hopefully suit everyone and from feedback we have received, we have managed to do a pretty good job. The school website is updated every week with weekly lessons for maths and English. Hamilton Trust and the BBC have offered a lifeline as did a number of other teaching websites who opened their doors to free resources. Home packs have been delivered or collected by those without printers.
“Launching Seesaw alongside EYFS tapestry which was already in place, has proved to be very successful. The ease and simplicity of daily activities based around themes such as space week, keep fit week, science week has meant we have regular communication with almost all of our pupils. Some of our children made over 100 posts in the first five weeks. We have responded to each and every one of them placing as much value on baking a cake and digging in the garden as videos of children reading and doing their spellings. There are many forms of education and the experiences of all our children are celebrated.
“This daily communication with fortnightly phone calls and weekly emails has meant that our relationship with our children and parents is as strong as ever. We organised two community initiatives - one to decorate a local care home for VE day and one to collect supplies for the West Northumberland food bank which has kept the school spirit of togetherness alive.
“We have a board ready in our reception area ready to decorate with lockdown learning material to celebrate all that has been achieved. We didn't choose this path and we certainly hope it doesn't continue for much longer but we faced it positively, with energy and with the attitude that we can get through this if we approach it together and in the right way. “