How can remote teaching be effective
and how are CAS teachers, and their students coping? We spoke to CAS members in
primary and secondary schools, about what works well, and what changes they
think are here to stay?
With the Department for Education’s report on Remote Education stating that; “it is likely that schools will incorporate aspects of remote education into their teaching after the pandemic,” it looks like technology will remain a key part of learning. Remote education is different for every school and there are a wide variety of solutions to some of the key issues; whether that’s to have cameras on, deliver live or recorded lessons, which platform to use, and how to manage teacher’s own wellbeing.
Melanie Dennig is a CAS Master Teacher and Lead Teacher for Computer Science at Exeter Mathematics School.
“My biggest tip is a shorter lesson with an activity that everyone can take part in such as a shared whiteboard or a quiz to be completed in teams,” she said. Her other advice was to ‘stick to one platform” whether that’s Microsoft Teams or Google Classroom or whichever you prefer. Melanie delivers live lessons, but, she says she doesn’t insist that students put their cameras on. I know that many students are self-conscious about opening a window into their personal space,” she said.
Alice Pinches, Head of Computer Science at Exeter School agreed.
“My students aren't supposed to use fake backgrounds, but I can understand that many don’t want to have their home on camera, never mind the embarrassment of lockdown hair! I've also got quite a few struggling with connectivity in the more rural parts of Devon,” she said. “Students start a task off during a live lesson and like being able to check back in to ask any questions. The task might continue beyond the end of the live lesson, but they have got something started together and that seems to help.”
Alice added that she notices students are responding differently to remote lessons.
“Some of the children who are quiet in the classroom have really come out of their shell with remote lessons, but it’s hard to make sure everyone joins in with live lessons remotely, particularly if their cameras are off,” she observed.
Jayne Fenton-Hall, Head of ICT and Computing at a school in Surrey, also sets short tasks which students can complete and submit while the lesson is happening.
“Our students say they are more likely to do the task if it is part of the lesson rather than a being sent away to do a task independently,” she said.
Other teachers are delivering recorded lessons, Julia Roebuck who teaches at St John’s School, Sidmouth, records around 20 minutes for a timetabled hour of a lesson.
“Live lessons can be so hard for students with poor WiFi or who are sharing a device or a room with siblings. Recordings give more flexibility with those issues. it means they don’t need to be sitting in front of a laptop from 9am to 3pm. If students need to do it at later time, they can.”
Primary teachers have also adapted and found innovative ways of keeping children engaged.
“We’ve taken a blended approach with recorded lessons and live catch-up sessions,” said Jo Hodge, leader of CAS Southport Primary Community.
“Our Y6 have recorded lessons which they can play again, while Y1 phonics lessons are delivered live. The biggest challenge has been getting all stakeholders familiar with using the platform effectively. We’ve held workshops for parents and they email us for support.
“We make sure that we speak to our children every day. Certainly everyone, teachers, children and parents have become a lot more IT literate, and that’s a skill for life.”
James Jerrold, CAS Community Leader for Beaconsfield, and a primary and secondary school teacher in Buckinghamshire, said that the relationship with parents has changed.
“There’s a lot more frequent interaction, often informally. I expect that will continue, with parents wanting to interact more regularly throughout the term. I think we’ll see an increase in the use of flipped learning techniques too which is particularly useful if we see schools continuing to adopt a reduced timetable to reduce the numbers of pupils in the classroom.”
Hollie Newell teaches Y1 at a primary school in Leicester, says that there’s been a “huge leap in confidence” around remote education among parents, senior leaders and in the children.
Hollie, who is Leader of CAS Leicester North Primary Community delivers live lessons twice a day. Around 98% of the pupils at Hollie’s school have English as an additional language, which makes live interaction with the teacher additionally important. Her school provided home learning packs to the children, including ‘word mats’, phonics charts, white boards and more. They also provided 140 devices of which 32 were supplied by the Department for Education.
“Going forward I think there’s been a real shift in our school community. It’s raised the prominence of computing as a whole. I’m hopeful that teachers will feel more confident using technology across the curriculum.
“We’ve seen a ‘can do’ attitude in staff, children, and parents, and that’s been fantastic. It’s been all about problem solving.”
- Keep lessons as similar as possible to classroom lessons.
“I do exactly the same as I would in the classroom,” said Hollie Newell “I’ve made props, my own ‘mute’ symbol which I can hold up to give a visual cue for her five and six-year-olds. I do lots of actions, holding up my finger when counting and use a whiteboard. All of our children have a whiteboard at home too.”
- Don’t underestimate the children
“Our Y5 and Y6 have shown they have the capability to do more. They have upskilled massively in their computing and digital skills,” said Hollie.
- Keep it simple.
“If you’re comfortable with Powerpoint, use Powerpoint. Stick with what you know,” said Hollie.
- Have something ready for the children to look at while they are waiting for the lesson to start, ie website, tech news item.
- Make use of third-party websites and resources.
“We’ve been looking at Cyber security or "drawing" circuits that animate when they have a closed connection,” said Julia Roebuck. I've also been using NCCE KS3 resources with the school children and they have great activities all through the lesson.
- Try and use shared activities as much as possible
“At the end of a lesson, I do a quiz to check how much they’ve done and how they’ve engaged,” said Julia
- Different approaches suit different schools
“Know your students and what works for them!” said Jayne Fenton-Hall