What have we learned from remote learning?
Published: 15 March 2021
I know I’ve learned a lot!
Twelve months ago I’d never even heard of Click, Zoom or Microsoft Teams, let alone be able to use them to host a range of training sessions and meetings! My technical knowhow has improved exponentially. Well they do say “necessity is the mother of invention” and what else could I and so many others like me do if we wanted to continue working and communicating?
At our recent subject leader meetings we explored the lessons we had all learned from working in a new previously unchartered way, and recorded our thoughts on Padlet (a very successful lockdown discovery). In this blog, I’m going to share some of the positive outcomes our teachers discovered.
There were some definite themes to the lessons learned
Improved communication led to home-school relationships being strengthened during this time. Parents, many of whom had been difficult to engage, gained a new awareness of the pace and rhythm of the school day. They found videos which explored and modelled concepts and work for their children more helpful than reading instructions and became more aware of the expectations of the class teacher. They were able to access quick answers to their queries and keep in regular contact with schools. In fact, lots of schools reported better engagement with parents and an increase in contact and feedback from parents.
In our early years and KS1 classrooms, this provision of video to model approach proved invaluable in demonstrating the key principles of phonics. Those parents who don’t feel comfortable coming to school for the initial parent meeting to explain ‘how we teach your child to read’ were able to access this vital information without leaving their homes.
Children enjoyed the familiarity of seeing their teachers’ faces as well as hearing their voices on the numerous platforms which teachers discovered and made good use of this year. Children valued the feedback they received, whether that came in the form of voice recorded messages using MOTE or written feedback on Google docs or instant feedback provided through Desmos on in live lessons. Some teachers discovered these types of responses were very positive for some of the quieter members of the class.
Story time and class readers proved an invaluable tool for making connections as well as teaching reading comprehension strategies. Teachers explained that coming together at least once a day as a whole class helped alleviate feelings of loneliness or isolation. Some teachers also provided catch-up time for pupils to chat with their friends before or after a guided reading session. This type of regular contact also provided a check-up time to monitor children’s welfare and mental health.
Schools also went to great lengths to celebrate pupils’ achievements at home, making presentations of pupils' work and also by preparing in-school displays for the eventual return to school. Children enjoyed sharing stories they had written with other members of the school community. Many schools intend to continue sharing pupils' work in this way.
The window into the home lives of our pupils which the lockdown has afforded schools should enable them to be more aware of cultural barriers to learning, and notice where these issues may be a concern. Schools are more aware of...
- Low levels of self-organisation and self-discipline
- Parental absence or detachment
- Low levels of active parental support or encouragement
- Lack of technology
- Lack of private or quiet space
- Chaotic home life
- Competing economic or cultural pressure to work
- Competing social or peer pressures
- Competing leisure activities (e.g. gaming)
- Mental health issues
- Family crisis or bereavement
Teaching and Learning
Having to embrace a completely different way of working has led our teachers to reconsider the way they teach. Remote teaching has highlighted the importance of providing lessons which are precise, focussed and unambiguous, carefully structured for impact and pre-emptive of possible misconceptions.
Some of the new resources they have explored and embraced during lockdown will become part of their everyday teaching toolkit in the future. Certainly, many of our new tech skills will be used to improve home learning for children. Many teachers plan to continue recording instructional videos for pupils. They value the concise, precise and focused nature of the information they capture when working in this way and in turn this has led to a better, more explicit awareness of what constitutes essential, ‘core’ knowledge to be taught and remembered in a subject, topic or lesson.
Some of our teachers described improved learning behaviours which they hope to nurture and grow now children are back at school. For example, some reported an increase in independence when pupils were working remotely, for example children making better use of online resources such as dictionaries and thesauruses. They have observed a good level of engagement when they deliver teaching input online and then allow time for children to carry out the associated activity away from the screen.
Our teachers describe a better understanding of the value and impact of feedback. They made good use of the new technology they discovered to explore ways to communicate with pupils about the work. They also suggested that as they spent less time dealing with behaviour issues they had more time available for feedback. Some reported that much of their feedback was oral, and immediate, and involved children reading their work aloud to their peers which has increased their confidence and helps to share ideas with other members of the class.
Subject leaders have also identified exciting new approaches to managing transition between phases, using remote teaching and virtual visits.
There were many other activities our teachers felt worked well in remote teaching situations: interventions delivered in breakout rooms; drop-ins for pupils who needed extra help; online books; reading quizzes and assessments; story time; modelling shared writing; using children’s writing to model editing and 1:1 sessions such as phonics coaching sessions or catch up.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has led to increased IT competence among staff and pupils. Teachers and children across Devon have embraced a whole range of new platforms and programmes. Here are just a few more they recommended:
Loom, Jamboard, Google classroom, Class Dojo, Flipgrid, whiteboard.fi, MyOn, Oxford Owl, Oak Academy, Get Epic, Screencastify... to name but a few! You'll find even more suggestions on our Remote Learning: English pages.
We know that some of these will continue to be features of classroom practice for many lessons to come as will many of these lessons we have learned in this extraordinary period of our lives.
We offer a Remote Learning Webinars Bundle - Phonics , Reading, Sequences for only £30 which includes short tutorials on some of the tools and applications mentioned in this blog post. These recorded webinars cover the principles of effective teaching in each area, suggestions for adaptations for remote learning, modelling of activities and tools to support teachers, suggested links for further support.