Evolution in Education
One thing that has become clear over the last few months was that the majority of schools were not prepared for students to be working remotely from home as a result of a virus pandemic.
This should have come as a surprise as most schools were urged by the Department for Education to provide an online learning presence over a decade ago. Unfortunately although many schools did buy into platforms such as Moodle and Frog at the time, most schools provided very little training for staff and so these platforms became simply a repository for random Powerpoints and pdf's.
This was added to by the lack of technology in the classroom, meaning that IT was something that was experienced occasionally in a computer room, if of course one was available for booking. As a result the interest and use of Virtual Learning Environments (VLE's) died a death. In actual fact there was nothing wrong with the idea of a VLE, it was just that they came along before the system was ready for them.
Since those days things have evolved, with the two 'big names' getting in on the act. Both Google and Microsoft now provide tools to enable teachers to deliver learning to students and better still the majority of what they offer is free to schools. No longer do schools have to pay out large sums of money (£10,000 to £50,000) to set up a VLE, instead the tools are readily available and tools which many of our learners are already using in their day to day lives.
The hardware has also evolved, with Google's chromebooks now becoming a very popular cost effective replacement for traditional laptops and computers. Chromebooks which are cheap to buy, secure, easily managed, have an all day battery and a long lifespan, meaning that technology can be embedded into the classroom. The sharing of resources digitally via chromebooks can massively reduce the cost of photocopying.
For example one primary school that we work with had annual photocopying costs of £30,000 for their 100 students. With the implementation of G Suite the school was able to reduce their photocopying to £8,000 allowing them to invest in 1:1 Chromebooks for their students. Of course their saving is now an annual saving, freeing up much needed funds for other resources in future years.
The level of support provided by schools to their students over the last couple of months has varied enormously. Some schools have effectively run digital lessons following their in-school timetables, others have provided more flexible topic based support. Many though have struggled to keep their learners engaged and supported. This is through no fault of the teachers or students, it is simply that this 'modern' way of learning is alien to our traditional school system.
When schools return some teachers may be hoping to return to the 'same old ways'. This can't happen. The use of technology in the classroom must now be as common as the use of pen and paper. Digital technology and classroom learning should be truly 'blended'. No longer should the majority of your students stop learning your subject when they leave your class. Their learning should become integral to their daily lives and in such a way that it engages them. For example Duolingo a language app has over 30 million daily active learners. That's 30 million people actively and voluntarily engaged in their learning. Digital learning works and if done right works extremely well.
With the COVID-19 crisis the majority of companies in the world needed to move to working online, with some saying that they will now never go back to the way they used to work. Education needs to rise to the challenge and ensure that the learners that they are training are ready for the digital workplace that they will be required to work in. For this to happen it is essential that the teachers are trained effectively first or they will struggle to support their students.