If only this was an Erasmus+ project!
Updated: Jan 15, 2021
One positive experience to come from this difficult and unprecedented time is reconnecting with ex colleagues. Last week for me this was a former Erasmus + project team, 2014-2016 “21st Century Digital Classrooms” with partner schools from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Bulgaria and the UK.
Once we confirmed we were all OK those of us just starting this strange and unknown journey were keen to hear from our colleagues about their initial experiences from their first 2 weeks of lock down. None of us could ever imagined we would find ourselves rapidly implementing the technologies and pedagogies we trialled in the project so rapidly and at such scale. My colleagues’ insights were fascinating and informative, particularly the advice they offered on how they would do things differently if they could go back two/ three weeks. Unlike our EU project we previously worked on we did not have 6 months to write a project plan and build a prototype followed by 6 months to trial with a few interested teachers with lots of reflection built in before moving to a few more classrooms. We were all suddenly in this project at scale at great speed without even signing up for it.
In true Erasmus + style time to think, discuss and reflect what are the big questions before starting would have been nice. However, that luxury is only possible on hindsight. Some of these questions may have steered our subsequent actions.
What do we want to replicate from the classroom? (REPLICATE)
E.g. pupils working together, teacher modelling, doing maths, correcting work.
What is the balance for our focus on covering new material or revising existing knowledge?
What will be the same and what will be different in the scheme of learning? (REPURPOSE)
E.g. setting work through a familiar online platform used for homework may be the same but the distinction between classwork and homework may not.
What will we not do, because we can’t and/or it’s not effective online? (REPLACE)
E.g. Teach full timetable in real time.
What will we now do, because we can and/or it’s effective online? (TRANSFORM)
E.g. Flipped learning (watch a video or run through a PowerPoint before coming together to go through problems, examples together)
And now to that important advice section with more thoughts and questions for consideration.
1. Establish a communication channel to reassure students (one to one or in small groups). In the rush to get lessons online and start teaching remotely and maintaining routines the well-being of the students which teachers automatically provide in the classroom environment was side-lined. Students soon started to be anxious, eg tech not working at home, illness in family, missing school, not understanding materials online, worried about their assessments. Some teachers wished they had spent the first week have initial calls, chats online with small groups to offer reassurance rather than go headlong into the online classroom while fielding calls and emails from anxious parents and students.
2. Technology Inequalities. There is a real risk that we’re creating a larger gap and additional inequities for students, especially when you’re trying for greater use of digital tools that some students just simply don’t have access to. Need to think about the technological needs of the home, the needs of the student and the needs of our teachers. Using existing tried and tested apps that can be accessed through a smart phone when there is no laptop/tablet/ PC is key?
3. Collaborative classrooms How can we use experiences of students to connect, create and collaborate in an online world? Let’s revisit E+ projects and other action research projects, where students use digital tools to create content, where teachers meet online to learn together, where visions of blended learning are being realised. E.g.
ITEC, Innovative technologies for an engaging classroom
4. Distinguish between online learning, teaching and assessment and setting objectives for each. What do we want to achieve and how best to do this and what platforms/tools are available to best support us in meeting our objectives. Build time for teachers for ongoing discussion, research and exploration on what pedagogies will work best for each in their context.
Use materials/ websites/ programmes /videos that already exist supplemented by;
Key questions posed in a discussion form
Exercises and learning tasks set to be completed offline and on paper
Decide amount of time that is realistic to learn at home, potentially without support, it will be much less than in school
Make learning active, do lots of maths, interact with it, not just watch it