Charlie James, Learning Technologist, Basingstoke College of Technology, a Google Reference College in the South East of England

Four months ago, telling a group of teachers that they had a week to completely alter their delivery to online could almost be dangerous, but throwing teachers into the deep-end is something they’re very used to.

A gentle suggestion of flipped learning might be accepted with a warm thanks but we need to remember that our teachers know what’s best for our students, even if other colleges are doing something ultra cool and you’re mad jealous of their green screen and lights. It’s about the intention.

But even though four months ago, they might have been against the idea, three months ago they did just that. They’re using our blended learning methods, and embracing flipped learning, we’re all jumping for joy on Twitter but we need to make sure it sticks.

They’re using it because they’ve come to us for support, and we’re supporting them with our online methods - which are great, don’t get me wrong - but we need to ensure that this becomes a permanent fixture for delivery post-covid.

This means that we need to make sure that teachers know our methods work without the remote part. Blended learning is a mix-up of traditional and online learning that can be done in the classroom, and flipped learning leaves the learning in the students hands, giving them the opportunity to research, study and learn about their course.

Although, we know it can be done in the classroom, just like every student, every teacher is different and has their own style, so we need to make sure it suits them and their needs and comfort zones. 

A lesson in trust

Photo Credit Avel Chuklanov

One of the lessons we need to take from this, if it hasn’t already been learnt, that we can trust in our teachers to still provide great quality teaching and learning regardless of how they have to do it. Teachers can think on their feet and problem-solve within three seconds of any problem arising, but this is due to confidence, and a been-there-done-that attitude. Most teachers won’t have this attitude towards technology, and despite their superhero problem-solving skills, they don’t want to spend an hour lesson problem-solving every three seconds. 

So, in the future, we need to train our staff and students on the things they want to know. In some cases, they might not know what they want, but after this, they’re going to have some ideas. Some of them may very well be adventurous and completely out-there, almost impossible, but that’s where we need to be honest and offer alternatives. Teachers want the best for their students, and we want the best for our teachers, so we have to be willing to put in the extra time and effort, and listen to what they want, rather than what we think works best for them. This also includes making sure we offer enough training sessions, so if something like this happens again, they can be confident in themselves to know they can handle it. I mean, they know they can handle it, but we need to make sure we can help enhance what they know, ensure they’re not overloaded, their wellbeing is protected and we can continue to help them save time.

Working together to improve the lives of our next generation

The EdTech Demonstrator Schools and Colleges programme that has been set up by the government has been an incredible gain for connecting schools and colleges together, which I hope continues even after the pandemic. The idea that leading colleges support other colleges and schools brings me joy, not even for FE finally being recognised, but also the collaboration between schools and colleges across the UK. If we continue this, we will only grow stronger and our education system can only improve. I’d also like to see more companies offering remote placements, now we know it can be done, so more students can benefit from quality work experience. We have proved that we can work together, so this needs to be something that only becomes better. It shouldn’t have taken a global pandemic to get organisations working together to improve the lives of our next generation.

We also need to make sure our apprentices are included and receive the same inclusive learning environment, the same mental health support, the same accessibility options, and the same treatment as any other student enrolled into the school or college. Ending apprenticeships early is not acceptable, refusing to support apprentices by not providing equipment and places to study is not acceptable. We can provide the same blended or flipped learning environment for apprentices through the college link, and we shouldn’t be finding excuses not to do so. Under the National Union of Students, apprentices have the same rights as all other students, and therefore apprentices have the same rights as all other students.

When this is finally over, we need to make sure that we don’t continue this for the sake of it, but continue to embed it into teaching and learning in a meaningful and relevant way. It has been great to see teachers really taking onboard using educational technology within the classroom, and arguably this was really the abrupt change we needed to show off what it can do and how edtech can have an impact. Allowing students to learn and develop with the tools and resources they grew up with introduces a new, flexible learning environment that can only improve. It is incredibly important that we continue to support and keep our teachers and students at the forefront of everything we do, this is how we achieve a fully student-centred learning experience.

Charlie James, Learning Technologist, Basingstoke College of Technology, a Google Reference College in the South East of England

A strong believer in student-centered learning, Charlie has an affinity for technologies and approaches which empower and accommodate all learners. Charlie also has a keen interest in AI and machine learning, social media and the uses of data within education, and is proud to work with the National Society of Apprentices as part of the Leadership Team.

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