Dr Sara de Freitas

While a phased approach for students returning to school is in full swing, and normal attendance resuming from September, there is still a large emphasis on the role of technology and the use of resources and services to help children continue learning – regardless of whether we have a second wave or shift to blended learning approaches more permanently in the future. However, if that is the case, while we welcome any resource that helps provide teachers with a credible and structured source of content, what we’re failing to address is the live, synchronous element of teaching and learning. We must also consider what you do with the content, how you integrate it to meet school and individual learner needs, and how you bring it to life through live teaching.

Technological advances have innovated the way we are able to home school over the last two decades. Yet, being thrown into a situation where you must suddenly teach a child with no preparation and limited guidance, certainly came as a shock to parents, learning what generations of home schoolers over the years have learned: that teaching is a lot more challenging than they may have appreciated. Additionally, requiring teachers to unexpectedly change tack and teach in a new environment and being expected to achieve the same results, is a mighty ask, especially when it requires a different set of skills altogether.

There is a question in the value of new resource hubs for those schools who may have already covered off what is being taught in their scheme of work this year or who have already put together all the content they need via other platforms. Instead, there should be greater focus on how we help them to deliver content; this needs to be in a more meaningful way in order to obtain the same engagement levels and results, and in some cases, better.

Teaching in an online learning environment requires a solid understanding of how students operate in a virtual space and what skills can be adapted or boosted to teach in a variety of online settings.

Although not for some, this way of learning isn’t new and has already helped thousands of students who experienced bullying, anxiety, lack of confidence or simply weren’t receptive to mainstream classrooms. These young people require a safe and secure environment, free from disruption, to build up their confidence and work at times that suit their needs.

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We can learn from teachers with accredited qualifications for teaching online, who are already experienced in this form of content delivery and understand how to get the most out of their students. These teachers have been exposed to pedagogies for online learning and recognise the differences between online learning environments and the physical classroom and can demonstrate the application of knowledge and skills to plan and facilitate effective online teaching using various tools, forums and open content to interact with students as well as conducting formative and summative assessment.

Combined with good teaching practices and techniques, some of the best ways to engage and motivate students through the screen include chunking content and providing regular quizzing, simulations, animations, and assignments that stretch and test skills as well as subject knowledge. However, it’s also about being able to provide students with the flexibility to learn in a way that suits them best.

After all, not all children learn or thrive in the same environment. Since the lockdown, we are actually seeing students who weren’t performing well in mainstream settings doing better now than they ever were before. This isn’t necessarily because of the different pedagogy used or the change in content but simply because of the different setting. The same can be said for other factors which may impact learning, including playground bullying and disruptive behaviour; both of which are a negative force for some children. The change of setting, or context of learning is also a major component of this transformation.

All teachers have the potential capability to teach online as the sector shifts, be that through blended learning or fully integrated online schooling, and as educators, we want all students to succeed and reach their full potential. That is why it’s imperative that we provide more support to teachers now, in order to help them reach and connect with every one of their students in an online environment and help them to gain the best possible experience, regardless of what the future of the education sector holds.

Dr Sara de Freitas, Executive Director of Education, Wey Education Plc

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