5 Lessons from the #VirtualStaffroom 

In the space of just a few weeks the world of education has transitioned from the campus to the cloud like never before.

As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, how we live, work and learn has undergone a revolution. Something talked about for years has now happened.

As we live through the opening days of what will be a very different world a group of educators and education technologists got together to form a virtual staffroom.

There was no set agenda and nobody knew if anyone would drop in, but over a few days people from all aspects of education dropped into the virtual staffroom to share insights and experiences, or just listen to how others are coping.

The virtual staffroom can be accessed on weekdays from midday for an hour via this link and in this short article we have selected just a few examples of the lessons shared from a world where it’s now business as unusual.

Lesson 1. Recording video calls / lessons increases engagement

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Andrew Walls from the Sidney Stringer MUlti-Academy Trust makes extensive use of Hangout Meet technology from Google getting over 90% attendance by not just delivering sessions live but recording them for learners to access at any time.

Andrew reported that some learners were struggling in homes where broadband speeds were not great and therefore with more people online than normal connectivity for some people was struggling more than usual, but with a little adaptation by asking family members not to stream Netflix whilst lessons were taking place elsewhere this helped.

You can connect to Andrew on Twitter @TheEdTechSchool and you can follow his superb blog The Ed Tech School.

Lesson 2. Google sites. Great for collating information and sharing

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Leeds City College are well known for their progressive application of technology and have clearly transitioned well at speed to a rapid escalation in self directed online learning.

Steven Hope dropped into the virtual staffroom to share the impact of the use of Google Sites in collating and sharing key information and the team had created extensive resources in less than two days, showing what can be done with technology that just works and is simple to use.

Lesson 3. Structure in the day matters

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Gary Spracklen, Headteacher of the Prince of Wales School dropped into the virtual staffroom to share their approach to creating structure in distance learning sharing their awesome virtual school microsite providing a simple guide for students, teachers and parents for each day. 

You can connect with Gary on Twitter @Nelkcarps and you can access the microsite here.

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Lesson 4. Online etiquette

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Online etiquette matters. It was obvious from the virtual staffroom this week that a wide variation of practice exists in regard to policies, procedures and training around this topic with those educators advanced in self directed learning often already having digital professionalism policies in place whilst those new to it were still adapting to starting a video meeting or lesson.

Jeanne Rogers from Leeds City College, part of the Luminate Education Group, dropped into the virtual staffroom to share six top tips for online etiquette for meetings or lessons as detailed in the image below. 

A key one, muting all microphones at the start! You can connect with Jeanne on Twitter @RogersJeanne1.

Lesson 5. Health and wellbeing in an online world

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Our world is changing rapidly and we are all adapting to emergent opportunities and challenges and one key theme time and time again in the virtual staffroom has been health and wellbeing. There are too many insights to list here but one that was universally loved was via Laura O’Hare from Texthelp who shared their 10:30am virtual coffee break routine. It’s like any other coffee break, but delivered virtually where the team just connects, pauses, shares, and listens to one another. It’s great for morale, common purpose and wellbeing. We love it.

You can connect with Laura on Twitter @TH_Laurao and follow TextHelp @Texthelp as they have some leading literacy and numeracy technologies that you just have to see working to appreciate how impressive they are, especially in regard to AI informed differentiation for teachers as well as game changing approaches to accessibility and inclusion.

Patrick McGrath from Texthelp delivered a quick demonstration of this technology in the virtual staffroom and it was an exemplar of how the right technology can help educators to inspire and engage people in subjects they would normally find challenging.

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There were many more examples of great practice and insights being shared in the virtual staffroom and for now we will keep it going as long as people stop by and want to be part of it. Our virtual staffroom is managed by Paul Farrell, you can follow him on Twitter @PaulmFarrell and perhaps not surprisingly for a Google Certified Innovator and Trainer Paul is always sharing interesting stuff. 

I have long believed that technology works best when it brings people together, and in recent days I have seen the greatest examples of this in my lifetime. When we emerge on the other side of the current Covid-19 pandemic, I believe our world will be transformed forever in ways we are only just starting to see glimpses of. My hope is that we keep the stuff that enables us to work, live and learn a little smarter.

Jamie E Smith, Executive Chairman, C-Learning

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