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Schools see multi-generational upskilling in digital due to pandemic

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Digital skills among teachers and students have soared over the course of the pandemic (81% and 64% respectively[1]), with the majority of teachers[2] reporting improved tech abilities due to online lockdown learning – according to new research released today by the world’s learning company, Pearson.

The research, which is based on the views of 6,817 teachers who took part in a survey amidst the country’s third national lockdown, also reveals that when it comes to the future of education, technology is here to stay. Almost half (46%) of teachers expect to see increased use of on-screen assessment in the future of education and over a third (34%) predict that technology will drive-up parents’ engagement with their children’s learning in the years ahead.

While the focus on digital and remote education has provided new skills and opportunities, there are still considerable challenges to overcome. Teachers cited increased workload (61% selected) and personalising learning (55% selected) as their biggest challenges when providing remote online learning over lockdown, whereas keeping motivated was the most difficult aspect for students, with 83% of teachers reporting this. Students in schools with the highest proportion of students eligible for free school meals (FSM) were also found to be considerably less likely to have access to digital resources and technology than those in schools with fewer FSM students.

Les Hopper, Director of Digital & Assessment for UK Schools at Pearson, said:

“It has been inspiring to see how teachers and students have adapted and embraced technology over the past year to ensure learning could continue. The necessary focus on digital learning over the pandemic has contributed to a rise in understanding of the strengths of digital, providing an opportunity for teaching and learning to evolve. However, it has also exposed the challenges we need to overcome in order to move forward confidently.

“At Pearson, we’re committed to supporting digital learning and innovation in the pandemic and beyond – whether its providing free support and access to a suite of our learning platforms for teachers and families or contributing 250 laptops and £50,000 to the Computers for Kids campaign. We will continue to keep talking about the issues, understand the best pedagogy for digital learning, and develop new resources and products to help improve outcomes for everyone regardless of their background or circumstances.”

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Speaking about their experience of delivering digital learning, a Year 6 primary school teacher from the South West said: “Digital learning for us in the most recent national lockdown, was on the whole, a positive experience for staff and children. While there were challenges – generating, free-flowing classroom discussion was difficult at times and although differentiation was possible, it was more complicated and support could not be provided as fluidly as it would be in class – the immediacy of technology has supported us to implement a number of effective processes.

“Efficiencies in marking meant a more manageable process for teachers with children enjoying the instantaneous nature of receiving notifications rather than waiting until the subsequent lesson to address next steps, and the online assessment tools provide not only a detailed data analysis for staff, but a more enjoyable experience for pupils who relished the challenge of completing a ‘quiz’ on the computer rather than on paper.

“Importantly, the children enjoyed becoming more independent with their learning and taking ownership of time management skills (particularly for UKS2 and above) and this enabled them – most, not all – to become equipped with skills ready for the transition to secondary school that they might not have had if all teaching remained class-based.”

The findings come as Pearson launches its second Digital Live conference today, which will focus on ‘evolving education’ and see educators across the curriculum and industry experts come together to explore practical delivery ideas to support blended teaching and learning, and discuss key themes relating to the world of EdTech.

To support schools on their online journeys and help alleviate some of the challenges highlighted in the research, Pearson is currently shaping the next generation of online services that meet the needs of schools and academy trusts now and in future. Pearson’s new ActiveHub digital service will harness live insights, resources and assessments, using innovative technology to connect and personalise teaching and learning wherever and whenever it happens.

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