Recently I gave a short talk about what I’ve learned about teaching with technology at #TMUKEduStories, you can see the event here, I thought I’d also put a few words down here too, so here goes.
My opening statement may come as a shock to those that know me as a real advocate of effective technology use in schools but less technology really can be more. As Bruce Lee says “simplicity is the key to brilliance” and raising the capacity and capability of all teachers in our schools is one of the most important facets to driving change with technology in classrooms. It’s not about buying a class set of VR headsets for marketing purposes, at least it shouldn’t be, it should be about making the very best of the tools you already have within your ecosystem and a more skilled staff body before making new additions. Have you really maximized every opportunity with the tools in your real estate already?
As reported by the Education Endowment Foundation in their report focusing on staff deployment and development, “Quality of teaching is the single most important driver of pupil attainment and a range of other positive outcomes.” The more time we can dedicate to staff development, especially around technology, the better and this shouldn’t be limited to voluntary training or an ad hoc approach but a systematic approach that caters to the needs of all stakeholders. This is further backed up, again from the EEF, in the report on the best evidence on supporting students to learn remotely (read here) where it was identified that one of the key findings was “Teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered.” Once again, it’s how we do it not what we do that’s pivotal in the classroom; quality is most important!
How often do we use our voice?
Let your voice work for you! We spend lots of time building this into our students but are you using yours effectively with technology? An often overlooked option with technology is how it can truly reduce workload by simply using our voice(s). Tools like audio notes can provide students with richer and higher quality feedback in a shorter time frame thereby reducing workload than writing reams of sentences. Technology is a utility so let’s use it as one and not overburden ourselves by not making it work for us, what’s more is you can use the same audio note across multiple students if needed further reducing your workload. Within the Microsoft ecosystem audio notes in OneNote are simply brilliant and if you’re in a Google ecosystem you can use Mote to the same effect.
Use technology for the utility that it is to foster connection and collaboration, after all, education is all about relationships. Enable a collegiate atmosphere by enabling channels of communication and collaboration for students within your edtech ecosystems. A recurring debate has been synchronous, asynchronous, or a blend of both approaches to teaching and learning during lockdown. Are we really being mindful of staff and students or are their minds full due to your school approach?
Why not also use technology to gauge insights into where everyone is at in terms of wellbeing by anonymous surveys, this will give you a clear picture and give everyone else a voice while helping to shape your decisions and direction.
Leverage your network
Despite the different geographical distances, settings, contexts, or simply classrooms in our own schools we can often forget that we are all in this together. It comes as no surprise then that an ISC Research market report on “The Impact of COVID-19 on Education Technology in International Schools” found that during remote learning educators’ greatest want was simply support from their colleagues within the profession.
We’ve all been learning along the way and I have huge respect for those schools that have openly shared what worked (and what didn’t) during their online learning journey during 2020 so that others can learn from their successes/failures. While an online approach has been more common in certain institutions over the years, it’s safe to say that no-one has had to go completely online in a primary or secondary school setting for a prolonged period and those sharing schools have certainly had a positive and wide influence, no doubt helping to inform evidence-bases of the future.
Sharing really is caring and I’ve been blown away by the willingness of educators in the UAE to share their experiences, expertise, and learning in what is a highly competitive marketplace: education. LearnLiveUAE is a show I co-host with Mark Anderson each week (subscribe here) and to date, we’ve had over 60 educators participate in both the weekly show and the conference we held back in October with over 18,000 hours of viewing across YouTube and Periscope. Knowledge increases by sharing, not saving it so thank you to every guest to date, those in the future and my PLN.
I’ve always believed in an evidence-informed approach to teaching and learning and what seems like way back when nearer the start of lockdown I share my top tips for online learning. Those still stand, in both face to face format and an online format:
- Present new information in small chunks
- Provide worked examples
- Check for understanding with low stakes testing
- Peer & Teacher collaboration
- Provide feedback to small groups or whole classes
Whether you look at evidence from the EEF or from well-known books such as Making Every Lesson Count (Tharby), Full on Learning (Elder), or How Learning Happens (Kirschner & Hendrick) they all point towards a similar approach in terms of pedagogy. While there hasn’t been all too much research in terms of an evidence-based approach to online learning, I suspect over the coming years this will change!