6 reasons video conferencing is here to stay

Video conferencing could permanently change the way we operate in schools

Co-Director, Big Education

You might be the same as me, but it now seems almost rude, certainly impersonal to have a work call that’s just on the phone….without video, without making eye contact with the person. The bog-standard phone call seems so 20th century. The Google Meet or Zoom call is easy, quick, effective. Why on earth haven’t we done it before? Some may think that when we return from lockdown it will go as quickly as it arrived. I think that’s wrong. However much we prize real face to face contact, there will be many occasions when continuing to use video calls will save time, energy, money and hassle. 

These are just 6 ways in which I can imagine us all continuing to benefit from video calls.

1. A parent who can’t make parents' evening or a pastoral meeting could have a video call with teachers.

Schools are generally very inflexible about when they hold parents’ evenings and how they cater for those who can’t make it. Occasionally of course we phone up a parent afterwards or rearranged for a separate day but this is rarely done systematically. Now that we are used to video calls, it seems so obvious to be offering a face to face meeting on a video call at a time that suits the parents.

2. ‘Blended hangouts” for flexible working.

The tyranny of the 8am (or earlier) school briefing. Teachers with young children often struggle to drop off and make it in time for the staff briefing. Video calls allows a combination of face to face interaction with staff in school and other staff who are at home, or on the way to work to join in. Just one way in which these calls could aid more flexible working.

3. Leaders of schools within a Multi Academy Trust or Borough could meet through video calls.

Like ours, there will be Multi-Academy Trusts and groups of schools all over the country that are having virus update video calls to coordinate the response across schools. In normal circumstances, there are occasional conferences calls but rarely is business transacted in this way. This is the same with heads meetings in a borough. The attendance is often poor because there is often a reason why a head has to stay in school to sort something out. In future, attendance should be far easier with at least some of the meetings each year being on a video call from a head’s desk. We still assume face to face meetings with many people traveling to one venue is the most efficient way. This will surely change.

4. Collaboration with outside agencies could be organised far more effectively e.g. for SEN meetings

It is often hard to get the right people in the room together for case conference  conferences about a child who, for example, has special needs. The professionals involved – educational psychologists, social workers, therapists, teachers, SENCO are often working different hours or have packed schedules. Video calls would now seem to be a natural development to coordinate a response. The actual meeting with the child and parent would still be far preferable face to face.

5. Breaking down the barriers between schools

Video calls break down walls. Between classrooms, schools, hierarchies. Why shouldn’t students from 3 schools from across the borough/region/country/world meet on a video call for an A level Maths masterclass? Or to share in a project they are doing to deal with climate change. Or to hear from an expert who is visiting one of the schools.

6. Dealing with absence

There are so many examples of people missing important meetings are important school days when the use of video calls could easily solve the problems.. For staff, there are often non-medical emergencies. Times when you’ve just got to be at home to support a child, for example. Or teachers on maternity leave beginning the transition back to work. Similarly for students, I can see Sixth formers joining lessons even when they can’t attend in person.

Video calls are one of those things that have been around for a long time but forced lockdown has suddenly made them more visible and of vital importance to continue our work. Like many other things in this weird life we are currently leading, we can now put them to work improving the way we work when things are back to whatever ‘normal’ might look like.

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