We are now nearing the end of the first term since schools have fully returned after the national lockdown, so it seems like an appropriate point for reflection. The largest social experiment in online learning took place during those months when schools were only open to a handful of students. Teachers had to learn new ways of doing business and often our students were able to teach us a thing or two when it came to using technology. We are at the beginning of being able to understand technology’s power and the potential it has to add value to the student experience of education.
Many in education continue to be very busy making plans responding to the losses of lockdown. But as I wrote over the summer, one of the biggest losses in the end may be if we come out of the other side of this unchanged at all. So what might the future hold for students if we embrace online learning?
The use of technology has shown just how invisible the barrier between ‘school’ learning and ‘home’ learning actually is. It has created the means to achieving what we might call ‘limitless learning.’ No matter where that young person is, they aren’t just entitled to a quality education, they have access to it as well. Some of the blogs on Learning from Lockdown demonstrate this. The lack of distractions meant some young people focussed more during remote learning and there were greater opportunities to personalise learning to meet the specific needs of students. At my school, some students have said they could work at a pace that suited them better with the ability to pause and rewind teacher explanation, and therefore review their understanding in the moment.
Embracing technology could also mean so much more for the student experience of education. We are currently rethinking our homework policy. Traditionally subjects set homework. The power of technology could transform that. As a school, we value developing the whole child – of course their knowledge and skills but we are also committed to students’ personal development and the contribution they make to their communities and society. But these values have never been reflected in what we expect students to learn at home. We want that to change. We are looking to see how we curate a set of e-learning modules that could be set as homework. Curriculum time is crowded enough, this will give our students the opportunity to learn so much more than what they need for formal examinations. For example, if there has been a persistent bullying issue involving year 8 students, their Head of Year could set them the e-learning module on anti-bullying. We could make interdisciplinary learning come alive through collaborative project based learning. Home learning could take our students anywhere in the world – particularly as so much content from museums, theatres and galleries became digitally available during the lockdown period.
A quality education could be a truly expansive education. There is a real opportunity that ‘limitless learning’ could really help to ‘level up’ students’ experiences and better prepare them for the real world.
Education has the power to change lives. But not the narrow one on offer to many of our young people – where they are nothing more than empty vessels to be filled with facts, silenced into compliance and even then by no means being guaranteed a fulfilling and secure job.
I believe that for education to be life changing it must cultivate a culture of lifelong learning. I see huge potential in teachers using technology to excite, engage and empower every single learner in school life.
Students, of course. Who knows what the next few weeks will bring to our schools in terms of absence or partial closure and it is right they still have access to their education from home. Staff also feature as part of our home learning development. Just before half term, our INSET day was delivered remotely and if staff wanted to work from home, they had the option to. Parents may also benefit from schools embracing technology to support learning. Schools could use online platforms to help parents support their children with their academic studies but also to contribute to school life further. The use of technology is the bridge between ‘school’ and ‘home’ learning in many senses.
All of us working in schools are at the start of this process. Wonderful innovation is happening all around us. To ensure this is kept and a part of the fabric of education in the years ahead, I am asking those of you interested in building the bridge between school and home learning to join our ‘working group’. Please email me (email@example.com) if you would like to get involved.
Another future is possible. But only if we build it together.
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