What have you been working on since the school closures?
It feels like everything! It started with HomeLearningUK a collaborative project by edtech thought-leaders and teachers on ways to support peer-to-peer remote teaching and learning. This was set up just before the schools closed and offered guidance and then a report on what the climate was / is like, guides to help schools and colleges and ideas. All created remotely by people just wanting to help.
Then I was asked to be a librarian for the CoronaVirusTechHandBook. This is a crowdsourced library of tools, services and resources relating to COVID-19 response. It is a rapidly evolving resource with thousands of expert contributors. It really is a staggering body of knowledge across all sectors. Worth a visit if you haven’t seen it already.
Then I decided - through chats in another Twitter group - that there needed to be some national joined up approach. There were lots of lists being published for parents - in fact we have a great Home Learning one on our GEC website that the Instagram community are loving! - but it was baffling. As a parent to twin preschoolers and a KS2 child with SEND, I knew that a simple daily approach would be easier for me to navigate (especially as my hubby and I were balancing our work commitments too). I spoke with some of the early years experts in our GEC Collective, Ruth Swailes and Maureen Hunt. We came up with the idea of a daily topic, four inclusive and gender-neutral EY activities (timed around snack/meal/nap times) for preschoolers, all easily completed in the house - and accessible for all. The bonus is that the videos ‘speak’ to the children so grownups can even sneak a cuppa in (#win).
We launched as soon as we got Day 1 sorted - and did a full month, creating 80 activities and a community of 2,000 in four weeks. It was all-consuming BUT we got great feedback from settings supporting key-worker children and parents self-isolating, as well as from the early year sector.
My current role is with the DFE Edtech Demonstrator School and Colleges Programme. I am Regional Lead for the South West, and currently getting to know my Demonstrator settings and linking them to Support Schools. This is a great way for the sector to provide peer-to-peer support for one another. I am very proud to be part of this.
Another example of how people can come together and provide solutions online during these times is the recent #BrewEdIsolation led by Graham Andre and Ed Finch. A full day of CPD and discussion was offered voluntarily by some of the most respected and inclusive educators that I know. I was thrilled to be not only included with my thoughts on Educational Bias, but I was interviewed by the host with the most that is Mr Andre!
Lastly, we (the GEC) have been nominated for a National Diversity Award (in association with the ITVNews) for our (online) community! We need to get as many people to tell the panel as we can WHY we are worth shortlisting. So, if anyone reading this wants to help us (pretty please) just tell them here.
What have you learned?
That technology really is the great equaliser. However dispositions to technology, access to 1:1 devices, wifi all come as a barrier to accessing great content. There is also a gulf of difference between remote teaching (what is put out there for personalised learning) and remote learning (the student’s engagement and measured learning and skills). The UK has faced these challenges in different ways - and a joined up national approach to edtech in England in particular will hopefully be the learning from this crisis.
I have also been able to celebrate in the brilliance that is online collaboration and collectives. There are incredible people out there - with this unprecedented backdrop- working hard and smart to help families and individuals out there. Technology can bring knowledge, power, inclusion and change lives. Let’s hope we also make this real in IRL once schools open again!
The interesting element about all of this has been the safety and well-being of our more vulnerable families during these times. I think the dialogue moved from some schools quickly from producing lesson-content to safeguarding. It is this element that has illustrated what the education system does day to day for these homes. Big learnings for us all going forwards.
What is your advice to parents?
Wellbeing is key here. I know that keeping the children calm and safe through the day is of key importance. Missing family and friends is nothing to be dismissed. Many parents are anxious about the impact on this - on what their schools are doing - or not doing. I would say do not worry about making your home a school. A home is a home. And you are already a teacher to your children, you are a parent. Teachers are superheroes and this is a national emergency. Schools will want calm happy learners - and will start teaching to your child’s needs when they can. In my mind there is no ‘falling behind’ at this point. We are all in our own boats, weathering this storm.
What is your advice to schools?
Reflect on what your messages and actions are telling your communities at this time. Maintaining a strong relationship with your families, governors and PTA is important too. Reaching out to your staff and making sure that SLT is ensuring everyone’s safety and well-being is crucial. Line managers can ask what suits them, what their needs and capabilities are - as these will no doubt change as the week’s go by.
Use the technology you have for remote conversations - and consider what you want to present as ‘education’ during these times.
Some schools are producing lists for parents to engage with - others full time-tables of virtual schools (with live and archived lessons). Think what suits your students in their homes at this time - and then work with staff to execute this.
Then move onto how you will support the transition back to full-timetables. How can technology move education forward in the future? How can your learning make your setting even better? And remember to unplug. You are important too.