Home learning, blended learning and online learning. These phrases were reserved for university students and potentially some secondary, however, rewind 5 months and school leaders were scrambling to find a way to teach or connect with students and families at home.
Avoiding, the divisive and at times judgmental way in which schools did this, there is no denying that to some this is the future. For teachers and CPD providers this marks the future, sadly, to the detriment of the free CPD lunch. Many providers discussed the numbers attending (I appreciate more teachers were at home) but when you consider the possibility of being released for an hour or so rather than travelling to a destination, finding parking etc. The benefits are pretty clear.
What though does this mean for children?
Personally, I’m excited! I think this presents an opportunity to transform the learning experience. The classroom no longer has to be the end. I appreciate that a lot of schools are already very good at this. Imagine though, launching a topic, only this time your pre-teaching is in the cloud. You are teaching the vikings, so you add some videos or web links to your Google Classroom with a thinking question, inviting some responses in an open format project. You can capture the family’s interest and get everyone at home involved. Parents help with videos, grandparents are being interviewed. It’s a tangible family engagement, why? Because it can be done from virtually any device with an internet connection.
Now I appreciate that this comes with caveats. One thing that was glaringly obvious was the depth of the digital divide and poverty that exists. I know of families whose only device is a parents phone or families who don’t have the internet at all. Which is an entirely different social issue… personally I believe the internet should be free, for all. But schools have always been incredible at identifying ways to support those without access. Like I said though I don’t have the answers to this particular issue as this comes from above.
For me, the idea of engaging, real-time digital collaboration is exciting. Imagine for a minute, corporate advertising houses or the offices of Google or Facebook. They have thousands of staff, collaborating on multiple projects from a variety of geographical positions, using these very same or similar tools.
I teach in Year 6. Our first topic is ‘Scotland the Brave’ and I could assign a project on Google Jamboard. The children have to research and identify 3 significant locations in the Scottish War of independence and tell me why. I create three slides, as this is a group homework and they’re grouped… you guessed it in threes. While working, the children can do it at the same time without ever leaving their own rooms. They can leave each other comments, they can chat (if you allow it). They can submit and then choose to share it in class.
It’s SATs time, I record myself explaining and modelling long division. I then put that onto our Google Classroom. It’s there for constant referral. I can then set homework to revise every now and again and link in this video. The possibilities truly are endless.
I’m not a big fan of weekly homework, children have enough to do… those Lego sets don’t build themselves. However, I am a huge fan of occasional and optional homework. Whether it’s a project or revision. It’s obvious, online learning in all forms is here to stay, so take advantage and make it work for you and your school.