In the last year, remote education has become routine for students and teachers, and months of online teaching is set to leave a lasting legacy. Here, Computer Science teachers and computing lead teachers in primary schools share their tips about how to make remote education work, and what changes are here to stay
Written by Victoria Temple, community engagement officer at the National Centre for Computing Education
Children may be back in the classrooms but they are returning to an education that’s been changed forever by the Covid pandemic.
In the last year, remote education has become routine for students and teachers, and months of online teaching is set to leave a lasting legacy.
While classroom learning is underway, it is likely that some remote education will remain. The Department for Education stated in its report on Remote Education in January that, with local lockdowns and periods of self-isolation, it is still possible; “Schools are likely to continue to rely on remote solutions. It is likely that schools will incorporate aspects of remote education into their teaching after the pandemic.”
The wisdom of teachers
Computer Science teachers and computing lead teachers in primary schools shared their tips about how to make remote education work, and what changes are here to stay. There’s a wide variety of experience and expertise about what works well online; such as whether to have cameras on or off, or to deliver live or recorded lessons, and how to boost student engagement with remote education.
“My biggest tip is a shorter lesson with an activity that everyone can take part in such as a shared game,” said Melanie Dennig, lead teacher for Computer Science at Exeter Mathematics School.
Melanie also knows what works for her students and doesn’t insist they keep their cameras on. “I know that many students are self-conscious about opening a window into their personal space,” she said.
Different approaches suit different schools and the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of knowing students well and responding to their needs. Teachers are best placed to make decisions about how to deliver remote education in a way that meets those needs. Knowing your students well is key.
A lasting impact
Remote education has left a lasting impact, whether that’s tracking progress, giving feedback, communicating with parents, or indeed raising the profile of digital skills and computing as a subject. Digital skills have developed over the last months out of necessity, said Dave Gibbs, senior computing and technology specialist at STEM Learning and part of the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) consortium: “There’s some hope that this sets teachers and learners in good stead to make more use of digital tech in future. There certainly should be improved understanding of the impact of technology on society,” he said.
Online working is likely to drive innovative approaches to tracking progress and giving feedback.
Melanie Dennig said: “I think that outreach work online will remain. When we look at the way that we have adapted so quickly to using Microsoft Teams, I think this will continue as a really agile way of giving feedback to students.”
Alice Pinches, head of Computer Science at Exeter School said: “I’d like to see mixed work projects remain and the use of technology better to record progress. We could see a decline in the endless use of paper and the obsession with printing something out and putting it in a folder. We could have better systems of recording progress that use technology and suit the task better. Hopefully we’ll also reduce paper and printing!”
James Jerrold, a primary and secondary school teacher in Buckinghamshire, said that technology will now improve communication and that the relationship with parents has changed. “There’s a lot more frequent interaction, often informally. I expect that will continue, with parents wanting to interact more regularly throughout the term,” said James, who is also a Computing at School Community Leader for Beaconsfield. “I think we’ll see an increase in the use of flipped learning techniques too which is particularly useful if we see schools continuing to adopt a reduced timetable to reduce the numbers of pupils in the classroom,” continued James.
Remote education opens up new opportunities for collaboration too, which are likely to become increasingly common in the classroom. Third party websites are great tools for boosting engagement. Virtual ‘school trips’ to museums, galleries, educational resources around the globe will become part of the school experience. Teachers are increasingly looking to share ideas and techniques, and organisations like Computing at School (CAS), a grassroots network which is supporting the National Centre for Computing Education, have proved to be valuable. CAS enables teachers to reflect on how to make the most of online education and its regular community meetings have seen high attendance throughout lockdown.
Hollie Newell teaches Y1 at a primary school in Leicester, says that there’s been a “huge leap in confidence” around remote education among parents, senior leaders and in the children.
Hollie, who is also leader of a Computing at School community in Leicester delivered live lessons twice a day through the lockdown period. Around 98 per cent of the pupils at Hollie’s school have English as an additional language, which makes live interaction with the teacher additionally important. Her school provided home learning packs to the children, including ‘word mats’, phonics charts, white boards and more.
“Going forward I think there’s been a real shift in our school community. It’s raised the prominence of computing as a whole. I’m hopeful that teachers will feel more confident using technology across the curriculum,” she said.
“We’ve seen a ‘can do’ attitude in staff, children, and parents, and that’s been fantastic. It’s been all about problem-solving.”
Julia Adamson, director of education at BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, one of the NCCE’s consortium partners, says that while teachers and students will be focussing on adjusting to being back in the classroom, technology will play an increasingly valuable role.
“Schools will continue to think about taking blended approaches and the key is to make the time spent online really impactful. Finding the right resources is also key. The National Centre for Computing’s resources such as its Teach Computing Curriculum are designed for both remote and classroom delivery,” she said.
“Many schools and teachers have shown great innovation, and now is the time to share good practice in professional networks and shape a strategic approach to remote teaching,” Julia added.
It’s been a hugely challenging year for everyone involved in education, but it has revealed new ways of approaching education and delivering change.
As Simon Peyton Jones, chair of the NCCE said: “For years we have talked about flipped learning, working from home, and collaborative editing. Covid has forced us to turn that talk into action. We will emerge from lockdown with a renewed appreciation of the richness of face-to-face conversations – but also new ideas, new skills, and new ways to collaborate. Let’s make the most of them!”
In Ipsos MORI’s latest KnowledgePanel poll, the most preferred options for catching up on lost learning from parents are to receive increased wellbeing support (56%) and additional tutoring sessions outside of school hours (55%).