Teaching online is an entirely different ball game from traditional teaching, something many of us quickly realised when we were forced to adopt a distanced approach with little notice. Teacher training courses never prepared us for a situation where, almost overnight, schools would be closed and we would somehow have to find a way to deliver learning, support our students pastorally and find ways to keep attainment high and maintain excellent progress.
The distanced approach entails different methods, techniques and know-how. Although the Internet provides a wealth of information on distance learning for students, teachers and parents, it can sometimes be overwhelming at first. This blog aims to collate and present some of the key findings from current research; look at the current landscape of distanced learning and provide you with tips for successfully using distance learning in your classroom.
What We Know So Far
As blended learning has taken centre stage in the world of education, researchers have turned their attention to this approach and studies like that conducted recently by the Chartered College of Teaching have appeared. This report, which was conducted with 400 teachers, gives a solid insight into the problems of delivering effective distance learning. They summarised the most significant issues into a list of key findings:
- Devices are not enough – digital literacy development is crucial.
- Over half of teachers’ workload has increased, but collaboration and pre-made resources can help.
- Teachers provided at least as much feedback during distance learning.
- Collaborative learning is effective, yet challenging to implement with younger learners.
- Over half of teachers say engagement is an issue, and turned off cameras make it worse.
- Time for social contact is key to supporting students’ wellbeing.
- Supporting students with SEND requires personalised approaches.
For teachers trying to navigate the world of blended learning, these results paint a bleak picture, especially with the plethora of other expectations, pressures and stresses we are trying to manage.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom – there are solutions and methods that we can use to make blended learning a success. For example, teachers and educators can draw on a wide range of digital resources to provide learning materials across different contexts; the same technology can be used to facilitate varied pedagogical approaches such as active learning and for teachers who have access to a blended learning solution, tracking progress and personalised learning can also be achievable.
Many EdTechs are trying to take centre stage as the solution to the struggles of blended learning that teachers now face, but this often gives us more questions than answers, leaving us wondering which of the many options is the best fit for us. We’ve shared some of our top tips for blended learning so you can use these to make an informed decision about the best solution for your setting and your students.
- Find a balance between live and asynchronous teaching. Your approach does not need to totally reinvent the wheel. Reflect on which parts of your current methods can continue to work and keep these, only use new methods where old ones do not work, this will allow for a more successful blended approach.
- Take your time. A lot of things take longer online and this is okay. Take the time to set things up so they run well before adding in more expectations and layers. Do not try to cover too much material and keep the curriculum intent in mind.
- As with anything, using a new approach is going to involve taking some risks. Schools across the UK are all facing the same issues and the quicker you accept that you will make some mistakes, the quicker you will get past them. Don’t let the fear of change stop you from moving forward.
- Chunk it! Break learning down into smaller chunks so it can be reviewed and repeated more often, this will increase your students’ chance of remembering the information and will stop them from feeling overwhelmed with too much new learning.
- Engage your students in the process. Distance learning requires us to give up a lot of the control we are used to in the classroom but it is a good way to develop independence in our students. Trust your students to do work on their own; build in opportunities for peer interaction and have strategies in place for those students who are disengaged or disadvantaged.
- Start with an honest assessment of the technology your school and students have available. From there, make sure you have all technological requirements (i.e. fast broadband, devices, etc). If you need to purchase new equipment, prioritise what you need based on the best value approach and explore ways of raising additional funding to help balance the costs involved.
- Take your time to find the platform that works best for you, your students and your school and learn how to use it. You may want to consider starting with a small test class/group so you can then roll the solution out confidently to the rest of the school.
- Get familiar with, and use, technology that will make your life easier (e.g. automated feedback). Take the time to upskill your staff and students with the right tools from the beginning – this will save hours of time later down the line.
- Have a plan for deploying technology to those without access. There are always going to be situations where students do not have access to technology. Think about your solution and embed this into it from the start to ensure the fairest experience possible for your students.
- Keep wellbeing a priority. Now more than ever, wellbeing needs to be at the forefront of our minds. Create a culture within your school that is focused on wellbeing. Celebrate the small wins, be kind to yourself and have realistic expectations.
- Use technology to build in pastoral care as well as educational experiences. Look for solutions that allow you to check-in with your students and colleagues. Now that we are not seeing them face to face, it is even more important to check-in.
- Have clear rules and expectations about live lessons, marking etc and communicate them to all stakeholders from the start. It is easier to get the desired outcome when everyone is clear what the expectations are from the beginning. Take the time to build this before diving into a new method of teaching.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! The situation we find ourselves in is unprecedented and many of us are feeling overwhelmed. Share your feelings with your colleagues – knowing we are not alone can be a great help, but also remember that your SLT are there to support you, so ask them for the help you need.
- Make small changes to your workspace and encourage your students to do the same. We don’t all have the perfect at-home workspace, but small differences like taking regular brain breaks, going out for a short walk or creating a physical separation from your workspace can all help your wellbeing.
Distanced learning clearly has the potential to help both students and teachers and it is already having success in some settings.
However, it’s important to remember that there isn’t one foolproof strategy to reflect the needs of every learner. With distance learning still very much in its infancy and the immediate condition (due to the pandemic) to conform to an undeveloped practice, there will be a mountain of trial and error but we hope that this blog has offered some ideas and tips to help you navigate the world of distance learning.
Continue reading below to see how our team at GoLearn have purpose built our platform to help you navigate the challenges with distance learning.
How GoLearn Can Help With Distance Learning
GoLearn was developed with a distanced learning approach in mind and we now have teachers and students in classrooms across the world using the GoLearn solution successfully to implement distance learning. We thought we’d share just some of the highlights that make GoLearn an excellent choice as a distance learning option.
With key stage curriculum content from Year 3 to Year 11, each of our schemes of work is fully planned, resourced and mapped to the relevant objectives. As a teacher, all you need to do is choose from our wide range of book-based, language and literature focused topics and assign this to your students. No more worrying about content that works in an offline environment as each scheme of work has been perfectly created to do just that!
Save Hours With Instant Marking & Feedback
Each task that students complete is marked by the GoLearn platform, saving teachers hours of time while still enabling them to gather the relevant data and providing feedback to ensure personalised learning. Students are able to review their answers and marks to help you develop independent learners. Read more on how GoLearn reduces teacher workload here.
Perfect for Blended Learning
Many schools are now back open, but with constant changes in testing and isolation expectations, the blended learning approach which combines remote and in person learning is becoming more popular. Each GoLearn scheme of work is split into units, lessons and tasks so it is easy to personalise to suit your settling. Some schools use GoLearn as a full English solution, some build it into chosen lessons each week and others are using it as their home learning option. But, however you choose to use GoLearn, it’s an excellent tool for blended learning.
Easily track your students progress, attainment and attendance in real-time.
The wealth of data that GoLearn provides in skills and subskills is often celebrated by the teachers using our platform. We present teachers with a wealth of whole class and individual student data in the key areas of English while also giving them an understanding of their student’s learning through our SOLO taxonomy skills. This data is clearly presented and simply exported so teachers can use it to easily inform next steps, create intervention groups and plug learning gaps.
These are just some of the ways in which GoLearn is helping teachers and students to use distance learning with success. Want to see the full GoLearn solution and how it can help you? Why not sign up for one of our 30minute demonstrations.
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