Schools and Trusts have adapted brilliantly, during Covid-19 to the complex demands of ensuring continuity of learning through the development of online, remote and blended learning provision.
WE have been inspired by the resilience education has displayed through this crisis – and encouraged by some of these positives that have emerged from such a difficult time.
Our first trust influence forum therefore explored what role should innovations in online and blended learning play in a post-Covid-19 world.
The WE Trust Influence Forums are roundtable events that provide trust leaders with the space and time to collectively influence each other and the system and become a powerful, positive voice for the change they want to see in education.
Each Trust Influence Forum focuses on trust leaders’ perspective on an important issue facing education. Afterwards, we will share their thoughts in a draft position paper. This aims to stimulate reflection and conversation amongst schools and trusts within the WE network as well as across the wider system.
You are welcomed and encouraged to add your thoughts and comments using the Google Form at the bottom of this page. This is a living, breathing document which will be constantly updated.
Schools and trusts have been grappling with the use of technology (hardware and software) to support learners and their learning for at least two decades. Early versions include The Microsoft Anytime, Anywhere Learning project in the year 2000 through the development of Virtual Learning Platforms at the end of the 2000s.
The success of these strategies has been varied and there has, arguably, been a slow evolution rather than a revolution in the use EdTech.
WE believe that a Whole Education is one that supports learning in the classroom, outside of the classroom and in the virtual world. WE also believe that young people need to be provided with the skills, frameworks and support to enable them to take ownership of their learning.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has created a burning platform for schools and trusts in regard to the provision of learning outside of the classroom, all have risen to the challenge and an EdTech revolution of sorts has taken place. Will the changes that have been necessary throughout the pandemic become an embedded feature of our schools and trusts into the future?
What are trusts’ key learnings about effective, online learning?
- Many young people really enjoy online learning and it has increased engagement for some students. Schools should focus on making online learning ‘sticky’, engaging and fun.
- Online learning shouldn’t be an ‘easy option’. Young people want to feel stretched, so schools should provide high-challenge learning for all.
- Focusing on a wide curriculum provision – a whole education – matters more than ever. Ensuring all young people can continue their favourite subjects, not just core subjects, and supporting their wellbeing and pastoral needs, is vital to keep them engaged online.
- Good online learning is a chance for learners to develop vital wider skills like metacognition and agency. Low-stakes, self-quizzing to give students a feel for how their learning is going.
What are the key challenges to providing high-quality, online learning?
- There needs to be a strategic direction and clear intent behind our use of technology – simply providing a device for every child may be necessary but is not sufficient
- There needs to be a greater focus on providing quality online content – for all subjects. Leaders stressed that the content is as important as the technology used to access it. Too much is of mixed quality – many creative and vocational subjects have little online content.
- Finding effective approaches to simply assessing online and remote learning to diagnose knowledge, adapt teaching and flex provision is still the key challenge for trust leaders.
- Online learning often loses the great work schools have put into building strong relationships. Relationships aren’t just important for young people’s wellbeing and engagement – they facilitate lots of the face-to-face learning that takes place too.
How, if at all, should remote learning (as part of a blended model) be part of our approach to providing a whole education beyond Covid?
- The school system must reaffirm a universal commitment to a whole education for all young people.
- There must be a greater focus on building crucial whole education skills – particularly metacognition and student agency.
- Online assessment can be a powerful tool to empower teachers to provide a more personalised curriculum.
- Focus on partnerships across and beyond the sector.
- Online learning gives opportunity to rethink some of the practical ways education has traditionally been delivered.
What are the immediate priorities and needs (from peers, the wider system and government) to make progress with this agenda?
- Address issues preventing students accessing digital learning – devices and internet – once and for all.
- We need to challenge the system’s language, which in some cases is creating an unhelpfully negative, ‘deficit-model’ frame to re-engaging students after a incredibly challenging period
- There should be a greater focus on research into the most effective online pedagogies
and strategies so we can develop a shared vision of great online teaching.
- There needs to be a shared mission across the system to create high-quality, open source content for remote learning – encouraging partnerships between teachers, experts, publishers and other organisations.
- Leaders need space and time to collaborate and learn from peers on how to effectively integrate technology so it supports their priorities.
Add your comments and views to the evolving WE position paper:
Do you agree with the priorities and challenges WE identified? Have we missed something? Do you have an idea for how a blended model might be part of the way forward from Covid-19? Tell us!