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Accelerating the pace of change in education

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnston described the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19) as “the worst public health crisis for a generation.”

With the situation in the UK evolving drastically week by week, lockdown announcements and restrictions changing with each Government announcement, the constant uncertainty over the correct ways to live our lives and endless news headlines about the consequences of this disease and the impact of social distancing on our mental and physical health – it can be hard to find positives from the whole situation.

However, the COVID-19 outbreak has managed to create some positives for our schools and its pupils. Here are 5 positive impacts that COVID-19 has had in the last 12 months on our schooling.

Increase in Online Literacy

In the last 12 months, for the first time in history, schooling has had to move exclusively to online platforms. In the last 20 years the progression of technology in the workplace, from the internet to computerised manufacturing, has changed the way people operate in their workspace and in society.

For example, the smart phone. In their most basic sense, mobile phones are used to allow us to keep in touch with others when we are on the go. As technology has developed, smart phones have become much more than just allowing us to stay connected. We can now carry out everyday tasks with ease, such as internet banking, posting on social media, paying for goods, checking emails and taking photos or recordings. If technology has developed this quickly in the past 20 years, then how do we expect our children to keep up with all the changes.

COVID-19 has encouraged the use of online teaching platforms and has forced pupils to learn how to use software such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Classroom. This online working practice has encouraged pupils to improve their keyboard knowledge, speed of typing as well as learning valuable skills such as sending emails and messages online, uploading and downloading content to aid with projects, using programmes such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint to aid with presentations. These are all skills that will aid pupils in future careers.

Recording Lessons

As stated above, COVID-19 has encouraged the movement to online teaching platforms. This move has allowed for teachers to offer pupil aids such as lesson recordings. Why is the recording of lessons such an important improvement to the education of students?

By recording lessons, it allows pupils to have much more flexibility. Some lessons need to be done live, however without having pupils in the classroom all day, circumstances might be different for them at home. Pupils may not have access to the computer at the time of the class or may have other things ongoing that means they cannot log in. Having the ability to access the classes at a time that suits them will limit any missed lessons.

Recording lessons will also allow pupils to go back over the lesson, should they struggle to understand what is being taught at the time. Live lessons give pupils one opportunity to observe, write down key notes and understand what is being said. Some pupils find it hard to take information in that quickly. Having the ability to go back in and re-watch lessons will help pupils understand the lessons better and problem solve for themselves.

When schools do return, recording lessons could become the ‘norm’. This would allowing pupils absent with illness to not miss out on teaching time. It will also give access to all lessons online to aid in revision and exam preparation and allow feedback to the teacher for inspections and parents for pupil behaviour.

Parent Insight

With COVID-19 forcing many parents to set up home laptops, get involved in home-based learning and engage with school projects over the last 12 months it has allowed parents to gain a better insight into the work that their children are doing in school. During lockdown parents have been able to gain more knowledge on their children’s learning and have had an opportunity to play a more important role in their child’s education. This can provide three main benefits.

  1. Understand what subjects their children thrive at and what accomplishments they have achieved. Parents will now be able to celebrate and praise their children for personal milestones, results or rewards and give justified praise.
  2. Having direct contact with teachers and seeing their feedback to their children’s work and demand for workload. Having access to this information will also allow parents to monitor workload and help monitor deadlines, projects and coursework to limit the pressure on the child with their time planning.
  3. Seeing teachers’ feedback and having more input into their children’s work will allow parents to have a greater understanding of what subject their children might need help and extra advice with.

Finally, the parent’s involvement in home schooling has allowed families to spend more time together than they would normally do.

Project-based learning (PBL)

With lessons moving online through lockdown, teaching methods have had to adapt to the non-classroom-based learning. Project-based learning (PBL) encourages students to identify real-world problems and create solutions, allowing for more hands-on learning as well as helping students sharpen their critical and independent thinking skills. PBL is an instructional method where students collaborate with others and “learn by doing.” The same skills learned through PBL are also many of the skills sought by employers. PBL also allows families to bring in other subjects they feel passionate about (or at least are more comfortable with). This generates a sense of their own achievement rather than a task that has been handed to them. PBL is diverse and inclusive by default. Perhaps most importantly of all, PBL is fun. Whether making and testing their recycling action plan or investigating how to create a new music track with household items, students will have taken time to identify and investigate a problem they care about and constructed or communicated their own solutions. PBL encourages students to improve:

Critical Thinking / Problem Solving / Self Confidence / Collaboration / Creativity / Curiosity and Self-Empowerment

Change to exams?

With GCSE and A Level exams cancelled this year, could this spark a new way that we assess children in schools. End of year exams create huge amounts of pressure on students, something that some pupils find hard to deal with. The pressure to perform well under exam conditions can also have a negative impact on an otherwise good student. With mental health becoming such a big topic of conversation in the media, should 16 and 18 year olds have to deal with this sort of pressure? Is it fair to test a child’s knowledge based on one exam, during a period when they have numerous other exams in multiple subjects?

Conclusion

To conclude, has the impact of COVID-19 changed the way pupils are taught going forward? Without the pandemic requiring schools, teachers, parents and pupils to adapt, would these technological advances ever have been tried on this scale?

  

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