Remote Learning - What we learnt last time

As teachers, pupils and parents begin to adjust to what is to become the new normal of distance learning we though we'd share some of the early lessons that we are learning from schools and homes across the country.

Schools across the country have taken very different approaches to distance learning with some providing homework type tasks and others embracing a range of technology to provide interactive live streaming teaching. For most schools it has been a case of doing the best they can with what is available. 

Examples of good practise:

  • Teachers and senior leaders modelling appropriate behaviour
  • Having fun and making the day a little bit brighter. Do something to make people smile. A colleague of mine in the West Midlands has his team attend video calls wearing hats! 
  • Have a virtual coffee break - all staff join a scheduled conference call/ skype/ google hangout once a day just to chat, share ideas, celebrate sucesses and check in on each other
  • Utalising the wealth of subscription services that are offering free access at this time. We have listed some here
  • Teachers utalising video tutorials - all the major online services have 'how to' videos mostly hosted on YouTube
  • Providing pupils with activities that can be done on a smart phone - for example Google forms are quick and easy to build allowing multiple choice, short free text and long free text answers amongst others. Forms can be shared via email or a weblink. Pupils can respond using a smart phone. And responses are collated for you. Tutorial here
  • Providing parents of early years children with ideas for 'real' things to do - ie treasure hunts, easy crafts, sensory play activities, maths activities, science activities
  • Keeping in contact with pupils via school website
  • Sharing online safety advice with parents/pupils
  • Reminding parents that this is about home learning not home education. 

Commmon issues:

  • Capacity can be a problem
    • A number of online services have experienced downtime during to high volumes of traffic
    • Some Apps are not updating in real time leading to pupils appearing to be late posting their work
    • Individual teachers being inundated with emails from parents all asking substancially the same questions. If teachers have access to the school Twitter account could they tweet out responses to common questions?
    • "Teachers being expected to fly a plane that is still being built". Sir Jim Knight. Too much is being asked of teachers who are strugging to deal with new ways of teaching whilst supervising their own children and worrying about buying toilet roll! This also applies to head teachers, parents and pupils!
  • Technology
    • School kit is not up to the job
    • Broadband too slow - Contact us at the email below. We might be able to help
    • Staff not able to access the school network - If you are an E2BN/Internet4schools customer we will set up a school VPN free of charge to enable staff to access the school network. Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    • Not all pupils have access to suitable technology at home. Not every family will have a laptop per child (especially if mum or dad are working from home), or a printer or a scanner. But most of them will have a smart phone. Design online learning that can be done using a smart phone.

Dubious practise

  • Launching a new online learning environment at this time.
  • Expecting teachers to use their personal email adddresses/ social media accounts to communicate with parents/pupils.
  • Asking teachers to complete a detailed diary of what they have done during the day
  • Embracing the technolgy without considering the safeguarding issues 
    • Live streaming/video conferencing - what's in the background? Is the video feed of children being recorded?
    • Not having and following a clear school online safety policy
    • Forgetting about pupil and staff well-being
  • Providing lesson activities that pupils have to download, print out, scan or photograph and then upload. Not everyone has the technology to do this and ink is expensive! 

This article was first published on 31/03/2020

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