Tech will save us… Right?
How the small school can be supported by Ed Tech
Earlier this month government announced that the expectations for remote education are to be statutory. These expectations cover a multitude of scenarios and can be found in their guidance for full opening.
The National Association of Small Schools are offering advice in their newsletter for schools who are exploring their home-school provision, and I wrote this to support that.
So, where do you start?
- Do an audit of what subscription services you pay for.
- this might prove surprising – especially if teachers have had a bit of freedom in the past to sign up for specific services. Have a good look at what you are getting for your money.
- Make use of the curriculum-linked services available.
- Not to everyone’s taste I know, but check your long term curriculum plan – are some things covered within Oak Academy? Or BBC services? Can teachers make loose links now within planning which, if needed, can be tightened and shared with parents?
- Provide training for parents in your expectations, and what services they can use from home.
- For example, if you use Google Classroom do some online workshops with parents. They don’t need to take long, or be particularly technical, but they will provide parents with a bit of familiarity.
- Don’ t overload yourself! There is no point in purchasing every subscription just in case, develop the technical know how with what you have.
Finding the Right Service
It can be tricky to find services and support – every school has a different context. Start by thinking what you need the tech to do – for example something that can be used both at school and home – a way for parents and teachers to communicate, something to share files or something to allow real-time online lessons. Services such as Google G Suite, Microsoft 360, cover everything, including video chat and online apps. Some, such as Showbie and Tapestry allow for interaction between home and school and sharing files.
Asking schools in similar situations to yourself can be helpful as well – especially if you have local expertise and people who are willing to help train staff.
It should be said that I am a big fan of Google G Suite for Education – for a small school it really does provide everything you need.
Communication is Key
And luckily tech can help here – whether it is messaging families, or staying in touch during a lockdown. Social media can be a great way to get in touch with parents – just try not to use your own personal account. Creating groups for each class can mean the teacher can share updates in one go – and choosing a service carefully will also mean that you can share it with parents in advance. Linking to key updates on Facebook, creating a dedicated space on the school website and text messages reminding parents of where resources can be found are some ways that communication can help.
Put your provision on paper…
You need to be clear about what you can offer – no point in saying there will be daily maths and literacy lessons if your teachers have no access to the internet at home. Aim for weekly contact, and then some sessions, such as reading, which give a bit of connection with the teacher,
Ensure that parents and governors are all aware and make staff expectations reasonable. Small schools, with mixed age classes, particular need to ensure they are realistic – teaching online can be tricky and in some cases providing workbooks for classes may make life much easier.
Finally, consider that families may find it tricky to keep engagement going – even if they do have the devices and the internet connection needed.
- Have a set contact time each day – whether for answering / replying to emails of for video chats. A routine will be beneficial for staff and pupils and will help parents to manage expectations.
- Share information in different formats – e.g. weekly overviews can be sent via Google Classroom and put on the website in PDF format.
- Continue with school routines – e.g. whole school assemblies that follow the same format. Virtual meetings for groups like the School Council.
- Create teacher videos, or record the online lessons – this will mean they can be watched at any time.
- Train your pupils – for example our older children are using Google Classroom habitually now so that if they need to use it at home it’s familiar. Some classes watch a bit of Oak Academy, or use apps available at home, so that they will understand their use if they are at home.
Do you have any top tips or questions? Please let us know in the comments!