How will schools ensure they are ready for what the future may throw at them? What will need to be considered when planning for the use of Digital Technologies in schools post-Covid?
These are the questions that are most pressing right now, not only for me, but for many organisations and government bodies. To this end, the Irish government put out a call for submissions from interested parties towards shaping the new Digital Strategy. Like many others, I submitted my thoughts on the elements I felt most needed consideration.
The public health emergency shone a spotlight on schools’ digital capacity like never before. Some schools were, luckily, well prepared to face such an eventuality. These schools had already invested heavily in VLE’s (virtual learning environments – like Google for Education or Microsoft Teams), had school-owned and school-managed digital devices for their teachers to use at home and had delivered targeted CPD in the area of teaching and learning using digital technologies.
However, for other schools, their lack of preparedness was cruelly revealed. It may have been that the use of digital technologies in their school was not a priority. It may have been that there was a scepticism towards their use or a reluctance to change from the traditional and embrace ‘new’ approaches. It may also have been due to fear, not knowing what to expect and being fearful of facing students online in an environment that was, heretofore, alien to the vast majority of teachers.
Whatever the case may have been, we know better now. We now know what worked well, what the students enjoyed most, how they learned best and how we, as teachers, managed best.
We also know what we need to have in order to be (at least somewhat) prepared going forward. Every teacher and school in the country needs to increase its ‘digital capacity’. I foresee investment in teacher training (including initial teacher training) in this area, not only teacher to teacher mentoring in schools but external agencies also. Without devices teachers cannot practice their new skills, so these too will be required. VLE’s will be of huge importance also, as they provide remote connectivity to each other and to key resources.
What is now required is financial support – and skilled assistance – to increase teachers’/schools’ digital capacity in order to deliver a high quality education to our students over the coming years.