Digital Learning – Where to now?

Many teachers I suspect still bear the scars of emergency remote teaching (ERT), sufferers of “Death by Zoom (Teams, SeeSaw, Google Classroom or whatever was your remote learning tool of necessity). Indeed for some, these tools are now firmly fixed in the rear-view mirror and will (Fingers crossed) stay there. However, following the recent unprecedented school closures which necessitated formal education to go fully online, the reality is that digital learning isn’t going anywhere and it incumbent on school leaders and teachers at all levels of the education system to consider and plan for the role technology will play post-pandemic. Essentially, how can schools make the most of new blended/hybrid approaches for teaching, learning and assessment. Anecdotal evidence would support the idea that schools that faired best during the two enforced formal education hiatuses were those who were organised and already had a a whole-school digital learning plan in place pre-pandemic so preparedness is fundamental.

Where to start?

Key to planning for a blended/hybrid classroom is to start by looking back at the past 20 months or so and identify what worked well (And what didn’t) and decide the practices to keep and what to leave behind. Amidst many negatives of lockdowns and remote learning, there were some very encouraging positives for digital learning. The covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly resulted in….

  • Increase in use of devices by teachers and students
  • Increase in teacher knowledge and experience of using digital technology
  • Growth in use of digital platforms like Teams, Google Classroom and SeeSaw
  • Increase in connection with parents using digital technology

And schools now need to make the most of their increased skills base and use it as the bedrock for whole-school digital learning planning going forward.

What to consider next…

First and foremost schools need a plan for digital learning, an overarching holistic approach needs to be implemented across the board. The often scattergun approach of the recent past needs to be replaced with consistency across devices, platforms and methodologies with particular emphasis on “Less is more”. Next up, provision of the necessary supports to make it all happen and not just technical support and maintenance, support for continuous professional development is mission critical and must be firmly focused on teaching, learning and assessment and how the technology fits (Not the other way around). With these two essential pillars in place then and only then can schools plan to implement and sustain real digital learning.

What’s out there to help

Earlier this year the Department of Education & Skills conducted a wide ranging consultation process as part of the development of a New Digital Strategy for Schools to build on the significant progress made in the lifetime of the current Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020. It is expected that when the new strategy is published it will be very much underpinned by the European Commission’s Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027)  – Resetting education and training for the digital age, published January last.

Why we must take action stats

This plan has 3 main priorities…

  1. Making better use of digital technology for teaching and learning
  2. Developing relevant digital competences and skills for the digital transformation
  3. Improving education through better data analysis and foresight

Few could argue against the need to make better use of digital technology for teaching and learning but this is very much dependent on all teachers embracing transformational change. We should start with, learn from and then move forward from our Covid-19 experiences…

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