1st April 2020
“It takes a village to raise a child” and our modern-day society means that children are growing up in a digital, virtual village in which digital literacy has become an integral element of their learning. Only last month, we marked “Safer Internet Day” with schools across the country highlighting (to pupils and parents) how children can safely navigate the minefield that is the online world.
Warning users of the potential dangers associated with internet usage is important as this is something that will be an important facet of their daily living in the future. The current Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the power of information technology, online platforms and social media. These elements are woven into the tapestry of our everyday lives (e.g. automated services in banks, supermarkets and various other outlets).
In many homes across the country, live lessons are being streamed into living rooms with children practicing physical activity, literacy, numeracy, science and much more. These are relatively new methodologies that are gradually being embedded into teaching in recent years. We moved from “chalk and talk” to whiteboard and marker and then to interactive whiteboards with most schemes for the primary curriculum containing a strong interactive element which allows children to develop ICT skills.
No doubt, this is a useful option for teachers in our current challenging circumstances and many schools are considering using an online platform for distance learning. However, it must be borne in mind that what works for one school may not work for another. There are various matters to consider such as the following:
The DOs and DON’Ts of Digital Technology!
✔ DO adopt a whole-school approach.
Consistency is important not only for staff members who can support one another, but also for parents and pupils. Establishing a good online platform that suits the needs of a school will be a longer-term investment and children and parents will be familiar with it as they progress through different class levels.
✔ Do ensure effective, consistent communication.
It is important to work collaboratively as a staff to formulate a strategy for communicating with parents. Decide what information will be disseminated to parents and the means by which this communication will take place. Agree how regularly teachers will engage with pupils on the chosen digital platform and ensure that this is relayed to parents in a clear, coherent manner. (Again, a whole-school, consistent approach is crucial).
✔ Do secure parental consent.
When setting up student accounts on any online platform, parental consent is essential. In our current situation, permission can be sought remotely by sending out forms via email or a text to parents.
✔ DO consult the PDST Distance Learning webpage
PDST have created a hugely informative webpage dedicated to distance learning with information on the best online platforms and tutorial videos. This resource is updated regularly based on queries from teachers. https://www.pdsttechnologyineducation.ie/en/
❌ DON’T overcomplicate
Stick to what you know! If your school has already been using an online platform, (e.g. Google Drive, Microsoft 365, Schoology, Seesaw, etc.), continue with this and avoid the unnecessary stress of taking on new initiatives at an already busy time.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel. You will likely have some resources that can be adapted – for example converted to video format relatively easily using screen casting software (https://www.pdsttechnologyineducation.ie/en/Training/Noticeboard/Teaching-Online-for-Primary-and-Post-Primary-Teachers.html)
As well as sharing resources with colleagues, there is a plethora of existing resources on scoilnet.ie and other online platforms. Reduce workload, reuse and recycle where possible!
❌ DON’T assume all pupils have access to online learning
Be conscious of children who may not be in a position to readily access online platforms. There are many situations where devices in the home may be limited and in demand (parents working remotely, post-primary exam siblings prioritised etc.). If pupils do not have access to a personal device, don’t require students to engage in online lessons that take place at a certain time.
❌ DON’T forget to take regular breaks!
Make sure that you maintain a sense of structure to your day. Working from home means we miss the dynamic of the school setting, but make sure that you take breaks – move around, get some fresh air and replenish with wholesome, healthy snacks.
Above all, don’t forget that online learning serves to supplement and not substitute. Technology is not replacing pedagogy but enhancing the learning process and helping children develop digital literacy. We are seeing the benefit on online forums during this current unprecedented school closure, but online activities should not be a sole focus. For primary school children, keep assignments and tasks very practical, e.g. visual art, treasure hunt, weighing out ingredients, keeping a short daily journal. These can be documented if an online platform is in use (more ideas can be found here).