Is online teaching as good as IRL?

I have read a lot about how online teaching isn’t as good as classroom teaching.   I myself agree that this is the case however I have come to realise that I have fallen into the generalisation trap.    I have bought into a simple argument that online teaching is either better or worse than real life, classroom, teaching, that there is a binary judgement to be made and that the world, in this case, is simple.    The world however isn’t simple and is seldom binary.     The line should read that online teaching isn’t generally as good as in real life teaching.

So, what brought me to this realisation?

I have seen some students absolutely excel in remote lessons, and not students who were previously excelling, but students who were struggling.    I am not sure if it is the added independence they have found online teaching has provided, the lack of peer pressure or something else, but they have excelled in terms of work rate, engagement and work quality.    Clearly for these students online teaching works better than teaching in a classroom.    These are the students who prove the assertion as fact, that “online teaching isn’t as good as real-life teaching” to be false.

Here for me lies the challenge as we move forward; How can we take these successes and translate them to the world of education as it will exist once we return to a semblance of normal, post pandemic?   How do we make sure that the students who have gained from online teaching, who find online teaching suits their needs, don’t lose out when we return to the bricks and mortar classroom?


2020, the year with the pandemic

It’s been a year that I don’t think anyone will be forgetting in a hurry.   In my 26 years working in education, including my 4 years training, I have never experienced anything like it.  As such am hoping my review of 2020 might be something I find myself looking back on at some point in the future.   2020, the year with the pandemic.

The year started of normally with January including the usual BETT event that I briefly attended, plus an EdTech conversations event which I had the privilege to speak at.   I must admit I enjoyed the EdTech conversations event in particular, with my visit to BETT a little bit rushed plus, to be honest, I now find BETT to be similar year to year and lacking in any new ideas.   Obviously, my journey to London had its usual missteps and calamities as seem to regularly befall me when I travel by train.  This almost goes without saying.

In March I found myself in Birmingham speaking at the Digifest event.  This was an excellent event with the signs of the pandemic just starting to show in hand sanitising stations and the lack of the usual handshake welcomes at the conference.   Will admit my presentation was far from my best however overall, I found the event to be both useful and interesting. This is definitely an event I would like to revisit.

As we approached the half term, in school, we had to accelerate our training and support for staff in relation to using Microsoft Teams as it became likely that schools would be forced to close.   Teams had been identified as the key tool in continuing to support learning during lockdown, allowing resources to be shared but also supporting synchronous lessons.    Thankfully we had already started using Teams mainly in an administrative capacity for teaching and support departments, so we already had some training resources plus understanding as to how to use Teams.    For me personally, it made me glad that I had been pushing for moving to the cloud and to Office 365, as it put us in a position to quickly move to online teaching when the lockdown kicked in.   It does make me believe, in education, we need to be braver about our decision making and pursuing what we believe to be the right direction.   Too often decisions are overthought and overanalysed to the point that no action, and therefore no progress is made.   Yes, education is important, yes we want to avoid making the wrong decisions, but if 2020 has proven anything it has proven we cannot predict the future, so we therefore need to braver and avoid being paralysed or slow to progress, and focussing too much on predicting and planning in minute detail in an unpredictable world.   Only then can we provide students with the skills, the knowledge and the character traits needed for the future.

And in late March the lockdown did just that, kicking in, and forcing a move to online teaching and to remote working.   It was strange finding myself at home day in day out, working from my PC with the only social contact outside of the family being via Teams video calls.   This period highlighted that working from home was possible and even beneficial in some situations, however also highlighted that equally face to face interactions are beneficial and even required in other situations.   From a teaching point of view, I still believe face to face is the best way to deliver teaching and learning, however that this can be augmented and supported through the use of technology, online teaching and online learning.  Its about finding a balance.

The period from March to August was hard, as we ran with a reduced IT Services department, supporting teachers delivering online teaching largely from their own homes.    It was made harder by the lack of the social interaction which would normally occur in our office, where members of the team would support and encourage each other, and occasionally have a laugh.    Remote working didn’t quite provide for this and it made everything feel that much more difficult and draining.   Additionally, working at home without driving too and from work led to the distinction between being at home or at work, being eroded.   This led to work bleeding into home time, and also a difficulty for me in turning off in the evenings and on taking time for myself and for family. Will be honest and say I previously have always struggled with turning it off, however the pandemic and working from home only amplified this issue.

August was meant to see our long-awaited family trip to the US, something we had wanted to do for a large number of years and something we had finally booked to prevent us once again missing out.   Sadly, despite booking and making the plan concrete, Covid19 had other ideas and the trip never happened.   This was a big disappointment.

September saw the launch of the new academic year and getting students back on site but where there would be occasions where some students would be attending lessons online.   This was the birth of the “hybrid” lesson.     For me this was also a return to more regular teaching as I took on a couple of year 9 classes in addition to my lower 6 sessions.   September as the start of new academic year is often a very busy period but this year it was significantly busier and more challenging.  

During September I would receive an unexpected offer in relation to a new job role.   It would be weeks and weeks of exploring the options, of stress, of will we or wont we as the opportunity would have once again taken me and my family abroad.   The idea of a return to expat life was definitely appealing however the context of a global pandemic was far from ideal.   This was one of the most difficult decisions I feel I have had to make in recent years however having considered my family I eventually decided the option in hand was a great option however sadly presented itself at the wrong time.  It is interesting, when looking back to my pledges at the start of 2020, I mentioned seeking a new challenge and this would certainly have been it;  Sadly this therefore was the right opportunity but clearly at the wrong time.

September also saw me undertake a challenge to complete 100km of running within the month as part of an online group.   Must admit am really happy with myself for managing to complete this challenge as it meant running 5 or 6 days within each week.   This was way more in terms of health and fitness than I had achieved before so I am very proud to have been able to stick at and complete the target.  Sadly, I then let things slip in October and November however I again started to run in December and hope to build up once again into 2021. 

October saw me come down with a cough and temperature which instantly got me worried re: covid19.  Thankfully the NHS testing service was excellent and I quickly got a test and my results back, indicating a negative;   It was a common cold rather than the corona virus.   It still took it out of me and led to a couple of days off ill.   I suspect the stress of the job offer and the cold/wet mornings running throughout September all played their part in me coming down with a cold and my resultant lack of energy.

As we progressed into November and December I was involved in an esports project to try and launch an interschools competition among independent schools like ours.   Its all in its infancy at this point, with a small number of schools planning to partake in the initial pilot however am hoping that after a successful pilot in the spring term it may be possible to grow this project.   Esports is something I am passionate about as there are many opportunities out there for our students, plus this area is only going to grow in the coming years.

November also saw the introduction of a puppy to the family. This was another things which had been discussed for many years but for which I was reluctant. With everything that has happened I relented and Ziva joined the family initially a shy puppy before becoming the devil dog she now is. If it can be ripped to shreds, scratched, eaten, chewed, etc, then it has been, and all while maintain a cute, butter would melt in my mouth outward appearance. Am not sure if we are training the dog or she is training us.

Christmas has now came and went and as I am my son have often reflected, it didn’t feel very Christmasy this year.   I suspect this is due to the year as a whole lacking some of the normal markers of a year such as a holiday away or the clear distinction between working and being on holiday;   Its not very different when your working day involves being at home all day, in the same way as your holidays, with little options available for activities due to lockdown.

2020 for me was meant to be about balance or at least that what I decided when I wrote my pledges back in January.    Looking back 2020 has been anything but balanced.   Its been crazy, its been frantic and ever changing.  Its been some year, a year which looking back seems to have disappeared in a blur, its been the year with a pandemic in it.    I suspect things will be different as we move into 2021, with some changes for the better however others less so.    This is a year I don’t think I will be forgetting anytime soon.

2020, the one with the pandemic!

Roundtable event

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being involved in a little virtual roundtable event titled “The Future of Education is here, Take learning and teaching to the next level” sponsored by Logitech.

The event focused on education, the changes brought about by Covid19 and the future of using digital tools within education.   I found the discussion quite interesting particularly given I was representing an independent school while others involved represented universities, business schools and also Logitech, thereby providing a reasonable diverse range of participants.

My main takeaways from the event were:


Culture was mentioned on a number of occasions including by myself.    The culture in educational institutions, particularly in relation to technology, changed over the lockdown period and into the new academic year.   There was more sharing and collaboration both within schools, colleges, etc but also between them as we all sought to find solutions to the myriad of challenges presented to us through lockdown and then in a hybrid teaching environment.   There was more positivity and agility, with greater willingness to try new things where maybe previously some minor issues would have been identified as justification for not trying something new.

It is important as things progress, and maybe as things move towards a greater degree of normality, whatever that may be, that we try to retain this culture of positivity, of agility, of trying new things, being brave and of sharing what works and what doesn’t.

Web cam culture

This is related to the wider organisational culture issue above and was something I hadn’t given much thought to however something we very much need to consider.   What is the culture in the digital space?   Do our students turn their cameras on or leave them off?    Do staff meet face to face or, even now where things are largely back on-site, are meetings more or less carried out from offices, with interactions online only, even where offices may only be a short distance apart?    What are the implications of this growth in web conferencing and the corresponding reduction in face to face meetings, or even in the occasional corridor interaction enroute to meetings?    There are lots of human issues which have or may arise as the result of covid19 and the sudden growth in work or learn from home.  

Digital Divides

Discussion regarding digital divides initially focussed on device access with universities in particular referencing the difficulties with students accessing from different devices ranging from laptops or tablets to students simply using their phones.   Those students with limited or no access to a device which could be used for accessing learning content were also discussed.   From here though, the discussion broadened to other divides such as access to Wi-Fi or available bandwidth, other users wishing to use devices, confidence and skill in using digital platforms, teacher pedagogy in relation to digital tool use, etc.    It was clear that digital divides are a significant problem, one with many different interrelated layers.

Privacy and Security

Unintended consequences were mentioned early on in discussions.  Covid19 had educators rushing to find the best solutions to continue the learning of their students outside the classroom with IT teams rushing to support educators as best they could.   As such it is likely some decisions reached in the interests of continuing learning may not have given sufficient consideration to security and/or privacy.  We now need to start unpicking these decisions and the potential implications.   We need to consider the platforms we are using, how they are be used, how they are configured and how this all relates to privacy and security of student and staff data.


One thing was clear in the discussion, that it isn’t just a case of returning back to the way schools, colleges and universities were in Jan 2020.   Equally its not a case of all change.   The reality is that the way things were had its advantages and disadvantages the same as the new normal which was adopted during lockdown.   It isn’t a case of either or.   It is a case of finding a “new balance”; a phrase one of the attendees at the roundtable event used which I think sums up the situation. Each organisation needs to revisit its aims and establish the new balance which it feels is most appropriate for its own students, staff and community.

Delaying exams; why?

So, a research study has arrived at the conclusion that due to Covid19 students may be 3 months behind in their studies.     The delaying of exams to allow students more time to catch up has also been discussed.   This all seems like rather simplistic thinking.

There are for me a number of issues with delaying the exams.

The first is that we already accept that exams differ each year and therefore there is already tinkering in place to adjust the grade boundaries to keep some consistency across academic years when looking at the statistical outcomes of students in general.   This is why the result show small but steady changes year on year rather than being more volatile. It seems to me to be fairly easy to just adjust this process to normalise the exam results next year should they be, as would be expected, lower than previous years and should it be important to maintain parity in results across different calendar years. And this statistical fiddle would be more acceptable than the algorithm proposed for 2020 results as it doesnt differ from the statistical adjustments of GCSE and A-Level results in 2019, 2018, etc.

Another issue, if we were to delay the exams, is that it simply knocks on to following years.   So, delay the GCSE exams would mean teachers would lose some teaching time they would likely use to start A-Level studies or to start Year 13 teaching of A-Level subjects following Year 12 exams.  As such it doesnt solve the issue, but rather displaces it. Is the focus not on learning rather than measuring learning? As such how can any solution with a knock on to teaching and learning be acceptable.

Also, the point students should be at the end of each academic year has been arbitrarily determined.   At some point the curriculum for each subject was developed and the content decided for each year or stage however it could have easily been decided that more or less content be added.   Why, therefore, is the point students should be at perceived to be so immovable? Why not simply reduce content for the year based on the reduced time available to students? Surely this is an alternative option.

There is also the point that next years results will be compared with this years results, where it has already been reported this years results were significantly up.   This obviously resulted from the use of centre assessed grades, provided by teachers, without any of the normal annual statistical manipulation in relation to grade boundaries.    This comparison is unavoidable. So, despite any delay, etc, there is still a high likelihood of negative reporting in the press with regards the 2021 results, with knock-ons in terms of students/parents being disappointed.

This bring us nicely to the big question I have seen a number of people ask, which is 3 months behind who or what?     Is it 3 months behind where teachers think they would be had Covid19 not arisen?   A prediction based on a predication doesn’t provide me with much confidence as to its statistical reliability.   Is it three months behind in terms of curriculum content covered at the predicted rate that content is covered?   Again this suffers given it relies on predicated rate of coverage of materials plus could the content be covered at a faster rate but in less depth possibly?

Maybe this issue is an opportunity to reassess our assumptions and to question our current approach regarding education and how it is assessed or are we simply going to accept that this is the way things are done around here and that any changes should be limited and only in maintaining the status quo? I believe we have reached a fork in the road, however I worry that we may look to take the route which looks easier.

What does a great online learning experience look like?

I think many schools are asking themselves the above question as they look to improve on what they currently offer and as they prepare for what could be a long period where at least some students will be working remotely due to isolation resulting from Covid19 symptoms.

The issue with this question, is that if you remove the word online from the question, you arrive at another question.   What does a great online learning experience look like?  The difference is that we have had decades and even centuries to identify what makes a great learning experience whereas for online learning we have had only a couple of decades, and it has only been with the recent crisis that so many have found the need to give this serious thought.   Given we have been unable to reach a satisfactory answer for general learning I think it becomes doubtful that we will be able to come up with such an answer for online learning.    This, however, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try or that we shouldn’t share ideas or share experiences, indeed I think it is critical we do.   Each idea or experience is another thing learned and another step forwards and closer towards that which we seek: great [online or face to face] learning.

So now for my tuppence worth on great online learning.   Am just going to outline my thoughts as they stand as to things which great online learning needs to contain:

  1. Wellbeing and balance

Am putting this point first on purpose.  It is all too easy to be drawn into the world of students and teachers messaging each other at all hours of the day or night, or spending hours developing content or coursework.   The digital world as many an author has put it, can be addictive.   We need to be conscious of this and set clear boundaries plus we need to put in places structures and processes for all to seek support should they need it.   Above all we must remember the human aspects of learning, of schools, of education and of the wider world.

  1. Sync and async

Am not going to rehash my earlier post on the benefits and drawback of synchronous or asynchronous learning; You can read the piece here if you would like.    This is about balance and what works for teachers and students.   Start with a balance that works for you and then adjust until you find a point where you and the students have enough real time interaction and enough tasks which are self-directed.

  1. Regular check-ins with students

Linked to the above, to decide on the balance, we need to seek feedback from students.   We need to ask them if there is enough self-directed work, enough real time interaction, enough support resources, enough time for the work set, etc.    In a class we have lots of visual and auditory cues as to how lessons are going; We don’t have the same access to these cues when teaching online, so we need to find another method to check in with students and to gather this data.   This could use an online form or be a discussion point for a video chat or be any number of other methods; It isn’t important how the info is gathered.  What matters is that it is gathered and that the learning experiences are adjusted accordingly.

  1. Space for students to chat with peers, to be social and to decompose learning

We so often focus on the learning and this is vitally important however we mustn’t forget the social aspects of learning.  The classroom, the school corridor, the canteen, etc are all a very social experience for our students.   This is where students catch up with the latest goings on, the latest TikTok craze but also where lessons, homework, etc are discussed in passing.   As such we need to try and replicate at least some of this in the environments we create for online learning.   For some this might be as simple as a chit chat space used by the class for general chat or it might be a year group or even whole school online social space.   The important thing is we need to provide such spaces.  It is also the case the staff would benefit from similar spaces whether this be an online Staff Room or a virtual pub.

  1. individuals and Groups

There can be a tendency in online learning towards students working individually; Think the student working on their device at home, working through a task set by the teacher.   This is especially common where learning is asynchronous.    It is important to remember that in face to face lessons we regularly mix individual and group work dependent on the learning, the students, etc.    We need to remember to do this within online learning environments and to be conscious of the tendency towards tasks which are individual.   This may therefore require that more effort needs to go into providing situations for students to work together.

  1. Wider networks and crowdsourcing

Students, if encouraged, will actively seek solutions.   As a result of this there are significant opportunities where students are allowed to develop their own structures for sharing, discussion and other collaborative activities outside the formally create online structures a school will create (e.g. form groups, subject classes, year groups).   Just consider how some students have crowd sourced the exam questions, answers and mark schemes for GCSE and A-Level exams within days of the exam and long before the exam boards release any info.   I believe it is therefore important to give students some flexibility to create their own groups and online structures based on their needs rather than having a centrally controlled structure mandated by the school.  This might be a creating a book club or study group, project meetings for a class project or a group focussed on a civic movement; The main thing being the students are empowered to create such groups as the need and interest arises.

  1. Teachers and student professional development in IT and EdTech

EdTech tools are just that, they are tools.   Like any tool there needs to be support and training so that they can be used effectively both by the teachers and the students.   Only then can we possibly get the best out of the EdTech tools we have available.   A believe a key requirement here is a community and culture of sharing, a culture where it is safe to try things and admit and share where they didn’t work, a culture which is open and continually seeking to improve and/or develop, and a climate of warmth and positivity.

  1. Feedback

One particularly important benefit of EdTech in my view relates to providing students with feedback.    Technology allows this to be automatic in some cases, with feedback instantly given to students based on tests they complete.    Students can also seek support from teachers in-between lessons and teachers can provide guidance and correction where students are going wrong, but at any time rather than being forced to wait for the next lesson.  This all makes for potentially more dynamic feedback and opportunities to address areas of difficulty more quickly.   I will however note that balance is important here and care needs to be taken in relation to point 1 and teacher/student wellbeing where an “always on” learning environment may develop.

  1. Be inventive and seek new solutions, plus put on a show

Innovation is important;  We haven’t had the time to do countless research studies into what works in remote learning with the technology we now have available to us.   Yes, there are studies, but few are current enough to cover the current myriad of EdTech tools available to use in todays lessons and learning experiences.   This reminds me of the phrase, “building the plane while we fly it”.    As we don’t have plans and studies to go on, we need to try new things and to be inventive.   Linked to this is the need to engage and excite students with the learning experience.  This isn’t appropriate for every lesson as some content may need to involve desirable difficulty, however in any period of learning there needs to be something to grab students attention. Aligned with this is the need for a performance;   Teaching for me has always been a bit of a performance with the teacher as the main actor putting on a show.    Teaching remotely, whether live or on-demand, has the same requirement for at least some showmanship albeit it may not look the same as it does in the face to face class. The best online learning experiences are likely to contain at least an element of the teachers character in their structure and/or delivery.

  1. Engaging parents/guardians

Remote learning happens in the home and therefore it isn’t complete without considering parents/guardians and how they can support learning but also how online learning from home might impact the balance and flow of home life.    It is therefore important to build processes for communicating and keeping parents up to date and for involving them in decision making around the online learning experience.   Like with traditional face to face lessons in a classroom, an effective school-home relationship only benefits learning.

  1. Beyond the school

Online learning and the fact students are online allows them access to the vast resources of the wider world.   From websites or YouTubes videos covering maths subject content to skype calls with an astronaut.    In online learning there is an opportunity to reach beyond the curriculum, beyond the bounds of the classroom and give students a breath of experiences which in the past wasn’t possible.

  1. Safeguarding

It isn’t possible to consider online learning without considering the safeguarding aspect where students are online and engaging in lessons through a virtual platform of one type or another.    I am not going to be prescriptive here as to what this should look like as it is for individual schools to consider the risks and their risk appetite, to identify what they are willing to accept or not accept, and to put appropriate mitigation measures in place.   My biggest concern here is overly strict control being applied as I believe the comfort such controls may provide a schools leadership team hides the real world ineffectiveness of such controls.   If learning is online, and the schools platform doesn’t allow students to do what they want to do, then this may force them to other platforms out with school control or monitoring.   I would rather have students on the schools platform where the school can support them when they make the inevitable mistakes.

Closing thoughts

When I set out to write this post it was just going to be a couple of ideas dumped on a page.   As it turns out it is significantly longer than I anticipated and on reflection it still is rather limited.   To do the subject matter any justice I think this post would quickly turn into a book or a whole blog of its own.

For now I am going to leave it here in the hope that there is some value in these roughly put together thoughts.

5 tips for remote learning

ipad-1721500_640 (1)As we head towards the end of the Easter break and into the new term and for a lot of schools, a period of remote learning, I thought I would share my thoughts and tips on remote learning.

The first point I would make is that there is no one solution to remote learning.  It depends on your context including the age of your students, previous experience using technology and online learning platforms, individual subject requirements, teachers confidence with platforms and their own personal experience of those that are available and the equipment available to teachers and students, to name just a few factors.

  1. Seek feedback from students: Be clear and open with students, for most the use of technology in this way is new, and for all the current pandemic is new.   As a result, things may not be perfect and issues/challenges will be experienced however if we accept this we can then all work together to review, revise and improve, and to get to the best possible use of technology.  It is therefore important to seek feedback from students often in order to then revise how remote learning is delivered.
  2. Use video conferencing to regularly check in with students learning: A key part of teaching and learning is the interactions between teachers and students. Video conferencing is a key method to achieve this however we should not simply seek to substitute classroom teaching with video conferencing sessions of the same length as traditional classroom-based lessons.  We should however ensure that at the minimum there are regular check in opportunities for teacher and students to interact, discuss and share by video conferencing however this could be at the start of each lesson, once daily, at the start of a short unit of work, etc.   We need to experiment to identify which works best for the teacher and each class taught.
  3. Set clear expectations for video conferencing: Video conferencing presents challenges in relation to background noise, interruptions, talking over each other, etc.   This can clearly be seen simply by watching the use of video conferencing technology within BBC news broadcasts.   For teachers this is no different from working in a classroom, albeit the challenges when interacting virtually via video conferencing are different to those which occur in the traditional classroom where working with students face to face.   Like in the classroom it is therefore important to establish clear expectations as to how students should behaviour while on a conference call as part of the class.   It is also important to review these expectations via feedback from students, especially in the early use of video conferencing to support remote learning, to ensure all, students and teachers, share ownership of these expectations and that they meet the needs of the teacher and learners alike.
  4. Set personal boundaries for responding to students: Remote learning, the use of video conferencing, email and other online platforms can lead to teachers feeling they are always working, and even more so in international schools where students may live and therefore interact with the teacher from different time zones. This is not good for teacher wellbeing.   Boundaries need to be set as to during what times a teacher will interact, how quickly responses can be expected, etc.   I find a useful technique to address this is to have a dedicated workspace meaning the rest of the house means I am not working.   It is also important to consider what devices emails and other platforms are installed on plus how notifications are presented on devices.   On my phone, for example, I have do not disturb enabled for the evenings to stop me from instinctively responding to emails simply by suppressing the notifications outside normal working hours.
  5. Find your balance in lesson delivery: Learning can be delivered in a variety of ways both in real life and via remote learning. In remote Learning you may choose to create video content in advance similar to flipped learning, or you may do live video sessions.  You may provide students presentations to work through, or links to videos online or even worksheets or workbooks for more self-study style learning.  You may ask students to work collaboratively in groups using video conferences or you may ask them to complete questions where you can provide remote live feedback, such as via OneNote.  I do not believe any single of the above approaches to be correct as each has strengths and drawbacks with some requiring significant prep time.  You need to experiment and seek a blend of these and also other approaches I have not listed.    A point that I have seen multiple teachers state is that this is a “marathon not a sprint” so we need to be careful to not burn ourselves out by creating lots of content and exciting learning experiences in the short term, only to find this quickly used up in lessons.

The five points above are the key suggestions I would make in relation to remote learning.   You will notice they are inter-related in a number of ways.  They are purposely not over specific, as given the different contexts of teachers across a single school never mind across the globe, I don’t believe it is possible to be specific and precise without either ruling out some learning opportunities that would work or proposing approaches which in some contexts may detract or damage learning.

To all engaging in remote learning, good luck, and please do share your thoughts, successes and what hasnt worked as together we can get through this, and together we can learn a lot from this experience which may help us start to reshape the educational experiences of the students yet to grace our classrooms.

EdTech beyond Covid-19

I believe things will never quite be the same again following Covid-19.    These unprecedented events have the potential to act as the catalyst for a number of EdTech changes in particular.   For example, I have read a few comments over the last week where EdTech initiatives which have been slow to progress, often being discussed in schools over a number of years with little movement, have suddenly been quickly progressed due to Covid-19 and the immediate need for online remote learning.   Due to this I thought I would share some thoughts as to what might change beyond the current crisis:

Flipped / Blended Learning

ipad-1721500_640 (1)Over the last week or so since schools closed teachers who previously hadn’t had much experience of creating video learning content have suddenly found themselves creating content.   Some of this video has been live through Zoom, Hangouts or Teams, or has been posted for on demand access through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, FlipGrid and even TikTok or through school Virtual Learning Environments.    Although discussions of flipped or blended learning have been ongoing for some time, Covid-19 has led to a peak in interest plus to a rapid upskilling of teachers driven by a specific and immediate need.    With this greater interest and skill level I would predict that we will see greater use of video, and in particular pre-prepared video which can be used or accessed on demand within schools and learning, similar to the lecture capture concept which has become more common in Higher Education.

Digital Skills


The current situation has required the rapid upskilling of teachers to facilitate online remote learning.   Lots of resources have been quickly pulled together and curated by various groups of individuals and organisations.    The importance of a teachers digital skillset has become never more apparent and with this it is likely to see increasing levels of importance beyond the current crisis.  Schools will need to asses what their strengths and areas for development are in relation to the use of EdTech by staff, and how they might address the identified needs.    I should also mention that infrastructure and IT support are also likely to need to be considered as these are cornerstones of successful EdTech usage.

Remote / Distance Learning

The benefits in the use of video to engage remote learners, allow for remote teachers and also provide on-demand learning materials has become clear to a significantly greater number of educators during this period of lockdown.    It may even be that parents and our students are now more aware of what is possible, and therefore are likely to have greater expectations as to what schools should provide once we progress beyond the current crisis..    As such I believe the student absent from school may no longer be excluded from the days learning in the way they have been in the past, and we may see students accessing learning remotely becoming more common.

Personalisation rather than differentiation

Remote learning has shown us how students can actually access learning in their own time, space and also personal way.    In addition, some of the tools such as Microsoft’s Accessibility tools, for example, also allow for the language to be changed or the font size or background colour, all customizable to meet the end users, the students, needs.   This customization at the point of consumption, as opposed to differentiation at the point of delivery, is likely to significantly increase.   As such teachers are likely to need to think about how the learning they design, deliver and facilitate will offer sufficient flexibility to allow for students to personalise.

Work from home

When we talk about schools we immediate think of the physical buildings, same as when we talk about work, there is a physicality about it.   I saw a great tweet referring to school being the students as opposed to the physical building.   What covid-19 has taught us is that this physicality is in our heads, an illusion, and that in reality our school or place of work isn’t as reliant on the physical space as we thought.    Our school or work can, to a greater or lesser extent, exist virtually and online.    This is likely to be a significant challenge as we are, as humans, creatures of habit and therefore not travelling to a physical place of work, or to a physical school, may be a difficult change for us to adjust to however I think we will see increasing consideration around flexibility.    Workers may be allowed work from home days and some schools may adopt timetables or schedules including virtual school time or virtual school days.  We may also see a growth around online only schools.

Online socialising

twitter-292994_1920For me our students online social media habits have to date been seen in a very negative light, being thought of as being anti-social or changing in their behaviour or attention spans.   The last week has however shown how the online world can provide opportunities for socialising as much as the real world can, albeit in different ways.    We have seen virtual pubs, lots of online Karaoke, community groups and much more form quickly online to overcome the challenges of social distancing and the potential harm of individual isolation.   Thinking about children, and how parents may be overprotective and concerned of the dangers in the real world, therefore leading our students to be more isolated than they would have been in the past;  For me I remember parental comments about returning home “before the street lights come on”.   This kind of freedom to socialise in real life isn’t afforded in anyway to the same extent for the current generation of children.  Is it therefore any wonder they would look to use the online world?    I think going forward there will be a greater acceptance of the benefits of the hyper connectedness which our students already experience through the many apps they use.

The Bigger Players

We have seen over the last week a number of school services overwhelmed by increasing demand and traffic as schools and workplaces across the globe shifted to remote learning and remote working.   Even the big players like Microsoft and Google have had some issues in this period of unprecedented demand.     In looking at these issues, although the bigger services were negatively impacted by demand they also tend to have greater capacity to upscale and recover quickly, greater resiliency, where need arises hence I think we will see a number of small EdTech companies disappear as they loose out on business to the big players.   This shift will have both positive and negative implications.  We may lose some interested and useful solutions to a difficult financial climate while homogenising on common functionality which will be seen across all schools.

Data Protection/Cyber

legislation-3231548_640Although most of the above is positive I do have some concerns.  I am worried that as people rushed to find solutions to overcome isolation, maintain social connection, etc, that they didn’t show due care for the protection of their personal data and for the resultant cyber risk.   Great communities may have formed overnight using free services but what data did we give away regarding these groups and the individuals within them.    It worries me that when things do settle down, we may realise that some decisions made have negative consequences.   I suspect the pendulum which swings between individual privacy and public good, and which previously tended towards individual privacy may have shifted somewhat and may now tend more towards the public good.   In some ways this may be a good thing, but what may be a good thing in a crisis may not be a good thing when everything returns to normality or near normality.


It may be possible that I am wrong about the above and that the world simply acts like an elastic band and springs back towards the normal which existed prior to Covid-19.  It may equally be that Covid-19 acts as a catalyst for wide ranging change and a new normal, distinctly different from what existed before, is established.   The likelihood is that the world will find a position somewhere between these two possibilities, with some schools embracing change and others not.    It is also worth noting that the world education sector is likely to see some significant change especially around fee paying schools operating internationally.  I know from my own experience working in the Middle East that some of these schools rely fully on fee income and that this period where parents may be unable to afford fees due to job losses will result in significant uncertainty and some difficult decisions.   For ex-Pat teachers this will be a period of great concern.   My thoughts go out to these schools and their staff, and in particular to the schools and staff I personally worked with.  My thoughts are also with those who have lost loved ones, and to those who will likely lose loved ones on the weeks and months to come.

The above represent my thoughts on what might change following this crisis.   Only time will now tell how close or far I am from the truth.




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