What we can learn about technology from school closures?

Technology, Pedagogy and Education, a journal I am close to, has put out a call for papers on the Covid-19 and the role of technology in teaching [1]. The deadline for abstracts is soon, 17 April, so hurry if you are interested.  I’m not writing a paper for it but the lockdown has pushed those of us interested in technology and learning to reflect on how education is coping. Four observations:

  1. The lockdown has shown that there is no mystery, technology will be used when it serves a purpose. Researchers have always fretted that technology seems to be so under-used, but the message is clear that when teaching and institutional objectives align, technology will come into its own [2]. Though having said that I am surprised at the speed with which many institutions have responded and the willingness of so many teachers to suddenly start working online.
  2. We’ll get back into face-to-face teaching again after working online. This is not so much an issue for schools, they need to be face to face, but I think we will see the same in higher education as well.  There will, I hope, be a new flexibility around online learning but I hear from so many people that they do miss the direct contact even if the online teaching has gone better than they thought it would.
  3. Live lessons and webinars have worked. In the past live classes were always the least used of online tools within virtual learning environments, there were too many logistical demands and teachers did not like teaching to camera. Yet, when asked to, teachers have offered bursts of live classroom teaching, in some cases longer lessons.
  4. ‘How do you teach online?’ is still one of the least helpful questions about technology being asked. Instead let’s reframe it as ‘How can you be the kind of teacher you want to be when working at a distance?’. For example if you are an inquiry kind of teacher then get the learners exploring (e.g. ‘Using online and other available sources find out: Where did this Covid-19 virus start?; Why isn’t there a vaccine?; What does the future hold for schooling’ and so on). If you like group work then try asking groups to tackle one or more of the above questions together and report back (either live or by uploading a document to the group forum). If you like guiding learning then offer more input (eg lead the learners through a comparison of a false news site and an authoritative site reporting on Covid-19 and ask them to carry out a short comparison using online sources of their own). Only if that is the kind of lesson you are happy doing should you give them an hour-long live lecture!

I hope your online teaching / learning / entertainment is going well and look forward to talking about our experience when all this is over.

[1] Download here Covid special issue call for papers

[2] I write about this at more length in Hammond, M. (2020) What is an ecological approach and how can it assist in understanding ICT take‐up?, British Journal of Educational Technology, (early view).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s