Mike Taylor is a science teacher at Middlewich High School in Cheshire. Before teaching remotely, Mike was using a blended approach to lessons with students by using online tools as well as face-to-face teaching. Ahead of the full return to schools in September and the remote education plans schools need to have in place for self-isolating pupils or in the case of local lockdowns, Mike explains how the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak has brought edtech to the forefront of teaching and how it can be used both in and outside the classroom.
A blended approach to teaching means using the best of our teaching practice in the classroom with online tools to maximise what students will understand and remember. As a science teacher, this allows me to be more dynamic with my teaching; I can apply the concepts covered in our curriculum to real-life examples using videos, websites, online quizzes and information to bring the world into my classroom.
The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on me as a teacher has been to challenge me to up my game when it comes to edtech and remote education. For me and my colleagues, learning how to deliver lessons online on several different platforms in a short time frame was a steep learning curve. While in the past, a blended approach seemed to be an advanced form of teaching, I think the recent pandemic has put it at the forefront.
The differences we can make to teacher workload through online computer-assessed tasks and teachers being able to provide feedback digitally can change the way classrooms in my school are run. Being able to communicate, collaborate and provide feedback online to our students can provide them with better science education, based on real-world examples. It also provides both students and teachers with ICT skills that will help in their future career paths.
Teaching through this blended approach has allowed me to set tasks that students can complete using a wide variety of resources. It takes some practice making sure students understand which resources are suitable to use and which resources are not always reliable. It is also difficult for many students to know where to find reference material as they do not have the relevant subject knowledge to sift through content quickly. There are many ways of sharing files, videos and even recorded teacher instructions that guide students effectively. I can also make sure students are using resources appropriately by using plagiarism software that is built-in on some learning platforms.
For me, the best part of incorporating edtech into my practice is the assessment tools. I can set productive tasks, questions, or online quizzes, so I can measure students’ understanding. These methods are invaluable to me now. I am much more confident with which areas the students need further guidance and can gauge which students may need more support. I can send electronic resources midway through a project and adjust lesson plans before the students walk into the room to reflect their needs.
Is a blended approach the future for teachers?
For teachers to make successful use of the edtech available to them, it is vital that teacher CPD embraces and enhances the different tools that educational software developers are continuously updating. Thankfully, many of these software developers, such as Microsoft and Google, come with teacher CPD platforms. Most online tools also have many YouTube videos created by teachers with ideas and tips on how best to use them efficiently. By enabling our teachers to develop their skills in edtech, curriculum delivery will become more versatile and able to deal with changes in circumstances like the sudden shift to home teaching due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
While more investment in time and ICT resources can help to make a blended approach a greater success, I think the effectiveness for both teachers and pupils has been proven for the future of education. This September, I am looking forward to being able to meet with my students safely face to face but I’m also looking forward to continuing to use the edtech projects we have in my school.