Following in the footsteps of commerce, finance, banking and other organisations where collaboration remotely is the norm, was not something that we saw coming to any great extent.
Like most schools we were put in a position of having to learn the technology quickly and as innovatively as possible so that our students could still engage with teaching and support staff.
Thanks to a massive team effort involving our professionally generous staff, we set up our preferred platform, G Suite, as the means of continuing to maintain teaching and learning as a temporary replacement to classroom teaching. How temporary? Indications suggest that a hybrid model of face to face teaching, supported by the smart utilisation of Google Classroom may be the way forward for many schools.
Despite a few early hiccups, it is fair to say that staff and students have embraced the technology and we look forward with optimism to what the future holds. Synchronous teaching has let us peer into the digital divide and adjust our teaching accordingly. We have kept to the broad curriculum offer so that all subjects remain of value. Subject leaders have with their teams discovered new ways of teaching so that the principles of the classroom can be kept as much as possible - planning, engagement, collaboration, reciprocity, a feedback culture and timely interventions.
Whilst there has been nothing ideal about teachers and students having to deal unexpectedly with remote learning, there will be positive impact on students for the future:
Equipping students with the skills needed for current and future careers as a result of online collaboration;
Adapting to work in geographically dispersed and virtual teams; this is an increasingly likely scenario in a growing category of jobs;
Developing further their digital literacy skills so that their resilience to a fluctuating landscape is strengthened and enhanced.
For teachers, we have already seen the benefits of having to adapt to a different way of delivering education:
Recognising that both synchronous and asynchronous teaching require considerable investment in institutional infrastructure and CPD;
Sharing expertise and collaborating across faculties;
The efficiencies of feeding back to students using non-written form;
Reducing sensory overload for some students;
Students using non-verbal channels of communication to engage with their teachers;
Being safe in the knowledge that we can teach from virtually anywhere;
Opening eyes to how technology can disrupt and question the principles of 'traditional' face to face teaching.
So in conclusion, I would argue that whilst we still have some way to go before an embedded hybrid provision becomes normalised across schools, we can be certain that:
1. The digital divide is still big and complex;
2. Relationships are everything when it comes to keeping students engaged remotely;
3. Students whose learning journey has been very different may take considerable time to make progress in line with all other students;
4. Digital teaching can be good, even great with the right support for teachers.