With many Australian students learning in the classroom again after a temporary shift to distance learning, schools are now faced with the ongoing challenge of safeguarding wellbeing and ensuring education continuity. Dr John Collick, Head of International Strategy at Promethean, explains why moving forwards, a ‘digital-first’ strategy can provide a flexible solution to support learning wherever it takes place, without impacting on teacher workload.

While the exact situation for each school varied during the temporary shift to distance learning, the reality is that most teachers had to support their students with remote learning to some extent. Having mobilised this support with very little time to prepare, schools are to be commended for their resourcefulness and responsiveness to what were genuinely unprecedented circumstances. However, it is widely accepted that students learn best when in a classroom environment, where they can engage socially with their peers and benefit from personalised teacher direction.

That said, as localised COVID-19 risk management strategies are deployed, there remains a requirement for schools to be prepared to support students learning from home at short notice. But how can this be achieved without placing additional pressure on teachers in relation to lesson preparation and curriculum delivery?

One practical solution is to adopt a ‘digital-first’ strategy that enables the same lesson materials to be used whether students are in the classroom or learning from home.

Digitally minded

During the initial period of remote learning there was a shift towards adopting distance learning technologies. In many cases, teachers had no prior experience of utilising these solutions, demanding a steep learning curve and creating additional pressure to prepare compatible lesson materials.

With many students now back in the classroom, the focus of lesson preparation is very much on classroom-based learning. By adopting a digital-first approach, teachers will be able to utilise the same lesson content in the classroom as supporting any students that need to learn from home for short periods of time.

For example, a front of class display like the Promethean ActivPanel, acts as a hub of interactivity, used to promote participation and encourage engagement within the classroom.

Using accompanying lesson delivery software, ActivInspire, teachers can develop creative and dynamic flipchart lessons. Creating powerful collaborative content, these resources will also support teachers in re-engaging students as they adjust to learning back in the classroom.

Crucially, these same resources can also be used to support students learning from home – without impacting teacher workload to produce duplicate content.

With ActivInspire Screen Recorder, teachers can record lessons and share these with students who may not be in the classroom. Additionally, the Screen Share app on the Promethean ActivPanel enables teachers to connect with up to 39 digital devices wherever they are, to share work and information to keep learning moving.

Recognising that the ‘digital divide’ means that technology is not always accessible at home, ActivInspire lessons can be converted to PDF format and distributed as printed worksheets if necessary – again, without the teacher having to prepare a whole new suite of materials.

Future-proofing technology

The digital divide is not exclusive to technology access at home, it is also emerging as a challenge for schools. When evaluating where technology upgrades are required, schools should prioritise investment that will support students in the classroom – as this is where they learn best, and where they will be learning for most of the time. However, given that there will be a need to temporarily support learning at home for short periods of time, investing in technologies which can also accommodate this approach will not only help minimise teacher workload, it will also future proof the investment.