Live teaching is an increasingly prominent feature of remote education for both Junior and Senior School pupils and whilst an incredible opportunity, it brings its own challenges. We are immensely proud of the adaptability and enthusiasm of teachers in learning new skills, and incorporating this learning into their remote lessons to the benefit of students at the Dixie. There is no harm in teachers being reminded what it is like to be a learner – in preparing for the challenges of multi-screen presentations and live demonstrations, if we are honest, at times we have all felt the real challenge in learning new skills. We have all needed to adopt a growth mindset – the same mindset we regularly ask students to embrace.
In the first period of lockdown, our emphasis at the Dixie was on achieving balance for students – we were steadfast in our belief that a day in front of screens should be avoided – that it would be counterproductive for learning and well-being – for both students and staff. Lockdown this term features a greater element of live teaching, but again, whether it is Reception Class learning the ‘igh’ sound for the first time or Sixth Form mathematicians tackling binomial probability, we will be careful to provide a balance in our offering. Live teaching is a fantastically rich opportunity for staff and students, but without the rich non-verbal communication of a classroom, the experience can be all the more intense and without thought even be oppressive. Our aim is to ensure that our live lessons are carefully balanced with screen time and individual working time, with a mix of tasks on screen, tasks at a desk as well as outdoors.
Unlike the last lockdown, in the Senior section, Design and Technology, Art, Music, Home Economics and PE lessons are taking place – these practical and creative subjects also help ensure a balance to the working day for students. Offering ‘live’ practical subjects has been made possible by increased investment in technology within school.
In my own teaching in the Sixth Form, the sensory deprivation of the online classroom (visual and verbal interaction is so much more of a struggle) makes me try all the harder to ensure everyone understands what is being said – and as a result the learning is far less independent than it would otherwise be. For this reason, my teaching will be a mix of live and pre-recorded lessons – the latter giving even greater opportunity for independent learning. Whilst this is more appropriate to some subjects rather than others, the principle of a balanced diet of online provision is important, and backed up by research recently published.
In their new review of the evidence on remote learning published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), they report that the quality of remote teaching is more important than how lessons are delivered. They reported no clear difference between teaching in real time (“synchronous teaching”) and alternatives (“asynchronous teaching”). Approaches to remote learning vary widely and have different strengths and weaknesses – it is this varied approach which is important for pupils as they learn. Teachers at the Dixie are supported to consider which approaches are best suited to the content they are teaching and the age of their pupils – with the approach of a balanced diet of learning an underlying principle in all we do.
“I am hugely impressed by the ability of Dixie pupils to rise to the many challenges put before them.”
Just as the success of online learning has required the professionalism and enthusiasm of teaching staff it has also relied upon the commitment and enthusiasm of pupils and cooperation of parents. I am hugely impressed by the ability of Dixie pupils to rise to the many challenges put before them, including our latest call for uniform to be worn whilst attending school remotely. Whilst none of us would have chosen this situation, this generation of Dixie pupils are developing a whole new set of skills, both technical and personal, that will serve them well in their futures.