The new landscape for schools: join the discussion

Dr Chris Yapp, Patron, NACE (National Association for Able Children in Education) and Sue Riley, CEO, NACE
The pandemic has led to significant experimentation within schools to sustain access to education throughout the lockdown. There are many examples of rapid progress being made. However, digital inclusion challenges hold many schools back, raising concerns over a widening achievement gap. If we are to embed technology into schools in the long term to raise achievement for all students and to develop all teachers‘ practice and confidence with the use of education technology, what is the vision we are building toward?

Throughout the pandemic, NACE has brought together practitioners and school leaders to share experiences and ideas on this topic, with expertise and facilitation from NACE Patron Dr Chris Yapp, who has been involved in technology in education for more than 30 years. Key themes from this process are outlined below, and explored in more depth in an article available in the NAACE journal.

Developing teacher and student confidence will take time.

A common mistake is to assume young people are already confident with the technology. This can mean teachers fail to provide sufficient support, or avoid using technology for fear of revealing their own lack of confidence. In fact, even if young people are comfortable with technology, this does not mean they are confident in learning through technology. Just as in the classroom, some will thrive on autonomy; others will need more support.

Time is needed to develop confidence, starting with teachers so they are equipped to support students in turn. In our experience, 3-5 years is required for most teachers to develop full confidence in deploying technology as a learning tool, both within and increasingly beyond the classroom.

Much is already being learned, developed and shared

Issues highlighted in our early conversations with school leaders and practitioners have included:

    - CPD – early challenges in navigating the plethora of platforms and resources available; demand for curation, live examples and instructional guides for staff/students; changes to staff CPD delivery, including greater flexibility; opportunities for ongoing remote peer support and exchange.
    - Workload/feedback – opportunities to ease teacher workload and make marking and feedback more effective.
    - Parental engagement – potential to increase collaboration with parents; apps to support communication in both directions.
    - Independent/flipped learning – opportunities for students to work at own pace; flipped learning strategies allowing teachers to focus live teaching time more effectively; supporting independent and collaborative learning beyond and within school.
    - Homework/enrichment – potential to improve setting of homework and use technology to enhance curriculum.

    Communities of practice will remain key to this process

    While the examples shared with us show some schools developing highly innovative and effective practice, the greatest impact will come from sharing both successes and failures across the profession – building communities of teachers on- and off-line to share the development of new and innovative practice at scale. Tablets of stone from the great and good are at best blunt instruments. Learning from peers, adapting others’ experiences to your own circumstances, and then sharing back in turn, stimulates personal development and innovation.

    Join the debate…

    Next term Mirandanet, TPEA and NACE will host a joint webinar exploring the long-term research and practice that can help leadership teams build 21st century learning environments at all phases. The session will be opened by NACE patron Dr Chris Yapp, and will include opportunities for wider discussion, views and planning for development. Watch this space for more detail coming soon. We hope that NAACE members will want to lend their expertise to this forum as well. We will be sending more news in the Autumn.
    The National Association for Able Children in Education (NACE) is the UK’s leading independent charity dedicated to improving provision for more able learners, working with schools across England, Wales and internationally. Find out more.