Research published by NESTA and the British Journal of Educational Technology has demonstrated the powerful role online learning resources can play in supporting learning outcomes.
At a time when school closures are in force in over 85 countries, and more than 770 million children require alternative forms of education provision, it is therefore natural that teachers and schools are considering incorporating online resources that their pupils can access at home.
The additional teaching tools available to download on www.lendED.org.uk can help schools fill gaps in provision, support home learning and provide pupils with exam preparation ahead of a busy summer of GCSEs and A Levels.
An online resource can be downloaded in an instant, but integrating it within a school’s teaching practices and home learning strategy can require time, preparation and planning.
In addition to browsing the resource directory on LendED, we’d therefore recommend you keep the following questions in mind:
5 Key Questions
- Are there technologies your school has previously purchased or implemented that could be used to support home learning?
In 2018, schools in England had just £48 per pupil to spend on ICT resources- £30 less than in 2013. With the OECD reporting in December 2019 that 1 in 4 schools in England lack sufficient educational resources, it may not be the case that all schools can simply scale-up their use of existing platforms to support home learning.
That said, it is likely that a majority of schools will have existing Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), video conferencing software as well as specific learning technology products that can be used to support home learning.
A prudent first step for many schools may be to map out the resources they currently have, before performing an assessment of whether staff and pupils are trained and confident in using these resources. One possibility here is to perform an e-survey of staff and pupils.
BESA’s own research has historically found that 1 in 3 schools continue to list their staff and pupils’ digital training as one of the principal problems they face. For many schools, it may therefore be the case that staff and pupils need additional training. Schools could contact suppliers whose products they’ve purchased to request a refresher training session for staff and pupils.
- Are online resources appropriate for all your student cohort?
Many students and staff will live in households that either have poor Wifi connectivity, little mobile network coverage, or where there is no family laptop or tablet. In order not to inadvertently discriminate against these staff and pupils, it is important to consider both online resources that can be downloaded by students and used offline at home, as well as physical resources, work plans, and learning materials that can be distributed to the household.
Many of the suppliers on LendED offer physical resources that can be distributed to homes. That said, a useful first step for schools might be to conduct a survey of students’ and staff’s ability to access a laptop or computer at home.
- If you are scaling up an existing technology, or downloading a new online resource from LendED, are you satisfied that safeguarding requirements are met?
As the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) has noted, “while young people’s ‘offline’ and ‘online’ are increasingly merging, the behaviours and safeguards of the ‘real’ world are not always applied in a ‘virtual’ world where friends can be added at the click of button and information shared in an instant.”
Whether it is cyber-bullying, grooming or hate websites, online mediums present a number of challenges to teachers and schools. Regardless of whether you’re considering scaling up existing technologies, or integrating a new resource into your teaching, it is therefore imperative that you both (a) consult with suppliers to see what safeguarding protections their products feature; (b) consider, in assistance with your school’s Designated Safety Lead (DSL), how the resource fits in within your overall Online Safety Plan.
It would be prudent to review with both pupils and staff a number of safeguarding scenarios that may emerge from remote learning. For example, schools may not usually allow students to use their mobile devices for learning purposes, with a change in this policy requiring new guidance and reporting mechanisms to be discussed with parents, pupils and staff.
- How about Data Protection?
Under both the EU’s GDPR, and the UK’s Data Protection Act 2018, schools bear important legal responsibilities when it comes to the processing and storage of personal data they collect. As data controllers, they must be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
When considering whether to download a new resource from LendED, you should always contact a supplier to ask where your students’ personal data would be stored, what security mechanisms are in place to prevent that data from being illegally accessed by a third party, and whether they are performing automated profiling of your students. It would be worthwhile to access the DfE’s GDPR toolkit for schools here.
- Have you thought about how online resources support student wellbeing?
According to the Children’s Commissioner for England, it is important that students balance online and offline activities. We’d recommend that you consider integrating activities from the Children Commissioner’s ‘Digital 5 a Day’ campaign into your pupils’ work plans.