Category: South Lanarkshire

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Creating the Remote Inclusive Classroom, MIE Scotland Blog

This post was written for the MIE Scotland blog by Chris Gerrard.

The transition to remote, and now blended learning, has been incredibly challenging for students and educators alike but it has especially difficult for those with additional support needs. Many have co-occurring difficulties and rely heavily on a variety of support mechanisms in the classroom. So the key question is how do you maintain this level of support when the classroom the student and educator are in is no longer the same four walls? How do you create the inclusive classroom when the physical classroom is no longer there?

Thankfully, Microsoft’s Learning Tools are available to all educators and staff with M365 levelling the playing field and ensuring that every student can share their voice and become successful learners. The best aspect of all is that the tools are completely integrated into Microsoft tools such as Microsoft Teams, OneNote and Flipgrid. No extensions or additional cumbersome steps to install an add-in are required to access the tools. The tools are there by default and that is key for creating any inclusive classroom: accessibility by default.

When I am creating my classroom, inclusion is always the first aspect I consider. It is so important to ensure that we intentionally include otherwise we are always destined to unintentionally exclude. I am now going take you into the strategies I employ to develop the inclusive classroom and I have broken it down into four key areas: reading, writing, maths and communication.


Read the full post here to discover how Chris has been using Microsoft tools for Reading, Writing. Maths and Communication

Chris is an Additional Support Needs teacher at Lanark Grammar School. I am also an MIE Expert, Master Trainer and MCE (Microsoft Certified Educator).

Twitter: @cgerrard02

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Preparing for blended learning

  Blended learning that maximises the time in the classroom with the teacher and provides an engaging online experience is the challenge many schools are being faced with. At Larkhall Academy, we are currently exploring the best way to meet this challenge, finding the balance between introducing new ways of working while honing in on the interventions and pedagogical techniques that have the greatest impact when we have learners in class. Our blended learning approach is likely to consist of three strands; in class learning, synchronous learning online and asynchronous learning at home. I’ll outline how each of these might look and how we might overcome the barriers we face.

When learners are in class, we want to ensure that the high quality learning experiences focus on the aspects that require the most teacher input. This is done in one of two ways; introducing new content with clear explanations and models ensuring that learners will be able to continue their work once they’ve left the classroom or taking the flipped learning approach where new content has already been accessed and the focus is now on application of that knowledge. Different subject specialisms and topics within those specialisms will have different drivers, teachers will need to carefully consider what will be covered and then identify the key aspects that will be focussed on during the in person learning. Effective explanations, modelling and questioning will be essential during this time with high levels of teacher-learner interaction.

We are also planning on supporting our learners with live lessons being delivered online via video conference. Google Meet will allow us to securely connect with learners and deliver live teaching with a high degree of flexibility. It is possible that a teacher could deliver their lesson from a classroom or from home with learners connecting from a location that works for them. This might be a quiet study area in school or their home. As we begin piloting our approach, we are drawing experiences and ideas from those who have already begun. For example, we have strongly recommended that all Meets will be recorded and mandated that recordings of live lessons that feature children and young people cannot be shared. Alongside safeguarding considerations, we are giving extensive thought on ensuring equity with our live lessons because no-one should be disadvantaged because they could not access a live lesson. We undertook early identification of our most vulnerable learners and made digital devices and Internet connections available to those who needed it. This provision will be extended when we return to school and those who are struggling to engage will be further supported. Live lessons may be split into two parts, an initial part that includes only the teacher delivery and then a second part with teacher and learner interaction. This would allow part one to be made available to view again later as part of the asynchronous learning offering. Alternatively, this live lesson might be entirely made of learner-teacher interaction to reinforce or support the learning that has already occured in the classroom. One area where we see video conferencing as offering real opportunity is in the delivery of 1:1 mentoring and support to learners. We can all appreciate how a quick conversation can resolve misunderstandings, provide clarity or guidance in both curricular and pastoral settings. Undoubtedly our approach will change as we understand how time is balanced between home and school learning but the focus will remain on ensuring that the opportunities to connect with learners are as broad as possible.

Between March and June our exclusive focus has been on delivering asynchronous learning at home. In these unprecedented times, we agreed making learning available that could be accessed at any time was the best way to support the learners and their families in our community. This has consisted of many teachers using Screencastify to record lessons that have then been made available using Google Classroom. Creating that personal connection is essential to maintaining consistency and familiarity of experience for children and young people. The nature of the videos created varied widely across all subject areas but shared a common purpose to support learning at home. As a leadership team we agreed a schedule for posting work and setting due dates. The scheduling functionality in Classroom allowed teachers to assign work at times that suited them allowing for flexibility when supporting home working. This routine was published on our social media channels and supported with subject specific messaging. We also benefited greatly from being the Google Classroom guardian email summaries pilot school for the Glow tenancy in Autumn 2019. This allows teachers to register email addresses for parents and carers, allowing them to get either daily, or weekly updates on the work that has been set. These emails have acted as conversation starters for families and helped increase engagement with the assigned learning at home.

Feedback to learners is a focus of Learning and Teaching Framework and this continued when working and learning at home. Feedback took the form of comments and emails as we initially got to grips with exclusively working online. Our focus is now turning to maximising the use of features like Rubrics in Google Classroom and the Comment Bank in Google Docs to help teachers be as efficient as possible. When introducing new tools to teachers providing training and time to develop the skills and understanding is essential. We have delivered an extensive staff learning programme during this time through the use of Google Meet and YouTube live streaming. We have made as many of these videos as possible publically available to help support others too. An exciting development was the training, delivered by a short YouTube video series and a live stream, in using Virtual Jotters. A Virtual Jotter is a space where all related learning can be stored together and added to over time by learners. The familiarity with the concept of a jotter really helps children and young people collate their work. As asynchronous learning becomes only a part of the learning offering, having resources that can be accessed across all three spaces becomes increasingly important as will how we structure the learning at home alongside the live lessons and learning in class will be.

The scale of the challenge to align these three strands is an almighty one but finding innovation in our system and allowing it to scale will help us build a consistent learning experience for all. Sharing stories of success across the faculty areas will help us identify effective practice and continue to improve our offering. Underpinned by a continuous focus on the quality of learning and teaching linked with ensuring the technology supports this, should hopefully facilitate success in our blended learning approach. Watch this space!

Larkhall Academy tweets @LarkhallAc. Ian Vosser tweets @MrVosser.

Coalburn Primary – A Digital Transformation Story: Using G Suite to enhance and support learning

A Digital Transformation Story: Using G Suite to enhance and support learning 

Our story begins in 2017 when Coalburn Primary School received 11 Chromebooks as part of an IT refresh. After a very short time, these devices became a regular feature in our daily teaching, so much so, that we purchased a further 14 to allow the whole school to benefit from their use more frequently. (We are a small school of 4 classes) 

In the beginning, the Chromebooks were used primarily for online games to support learning and access to the GLOW Launchpad tiles. Their compact design, long battery life and portability meant that they were easy to have within the class, on desks. However, after attending a course on Google Classroom, the scope of the G Suite tools became more apparent.  

Google Classroom has provided pupils with a platform for collaborative learning. With assignments being scheduled ahead of time, class teachers can work with a group, free from interruption, while other pupils access tasks set in Google Classroom with resources attached. It has provided access at home to resources needed to revise, notably using Google Classroom for Bikeability videos and tasks. Children from different classes within the school, in the same virtual classroom, sharing their learning.  

Google Classroom assignments led to exploring the other Google tools: Doc, Sheets and Slides. Upper school pupils can use these tools confidently, knowing that their work saves automatically to Google Drive. It has afforded them the chance to work collaboratively on documents to share the tasks. The online nature of the programs means the pupils can access tasks at home and in school. Since August 2019 large number of pupils were using Google Classroom on their phones and tablets, through the apps available. Google Assignments have allowed staff to comment on tasks completed and give constructive feedback for pupils to act on.  

Another major benefit to using Chromebooks in class are the accessibility extensions available within the browser. OpenDyslexic converts all text on the screen to a bottom-heavy font. This has been a game-changer for dyslexic pupils in terms of accessing text. The font is easier to read and pupils are gaining confidence in their ability to work independently. Another accessibility tool for pupils with literacy difficulties has been Read&Write, a screen reader which reads any text on screen to the user. It also provides talk and type, allowing pupil to record ideas and tasks. Pupils can have a Chromebook on their desk and work more independently, thus increasing confidence in their own abilities.  

Growing confidence in the use of G Suite tools led me to joining South Lanarkshire’s first cohort of Google for Education Certified Educators, spending 2 days training and sitting the exams for Level 1 & 2 accreditation. Having been encouraged by the course leaders to continue this adventure, I decided to apply for Certified Trainer status and was delighted to receive notification in January 2020 that I had passed. This has led to meeting a group of like-minded people, enthusiastic about digital transformation and a network of worldwide educators sharing their ideas. The rest of the school staff have also engaged fully in this journey, developing their digital skills and knowledge and sharing this with their classes. Pupils in the upper class have become our digital leaders, helping younger pupils access these new technologies with gentle encouragement.  

In these unprecedented times, when home learning has become essential, our pupils have engaged enthusiastically with tasks set in Google Classroom. They already had the skills and knowledge from school this year and could apply this from their home setting. The key has been to keep it fresh and assign tasks that allow collaboration even though they cannot physically be together. They have planned a “virtual sports day” using Jamboard, using Sheets to create scoresheets. Literacy tasks have been completed using Breakout Rooms to allow pupils to share their thoughts and knowledge as they would have done in the classroom. One of the simplest but most important things to have come out of using Google Classroom for home learning is saying good morning every day. Some pupils log on at 9am every morning to say hello to their teachers and classmates. This is a link that they need, to bring normality to our new routine. It makes me smile.  

twitter: @MrsLAFerguson1, @CoalburnPrimary
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Tinto Primary & Nursery Classes – Digital development with Google for Education and G-Suite

Digital development with Google for Education and G-Suite

Over the past year I have been developing my digital skills as a teacher and as ICT coordinator by taking part in Google for Education training. This has been a key part of our digital journey throughout our school. We identified digital literacy as a priority in our school improvement plan and as we had recently moved to Chromebooks in our refresh we had already decided we should uplevel staff and pupils skills in using G-Suite through Glow. 

My local authority South Lanarkshire Council offered the opportunity for ICT Coordinators to take part in Google Educator bootcamps at the end of last year and I was really excited to get this opportunity. They were led by Ian Vosser, Faculty Head of Digital Literacy & Enterprise at Larkhall Academy who is a Google Trainer and Innovator and Karen MacLeod, Digital Support Officer for South Lanarkshire Council. I hadn’t really appreciated how transformative this training would be and over four (long, hard, rigourous!) days of training in a really supportive and positive group we got our Google Educator Level 1 and 2 and then Trainer qualifications all within a term! It’s hard to explain the level of technical expertise and confidence I have gained but I went from google novice to trainer in the space of a few months. 

The impact in my teaching has been immense, in my P4/5 classroom we use google tools for everything, from using voice typing on docs, to creating slides to share our research, to building our own websites to showcase our learning, making data using forms and sheets, we have embraced it all. My class has really become independent too with technology and are happy to use Google Classroom to access materials in class, or at home and then create responses in docs, slides and jamboard. The Chromebooks have been of enormous benefit to digital literacy, we now have 14 in our school of 88 pupils over 4 classes and they are  used each morning across the school and then pooled in the afternoon and used on a timetable. The accessibility tools have been of particular benefit and all the children have been trained in using voice typing and screen reading. 

This practice has extended across the whole school with all children now using G-Suite and Google Classroom which has been invaluable during lockdown. Every child P4-7 used Glow and G-Suite every week in school and at home and they were able to train P1-3 in logging into Glow and navigating classroom in March so we could smoothly transition to online teaching this term. 

But the greatest impact has been training staff across our learning community. Starting with sharing Google training sessions with our learning ‘trio’ of local primaries this session, I quickly opened this up to our whole learning community across 12 associated primaries and our local high school. We are planning to offer Google Educator level 1 bootcamps as soon as we can but in the interim I have taken my training online and offered sessions to introduce Classroom and G-Suite supported by our own training classroom which has been fantastically well attended. I’ve also taken part in some live YouTube sessions sharing Jamboard, primary Google classroom and our digital journey story with the greater education community. The support and interest from Google Educator groups nationally and internationally has been really developmental to my practice and I am really enjoying training other educators and sharing practice across the world. 

Further Infomration
twitter: @annabelrodger