Category: Primary

14 September 2020 15:45 – 16:30, Code Clubs – Online and Remotely

A Glow login is required to join this webinar in Teams.

Webinar in partnership with Code Club Scotland

During this session, Lorna Gibson, Programme Manager for Code Club Scotland will outline ways that people have run their Code Club during lockdown. She will highlight best practice and the resources available to teachers to support an enriched Code Club while social distancing and other restrictions remain in place.

Upon booking your ticket a link will be issued to you to join the Digital Skills Microsoft Team Site within Glow where the training will take place, this can take 24hours to process.

Register Here

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17 September 16:00 – 17:00, Unleashing Creativity Using Digital Tools

Find out how you can embed creativity and digital tools into your everyday lessons through this online webinar.

Creativity can be thought of as the colour that brings Curriculum for Excellence to life. The four core creativity skills run throughout the four capacities and are integral to the meta skills which are increasingly important in today’s workplace.

Find out how you can embed creativity and digital tools into your everyday lessons through this online webinar.

This session is open to all practitioners and aimed at any age or stage, touching on various areas of the curriculum.

Register here

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19 November 16:00 – 17:00, Go Forth Resources – Social Studies and Digital Learning Resources

Free, open source resources to support the Social Studies and Technologies Curriculum focusing on National Landmarks

Using free digital resources and lesson packs, this session will showcase three Go Forth resource packs and tools which can develop understanding of Social Studies and Technologies.

Covering Games Based Learning, Computer Aided Design, and Computing Science these reources aimed at P4-S1 can be used to support learning and understanding of Social Studies with a focus on:

  • People, past events and societies
  • People, place and environment

Register here

 

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05 November 16:00 – 17:00, Modern Day Artefacts in Your Class – Create your own Digital Museum

Using a range of PC and Apple based applications combined with Glow Tools we will create a digital museum using PowerPoint.

This session will demonstrate how to access and use 3D models of artefacts from modern day and history and combine them with 365 tools to create your own Museum or Gallery Catalogue using interactive resources.

This session will be hosted by the Social Studies and Digital Skills Team.

Register here

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20 August 16:00 – 17:00, An Introduction to using Glow and Office 365: Easing Workflow

Interactive overview of RM Unify and Office 365

Introductory interactive overview of RM Unify and Office 365 – Adding tiles and customising your Glow Launchpad -How to access Glow Mail, benefits of OneDrive and Office Web Apps.

Please be aware these sessions are for practitioners across Scotland who have a Glow account. Some products may not be available in your Local Authority, please check in advance.

Upon booking your ticket a link will be issued to you for you to join the Digital Skills Microsoft Team Site within Glow where the training will take place, this can take 24hours to process.

Register here

Guest Bloggers D Keenan and M Brough DCC

Our Lockdown Journey as ESO for Digital Learning

Our Lockdown Journey as ESO for Digital Learning

By Meg Brough and Dave Keenan

In January 2020 we gained the title ‘Education Support Officers for Digital Learning.’ After interview, it was decided we would job share for the duration of our secondment opportunity. We would each be allocated 2 days a week: one together, one independently. (Dave is PT Modern Studies and Meg teaches English and Media). This was totally manageable, right?

We sat with the previous Digital ESO Jenni for days, our heads spinning with new information about Computing Science, Computational Thinking, 3D Printing, Glow security and CRIS. We would be covering Jenni’s role when she moved to Education Scotland and were determined to learn as much as possible from her and keep continuity. “You have to make this job your own,” she said. Oh, how little we knew!

We began to support schools in Dundee, working with them to embed a robust digital infrastructure in schools and throughout the Authority. We developed a calendar of CLPL opportunities, attending meetings and enjoying the best part of the job – meeting new people. By the end of February we were steadily gaining confidence and making great contacts.

In March 2020, the schools closed and every practitioner in Scotland had to switch to engaging with Digital Learning. Our job started to creep into every aspect of our lives. The question of whether we were ready for this was irrelevant. It was imperative to provide our practitioners with the skills needed to continue to provide a high standard of education for our children and young people.
We had a few weeks to prepare for the impending closure, so we finished small jobs we had started and then moved on to creating help sheets and resources. Meg worked on creating the Dundee City Council Online Learning Hub. We didn’t want to restrict our support to staff, but to provide a central location to support pupils and parents too. This site would house Learning Resources, Information about Online Safety and Help with digital tools such as Glow. The website has been separated into sections for Staff, Pupils and Parents, and each houses information and links relevant to each kind of user.

We quickly realised that the volume of queries and support required couldn’t be managed by email alone. Dave had the idea of setting up the DCC Education Digital Support Team and adding every teacher in Dundee. No easy task! This was an area we could store our help sheets and answer any queries.

This grew arms, legs and many other limbs. So much so that the practitioners who were supporting us with Learning Resources had to split off into a separate support team. We worked with DCC’s amazing Pedagogy team to create a site where staff could access CLPL Opportunities and Learning Resources, which left the purpose of our Team purely for digital support. Since the creation of the team on the 6th March, we have had 1,268 active users leaving 258 posts. What is more impressive though, is that from those posts we have had 591 replies. This demonstrates a pattern we have noticed. We, as owners, are not the only people who are answering queries. By starting this support group we have upskilled staff to be able to answer each other’s questions. This fits in very well with our vision to promote Digital Leadership throughout the Authority.

We often see a peak in engagement within our Team when we host our Webinars. We have hosted a few webinars which have focused on setting up online classes, setting and marking assignments in Teams… the list goes on! Along with our own home-made efforts, we have hosted hundreds of staff in webinars with Ian Stuart from Microsoft and this is helping us build our MIE base across schools.

Staff uptake of MIE CLPL is really taking off and school managers are looking at how to take everything to the next level with Digital Schools, Microsoft Schools and Incubator status.We have also created a YouTube channel to house our tutorial videos. Reflecting on the help sheets we had originally made, we found it much easier to demonstrate how to use a digital tool by sending a link to a video. We were so fortunate that the Accessibility and Inclusion service provided us with videos which have been translated into Arabic. Our most popular video has been a guide to using Microsoft Teams Assignments and Immersive reader through Glow for pupils. Teachers have been sharing this with their pupils and have found it useful to see what their pupils are seeing.

The May Inservice day was planned to focus on Supporting Learners with Additional Support Needs. Our original plan was to deliver training to our Digital Leaders and in turn they would deliver this to their own school staff on the Inservice day. This was going to be a perfect example of the ‘Train the Trainer’ model we wish to develop. Our Digital Leaders are representatives from each school who have a vested interest in Digital Learning and who want to work with their colleagues to embed Digital Learning as a key component of the curriculum. As all events on our CLPL calendar had to be cancelled, we had to re-evaluate how to provide this kind of training. Instead used this situation to our advantage and tried to reach a wider audience by creating a presentation of all kinds of digital tools that could be used to support learners with ASN. In our Staff version we included links to training guides (such as the Microsoft Educator Centre) as well as information about how to use these in the classroom.

In our general guide we also included information about how these tools can be used at home to help parents and learners. We included information about Accessibility Tools on iPads, as well as Microsoft and Google products. We also plugged CALL Scotland who are fabulous at providing advice on these kinds of products. We had an extremely positive response towards this, particularly from members of the ‘Supporting Learners’ Microsoft Team which we have supported the Accessibility and Inclusion Service to set up. The effort from the AIS Team is just one example of the impressive work we have seen practitioners take on in order to up-skill themselves to provide the best support possible for our young people.

Unsurprisingly, we have seen the number of Digital Leaders across the authority rise as more staff realise the value and exciting opportunities involved with Digital Learning. We have set up a new Team for Digital Leaders who will be offered many training opportunities to support their schools in their Digital journey. We had aimed to work with select schools to achieve a Digital School’s Award and embed a digital infrastructure. We imagine that many of our schools, if they continue to engage with these digital tools, will be more than deserving of a Digital Schools award. A large part of achieving this is teaching Cyber Resilience and Internet Safety as a standard part of the curriculum. The first remote training opportunity our Digital Leaders will take part in is ‘Safe and Empowered’ training delivered by Jess McBeth from SWGfL. This is an excellent course which we attended as part of our own original training which takes the negativity away from conversations around internet safety, instead empowering young people to make responsible decisions online. We have really enjoyed working remotely with external partners to provide them with ways to engage with schools and staff remotely.

We also try to keep up to date and network with members of other authorities. Social media has been an excellent way to do this. We have also enjoyed taking part in the weekly Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert catch up on a Friday morning. This allows us to chat to other Microsoft Edu enthusiasts and try to emulate good practice we see in other authorities.

We continue to meet virtually, together and with partners (sometimes with the addition of a three- year-old climbing on Meg’s head) to develop the Digital Skills of all stakeholders. This week we have written a paper on “Effective Remote and Digital Learning in Dundee City Council” which we hope will complement the recovery plan of our authority as we move to into a Blended Learning environment. This outlines our vision for moving forward; we plan to build on the fantastic skills our educators have acquired and to make Digital Learning standard practice in every classroom in Dundee.

Finally, we’d like to extend our thanks to all staff in Dundee City Council for showing such passion, enthusiasm and resilience in the face of such an horrific situation. Personally, we can take so many positives from the lockdown situation which completely justify the hours we have put in! Digital Learning has exploded in Dundee and although we advise on the practicalities of using such tools, it is the practitioners who teach us all about the innovative ways to use these tools to deliver High Quality Learning and Teaching opportunities. From Virtual Sports days to online STEM challenges we are constantly amazed by the quality of Remote learning in Dundee and the positivity of our educators.

For helpful links, information or just to check out what we are up to, follow @DigiLearnDundee on Twitter.

@DigiLearnDundee@missmbrough@davekeenan8

screenshot of the four contexts

Mossend Primary School – Remote Learning Journey One Moment in Time – Assessment

This unique period in our history needed to be captured.

It was one moment in time that, we will not experience again in our lifetime, but without a doubt, our pupils will always remember the time that the country went into lockdown, schools closed, they couldn’t play with their friends and they watched their teachers at home on webcams.

As educators, we assess to see what our children know, understand and can do and this informs our next steps, our reporting and the overall tracking of progress, however with our approach of ‘do what works for you’ during term 4 we had to be adaptive and creative with our assessments. Learning was happening, it just wasn’t happening inside a classroom.

Therefore, we decided to use the Education Scotland templates to capture learning across the four CfE contexts and using the four capacities at the heart of the curriculum. This allowed us to seize absolutely everything, from learning to bake and cross stitching at home to pupils assisting elderly neighbours with shopping during the pandemic and inextricably linked to these the skills, attitude, values, and morals that were being instilled.
We were delighted that some of our learning featured in Issue 4 of the Education Scotland newsletter for practitioners as an example of good practice detailing how we worked with families during lockdown to recognise and celebrate the successes of our children.

https://education.gov.scot/media/expdo4bc/practitionersnewsissue4.pdf.

We are also thrilled that we feature on Education Scotland’s website for the support of the refreshed Curriculum for Excellence narrative: https://education.gov.scot/improvement/learning-resources/resources-to-support-the-refreshed-curriculum-for-excellence-narrative/ and were surprised to see our assessment captures even feature in CLPL session slides from the Education Scotland Digital Team.

We needed to use assessment to inform our next steps as we would in the classroom, our digital timetable had to be relevant and the lessons had to be pitched correctly. Therefore, we planned for assessment in term 4 using our remote learning FAST remote-learning strategy that we had used throughout the lockdown period as a way of ensuring a consistent approach:

F – We chose to capture our learning using Book Creator as this allowed us a flexible way to create digital books of exactly what was happening during the period, embedding rich media such as videos and audio to bring the learning to life. Book Creator is free and has a simple user interface that can be accessed on a range of devices; therefore, it gave us the flexibility we were looking for to share the learning with our families and community.You can view our books on the links below to see for yourself:

Four Capacities: https://read.bookcreator.com/w0lbHSyRN9RIre7Z1W6WmgDuO6IcAhZtJGvzO7pf9Q0/xCHqVXzBRF-3s66mD5WljA

Four Context: https://read.bookcreator.com/LvokurZdF2swW6YiaTTGHtybUk5AD1Cwa9lIPW3GHmA/zudnsqGETi-_3pwChVkEJw

A – Self-evaluation and goal setting is something we normally do in term 4 across the school, where children self-assess their achievements and successes from the school session and set themselves realistic goals for the following session.

We wanted this to continue, but we had to adapt how we would normally do this since it was remote and we were working with P1-7 in the one Microsoft Team, therefore using Microsoft Forms we created two child-friendly versions of self-reflection questions that families could complete together at home and we could use the responses to identify the individual achievements. We found this accessible format worked well and allowed individuals to capture their moments in time.

Furthermore, we made use of accessible features in Microsoft OneNote such as the maths wizard to generate self-marking quizzes using Microsoft Forms, these short assessments allowed us to identify misconceptions and plan for next steps during our P1-3 Number Ninja sessions and P4-7 Mental Agility and Mental Maths sessions. They were very easy to create and could be used to direct pupils to further support, such as relevant YouTube videos, when questions were answered incorrectly.

We also assessed formatively using the ‘hands up’ feature during live calls on Microsoft Teams and the comments function, this was particularly useful during Story and Quiz time and during the planning of taught writing to check understanding and we found it a quick and assessable way to ‘check-in’ with our pupils understanding and use this to inform next steps.

Digital Escape Rooms were a huge hit with our pupils, they loved them! We created these using Microsoft OneNote and as time moved on we started to link the escape room questions to activities that were taking place, such as a question from the Story + Quiz, this allowed us to check understanding and as it was on Microsoft OneNote it was completely accessible to everyone, but importantly pupils completed it without even realising it was an assessment. It was fun and something we will continue to use when back in the classroom as they would work well for areas like IDL topic assessment.

Other assessment we carried out remotely in term 4, included the use of self-assessment rubrics in Microsoft Teams assignments; this was a useful feature that could be attached to the assignment, peer assessment using Glow Blogs and Flipgrid and teacher assessment of work that was being submitted to us, with comments left on Class Notebooks and as discussed on a previous blog we issued a gold star and written feedback for all work.

We chose not to use the Grading the function within Microsoft Teams assignments as our motto of ‘do what works for you’ did mean that some pupils in our team did not complete assignments which skewed the statistics, but this was perfectly ok. Nevertheless, if we find ourselves in the situation of blended learning in the future then we would reassess this approach under the new context of part-time learning at school with specific and progressive follow up work at home and this will be explored this further in a future blog. This would not operate as a dichotomy between learning in class and learning at home, assessment would be holistic and used to bridge blended learning.

S – As discussed on our previous blog about sustaining engagement, we understood that learning would only happen when families felt supported and were not under pressure to ‘try and keep up’ or concerned about their child ‘falling behind’.
Every decision we made was assessed against the FAST strategy, with support being central to it, it relied on parents and carers being empowered and supported to truly “do what works for them”.
We recognise that learning does not just take place in a school or on a computer screen and therefore we were delighted to see how happy and safe our pupils were and to see them take part in ‘real-life’ learning – knitting, cross-stitching, gardening, baking, helping with chores around the house, cooking, outdoor walks and supporting parents/carers with younger children.
If anything, positive comes from this lockdown it will be the chance our children had to spend time with their families, play board games, learn true life skills and to develop their resilience during a global pandemic. We heard from some families who said that their child excelled working from home and exploring their own interests, they loved doing their own thing and we were glad we were able to support and capture this learning too. This family feedback is something we need to be mindful of when the transition back to fulltime learning in a school takes place, particularly for these children. Nurture and support will be central to this.

T – Assessment always needs to be timely, otherwise it is not informative. We certainly did not carry out any formal summative assessments as there was no need to add additional pressure and stress on families or children, however, lots of well-timed formative assessments allowed us to plan and prioritise our digital online timetable.

Some of the best learning took place when children had the time to work on a project, this was evident with the fantastic R2D2 STEM challenges completed for Star Wars Day, den building, Jurassic Park STEM and the cooking and physical challenges.
These types of activities allowed our children to be creative, to think critically and to use their inquiry skills with an end product to be proud of – true evidence of their learning and development of important metacognitive skills.

Furthermore, activities that allowed children to work together collaboratively in their own time were popular, this link is to a book that the children worked on within Book Creator linked to music and art, working in real-time to add parts to the same book to create a finished product of each interpretation of the music ‘The Carnival of the Animals’ composed by Camille Saint-Saens:
https://read.bookcreator.com/LvokurZdF2swW6YiaTTGHtybUk5AD1Cwa9lIPW3GHmA/yTZQMubyR7Wwi7HOUb7XSQ

We also had children work to create a discursive writing piece in the collaboration area of Class Notebook on Microsoft Teams, writing a paragraph each on their viewpoint on who the better footballer is – Ronaldo or Messi? Differing opinions that allowed us as educators to challenge opinions further and for the pupils to then use their internet access to research and evidence their stance. A great discursive piece that worked well remotely and taught valuable skills of researching, evidencing, and referencing.

Flipgrid was another successful application we used, allowing children to listen to stories read by a teacher and then respond with a video follow up question or for our P1 – 3 Number Ninjas to demonstrate their learning such as times tables or number bonds and even had virtual Number Ninja gradings, with children moving up a ninja belt after assessment.

As Flipgrid was something that was not time-consuming for our pupils (they downloaded the app or worked online and recorded their videos and thoughts) they were able to peer assess with video responses and comments and to self-assess using a rubric – all accessible with their Glow login details.

We believe that Flipgrid is a fantastic tool for assessment with so much potential, it is fun and engaging and at a time when Tik Tok videos are popular amongst this age group, we found this was a fantastic way for children to express themselves within a safe environment with the videos able to be used as assessment evidence by the educator and even feedback left in written format, video format, or assessed against a rubric.

Wider achievements also took place during Lockdown with many of our children earning Hi5 Youth Scotland Awards and one girl completing a run each day to raise money for a chosen charity. Children still took part in remote clubs like gymnastics and taekwondo and of course we had lots of family Zoom quiz successes to share too. These wider achievements could be celebrated at our virtual Superstar Assembly each week and were equally as important to capture for us.

So, how will we use this assessment to plan for the next term?

Well, our goal for term 4 was on the health and wellbeing of our children, therefore we will use the information we captured as positive discussion points with our children when they return to school in August. Our teachers will be able to discuss the learning that took place at home or online and have meaningful conversations with our pupils on this and what it meant for them.
Of course, there are also the families we did not hear from or who did not share their experiences with us and this information is as equally as important for us to be acutely aware of as we aim to resettle and transition all our pupils back into school life. As discussed on a previous blog, we need to understand the barriers these families faced and how we could make blended learning work for them should we find ourselves having to implement that format.

Will we be starting the new session with lots of assessments to see what children ‘fell behind’ or get our children ‘caught up’ on what they missed?

Absolutely not.

This has been a traumatic time for our pupils, they have not seen their friends for a long time, they didn’t get to say ‘goodbye’ to their last teacher, they were locked up for months and some of the children will not understand why. They are returning to a very different school with physical distancing in place and one way systems – children are resilient, but we all know that learning does not take place unless Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been met; so we will be putting Maslow before Bloom for some time and ensuring that our children feel safe, secure and nurtured!

Each child had their own unique experience during the lockdown and we are confident that the purpose of the curriculum, encapsulated in the four capacities, was captured, and evidenced throughout our school.
To summarise in the words of Whitney Houston, “You’re a winner for a lifetime If you seize that one moment in time. Make it shine”, our pupils certainly seized this unique moment in time in a variety of ways.

Stars Really Do Shine Brighter at Mossend Primary School and Nursery Class.

Patricia McKay is the Depute Head Teacher at Mossend PS & NC in North Lanarkshire and Gordon Reid is a class teacher and ICT Co-ordinator. Together they facilitated and led the remote learning strategy for the school. 

Mossend PS & NC is a non-denominational school situated in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire. The school has 382 pupils and there are 40 children in the nursery attached to the school.  

Twitter: @mossendps @Mr_G_Reid

https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/nl/mossendps/

collection of digital tool logos

Mossend Primary School – Remote Learning Journey To app, or not to app, that is the question

According to the New York Times (Nicas and Collins, 2019), there are now over 2 million apps available on the Apple App Store, anything you can think of, in the words of Sesame Street’s infamous song: “There’s an app for that”; yet not all apps are created equally and just because an app exists does not necessarily mean that it is right for our pupils, families, or school.

It is extremely easy to get swept along with the latest gadget release or the next best software release, yet the more apps, software and websites that we add to our pupil collections, the more passwords, logins, site addresses and downloads that each family has to get to grips with. It is extremely easy to overwhelm and inadvertently disengage families and learners with too much technology.

So, at Mossend Primary School and Nursery Class we used our FAST-remote learning strategy to decide on apps, websites, and software that we would use during term 4 in the Lockdown:

F – We knew that digital technology that allows learners to work with peers on a project is by far the most engaging (West Partnership, 2020). Therefore, the technology that allowed our learners the flexibility to work individually, with partners or in smaller groups remotely was a key consideration and we found that Microsoft OneNote, Flipgrid and Glow Blogs allowed us this capability.

We will discuss further in a future blog how this collaboration with peers allowed us to assess learning, but in terms of flexibility, it certainly allowed our children a choice of how they learned.

A- The resources we were putting out had to be accessible to ensure equity across all devices, this was of the utmost importance to us.

In an ideal world, all our learners would be at home on the same type of device with the same broadband bandwidth and speed, but we don’t live in an ideal world and we had to be extremely mindful of using universal file formats that could be opened on as many devices as possible and of download limits and costs that some families could have occurred for large file sizes. We had learners using MacBooks, Windows laptops and PCs, Android tablets, Apple Ipads and even a range of smartphones to access content; it was far from an ideal world.  

This could have easily created additional barriers for families trying to access online content and impact pupil engagement as we discussed on our blog last week. Therefore, we ensured that Word documents were converted to PDF, that MP4 videos were uploaded to unlisted YouTube channels to avoid downloading, that embedded links in OneNote were shared with direct access on the Microsoft Team and that where we were using something that a  universal conversion was not available, we offered alternatives and choice of similar apps across a range of platforms.

Furthermore, it was our professional duty to ensure that the websites, apps, or software we were promoting were suitable for primary school age groups.  We could not afford to undermine or devalue our internet safety message we had been promoting at school and therefore it simply was not an option for us to promote or use platforms that our children were not legally allowed to be accessing, no matter how engaging or ‘on trend’ they currently were.

S –  To avoid overwhelming families and learners with numerous login details we tried to choose core apps and websites that linked to the Microsoft 365 Glow tenancy and allowed Glow login details to be used as a single sign-in such as Flipgrid, Hour of Code, Minecraft Edu, Book Creator and Thing Link.

Families would not want ‘hundreds’ of sign-in requirements, passwords and usernames to remember or sites to access and this would create a further barrier for some, therefore the benefit of using the Microsoft 365 login with Glow details was something we looked out for when deciding if we would try at app or use a website with our pupils.

Furthermore, it was not enough to simply give information to pupils of platforms to use without providing support on how to use them, we saw our role as teachers to educate not to signpost to other apps or websites. Therefore, we created a range of family ‘How to’ videos covering using Microsoft Teams, solving audio and video problems, uploading, and sharing files and using the collaboration space in Class Notebook; as discussed on a previous blog and we ensured that families knew that technical help was available if they needed it and that we were there to support them with the apps and websites we were recommending.

We accompanied this with guides showing the conversions from other curriculums to Scotland’s CfE that families may come across online and guides on reading, spelling and literacy for all CfE levels, along with narrated PowerPoints on supporting, challenging and extending learning at home from the resources we were providing. We felt this empowered families to make choices on suitable tasks for their children.

We are teachers, not ICT experts however we tried our best to support families using a Microsoft Forms technical help request – making phone calls, sending numerous emails, resetting passwords, and even having private live video calls with parents/carers to help them download apps or get resolve issues. We were able to solve all the issues that were presented to us and certainly this will be easier should we return to a blended learning approach, as we will have the luxury of discussing and demonstrating to the pupils in person in school.  

T – The digital world moves at a rapid pace and therefore timing is always going to be a consideration; there is a fine balance to be found on introducing a new app or website and weighing up the benefits to our learners from its introduction.  We ensured that we attended the CLPL events being offered by Education Scotland’s Digital teaching and learning Team including on Blended Learning, Digital Journals, Book Creator and Thing Link to understand what benefits each could bring and to then allow us to make informed assessments of them against our FAST digital strategy and the context of our school and learners.

To app or not to app, that was the question we found ourselves discussing in our weekly meetings and a question that we will continue to ask when introducing any digital technology to our school. The digital world will continue to grow, but as educators, our prime focus must always remain on the benefits to teaching and learning, not on using the latest technology.

Nevertheless, we did find that the digital skills of our pupils (and staff) were growing, they were accessing applications and websites that up until a few weeks prior they had never even heard of. For example, we found the time it was taking for responding to comments on Microsoft Team was decreasing, as typing skills improved.  

Finally, we are all aware of the wider issue of equity in regards to digital technology and working from home for learners, so it is our professional duty to ensure that we do not unintentionally widen this equity gap by promoting or using apps, websites, software or file formats that limit accessibility further, create additional barriers for families or are promoting apps not appropriate for the age groups we are working with. To app or not to app, we all need to choose carefully.

Patricia McKay is the Depute Head Teacher at Mossend PS & NC in North Lanarkshire and Gordon Reid is a class teacher and ICT Co-ordinator. Together they facilitated and led the remote learning strategy for the school. 

Mossend PS & NC is a non-denominational school situated in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire. The school has 382 pupils and there are 40 children in the nursery attached to the school.  

Twitter: @mossendps @Mr_G_Reid

https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/nl/mossendps/

References

Nicas, J. and Collins, K., 2019. How Apple’s Apps Topped Rivals In The App Store It Controls. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/09/technology/apple-app-store-competition.html#:~:text=More%20than%20two%20million%20apps%20are%20available%20on%20the%20App%20Store [Accessed 1 July 2020].

West Partnership, 2020. Effective remote and digital learning. [online] Glasgow City Region Education. Available at: https://sway.office.com/6JGDmi0rkRCzFVBN?ref=Link [Accessed 1 July 2020].

mossend blended approach

Mossend Primary School – Remote Learning Journey Lights, Camera, Action! Sustaining Engagement

“Today’s young people should be taught using video games because they have ‘much lower attention spans’ than in the past”

Headline quote from Mohit Midha, the chief executive of Mangahigh that appeared in a recent TES Magazine edition (Hazell, 2018); although the merits of this statement can be debated, the fact remains that teachers are undoubtedly up against the ever-growing numbers of pupils who now play video games, who access social media (even at primary school age) and are growing up in the ‘on-demand age’ of instant entertainment, complete with flashing lights, thrilling action and the lure of passively interacting without really thinking.

Therefore, it could be argued that digital learning during lockdown gave teachers and educators the unique opportunity to utilise technology to engage children at home, adapting teaching styles as we discussed on our last blog – Every day’s a school day, and finding new ways to compete against the temptation of entertainment technology in homes. Teachers are not entertainers (and should not try to be), but by making learning fun and interesting and our teaching style immersive and informative we hoped that we could spark engagement and sustain it during lockdown.

So, at Mossend Primary School and Nursery Class, we decided that the key to digital engagement for us would be the ‘human element’, just because we were not together in a building did not mean that learning had to be passive and simply uploading files for children to work on independently and return was not going to compete against all the other household entertainment temptations or support our families in trying to get their children to learn. Using our FAST-remote learning strategy we explored how we would capture and sustain the engagement of our pupils.

F – Our motto of “Do what works for you” came into play again. We could not implement a rigid structure as there was not a ‘one size fits all’ at the beginning of this pandemic. Each family had their own unique circumstances and if parents and carers came across barriers to remote learning or felt under pressure to ‘keep up’, then they would simply switch off.

So, we needed to work together by offering synchronous and asynchronous tasks and giving families the flexibility on how, when and where learning would happen:

  1. Firstly, families had the option to follow the structure and routine of our weekly visual timetable from NLC Friendly Communications which we posted on our Twitter account and Microsoft Team each Sunday and emailed directly.

This had the option of joining 3 or 4 live video calls each weekday, for all ages and often we had a choice of call to join for different stages. Using a traditional approach the work would be explained live on the video call with the ability for the child to ask questions or seek support from the teacher and then children could complete the task in their own time afterwards, although on occasion the task was completed during the call itself synchronously.

  1. Alternatively, families could dip in and out of the visual timetable or miss the live call and complete the task asynchronously, with some choosing to do this in the evenings or weekends. Although our timetable ran 9am – 3pm, families did not need to operate like this. Furthermore, we made use of a flipped method of teaching on occasion which gave families further flexibility to complete work in advance and then discuss afterwards in a call.
  2. A third option was for families to make use of the work we uploaded to our Pupil Zone website, which gave them the option of offline work for all curricular areas without the need to download any apps or use Microsoft Teams. The work here did not require digital technology and we ensured it was kept up to date and relevant.
  3. Some families chose to make use of our pre-printed worksheets and the jotter giveaways we organised and they completed work away from the computer screen, often accessing our parent guides for support within the parent zone of our website.
  4. Finally, some families just did their own thing.

    They purchased books or resources that they were familiar with and confident in teaching. They made use of the time at home together to develop life skills such as baking and gardening and we still wanted to see and acknowledge this learning, therefore some of the families would share it on our Microsoft Team or Twitter.

Every family had a unique set of circumstances.

As discussed in our first blog in this series, our focus for term 4 was on the health and wellbeing of the children and therefore our priority was to ensure that we did not add further stress to families at an already unsettling time for our children by expecting too much or demanding that all children accessed digital content. So, we truly made use of a blended approach to offer as much flexibility as we could with traditional and flipped learning opportunities and synchronous and asynchronous tasks to allow our families to do what worked for them, without judgement or worry that their child would ‘fall behind’.

Later in this blog series, we will detail what our approach at Mossend Primary and Nursery Class will be should blended learning come into force next session, as clearly the focus will change within the context of a part-time school and digital learning mix, nevertheless, we will still strive to offer flexibility for our families as we believe that a blend of digital approaches is the best way to sustain engagement.

Similarly, we replicated this approach with our staff, sending out a weekly sign-up sheet to volunteer to deliver lessons, with absolutely no pressure as detailed on our previous blog.

A – The accessibility of the digital learning we were offering was another barrier that we had to overcome and we will discuss next week in greater detail the applications we chose to use and the reasons why.

However, we did make use of the accessibility features within Immersive Reader on Class Notebook in our Microsoft Teams to highlight to our families how this could be used to support reading and writing at home, particularly for children with additional support needs.  Furthermore, we utilised Microsoft Office Lens as a way to take text and make it accessible, distributing via Class Notebooks and assignments within Microsoft Teams. This provided support to some of our families and differentiated the work we were offering to our pupils.

Furthermore, we embedded pupil voice within our digital approach by asking the children what they wanted to learn, involving our Digital Leaders to assist and take ownership with the Microsoft Team and encouraging children to help their peers with navigation and how to access content when new pupils joined. We even had a P7 girl plan and deliver an arts and crafts lesson on her own in Microsoft Team to the school; the true essence of a confident individual and leading their own learning. 

Our Microsoft Team was accessible to all ages and stages of child and by ensuring that the pupils had a say over their learning, allowing them to take ownership of it, listening to their voice and making them part of their learning it did become one full school Team and increased our overall engagement – the children wanted to be part of it, they wanted to learn and they looked forward to the lessons! 

This was evident at our whole school assembly on a Friday, which quickly became a highlight of the week for everyone.

S – The key to our sustained engagement was down to the support we offered, we needed our parents and carers to know that we understood they were not teachers and that we did not expect them to replicate the school day at home, however, they knew their child better than anyone and we would be here to help engage them in their learning regardless of the route they chose.

Our flexible approach allowed families to focus on the needs of their child, without the worry of them ‘falling behind’ or the pressure of them trying to learn new digital skills. We made use of an “open-door policy” and ensured that our Twitter account was manned between 9 am – 3 pm each weekday, that we had Microsoft Team Moderators daily and that emails were responded to quickly. Digital support was always on hand.

Previously, if a parent or carer needed to discuss something they would simply come down to the school and ask at our office, so it was important for us that our communication channels remained opened and that our families knew they could contact us during the school closure. Some reached out just for reassurance, to ask for advice on a concept or if the work they were completing was at the right level and others just to ‘check-in’.

Nevertheless, not every child in our school did engage in learning during the lockdown and we did not hear from every family, although we made phone calls and efforts to offer support it may have just been too late. If any school is to increase engagement in digital learning next session, then working with these families to understand the barriers and challenges for them and identifying what we (schools, communities, local authorities, government) can do to help and support them will be essential, but that must take place before any future lockdown happens in order to Get It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) next time. 

T – We all love a ‘well done’ and some positive recognition for work completed, so we quickly introduced a gold star system to fit in with our “Where Stars Shine Brighter” school vision. 

Every piece of work that was shared with us on our Microsoft Team or Twitter was acknowledged, recognised and the effort praised in a timely manner and each child was awarded a virtual gold star.

This was not about rewarding those who were engaging with the Microsoft Team or Twitter, it was about rewarding the work that was shared with us and the effort that had gone into it regardless if it was offline work like cooking, baking, gardening, building or a worksheet – it didn’t matter – learning had taken place and this needed to be celebrated.

At the end of the week, we would celebrate all the work shared at our school assembly and put the name of every pupil who had earned a star into a weekly draw with the winner receiving a £5 E-voucher for Amazon emailed directly to their parent or carer.

The fact we implemented this system right at the beginning of our journey was paramount to our success and absolutely the right time as it gave our children a real incentive to get involved and we know they enjoyed receiving their virtual stars each time they shared work with us. The children shared their work for the intrinsic motivation of being praised publicly (using the praise feature within Microsoft Teams) and the feelings that the recognition gave them, the weekly Amazon voucher was just a nice add on for those children who were extrinsically motivated and a further supportive carrot for their parents or carers to dangle in motivating them to get logged in each day.  

Our Microsoft Team was successful because there was a range of cogs working in the background in a timely manner, things did not just happen.  We would meet virtually at the beginning and the end of each week to create the timetable for the following week, send out the staff sign up sheet and then look to fill any gaps. We constantly reviewed upcoming events or celebrations such as Father’s Day, World Smile Day and VE Day to ensure our lessons were timely and that we were able to tap into the natural excitement of events like Easter and Star Wars Day, thus increasing engagement.

In summary, whilst we may not have had the flashing lights, we did have the (one way) camera and the plenty of action. We utilised our talented staff to offer diversity in our lessons, ensuring they were timely and relevant. We offered a flexible and supportive approach to families with communication at the heart and we achieved this by moderating Twitter and Microsoft Teams, acknowledging work, ensuring pupils had a voice with involvement in their learning and praising and rewarding the work that was being shared back to us. All of the cogs were moving in the background to spark and sustain engagement in our digital learning and our hope for the future is to continue to increase this engagement by identifying what else we need to do to Get It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC).  

John Dewey once said, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow” (Dewey,1916), teachers are always going to be up against the lights, camera and action of the latest blockbuster, video game or must have gadget; so we must continually find new, creative and inventive ways of engaging our children in their learning,

Lockdown 2020 certainly gave us all the unique chance to ‘test the waters’ with remote digital learning and we think John Dewey would have been proud of our approach.    

Patricia McKay is the Depute Head Teacher at Mossend PS & NC in North Lanarkshire and Gordon Reid is a class teacher and ICT Co-ordinator. Together they facilitated and led the remote learning strategy for the school.

Mossend PS & NC is a non-denominational school situated in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire. The school has 382 pupils and there are 40 children in the nursery attached to the school.

Twitter: @mossendps @Mr_G_Reid

https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/nl/mossendps/


References

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education. New York: Free Press Available at: http://www.ilt.columbia.edu/publications/dewey.html [Accessed 15 July 2020].

Hazell, W., 2018. Teach With Video Games, Schools Told. [online] Tes. Available at: https://www.tes.com/news/teach-video-games-schools-told [Accessed 15 July 2020].