Wired...for learning

Posted on: 2nd August 2020

‘Wired... for learning’ our latest research journal focused on digital & remote learning 

Contributors: Chartered College, Unity Research School, Ambition Institute, CAM AcademyTrust, Cambridge Primary Education Trust, SCITT CTSN, UCL IOE, Saffron Walden County High School, Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust, RA Butler Academy and Teach First

The Covid-19 pandemic reduced most schools to crisis management. School leaders, understandably in the extreme circumstances, took close control of communication and immersed themselves in the details of operations and procedures like never before. They were making decisions at speed and had little time, in those lockdown weeks in March, to think, let alone reflect. Schools inevitably, even within the same MATS, made unilateral decisions about digital provision and pedagogy and these decisions were often based on what they were already familiar with, or had ready access to. I wonder if we had known at the start of the academic year that the establishment of a virtual school would be the most significant innovation of 2019-20, we might have approached it differently and made alternative choices? But we did not have this lead in. We had two or three days at most to implement a system which would become difficult to unpick in the disjointed weeks that followed. For the following four months we had to live with that rushed decision and hope we had made the right one. Effectively, as a sector, we had created the perfect conditions for large scale action research into the efficacy of different styles of remote learning. We were trialling different platforms, diverse approaches, discovering what was manageable as well as finding out what supported learning or hindered it. We surprised ourselves with the things we discovered: the challenges and limitations of whole class, synchronous, live teaching, the effective simplicity of narrated PowerPoints, the importance of checking in with learners and the high workload demands associated with monitoring the work ‘turned in’ for example. Through hands-on experience we moved our practice on. We will learn even more when we finally get the opportunity to compare what schools did and measure the differing impact on student progress over time. However, research into the impact of digital learning is not unchartered territory. If schools did step back and draw breath, they could discover that a wealth of robust research into impactful, digital, and blended learning was already in existence, much of which is signposted in this journal. The Chartered College of Teaching has been pulling together evidence-based approaches to support teachers and the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has continued to offer training on improving teaching through the use of digital technology. Meanwhile, as we head towards September we have, as a group of CTSN schools and our wider partners, had the opportunity in this journal to reflect on our own steep learning journeys and learn from each other’s approaches, both at the level of our schools, but also in relation to the working practices of our SCITT. I hope that reading the journal helps you to reflect and reset in time for the challenges we face in the year ahead.
Caroline Derbyshire
CEO Saffron Academy Trust