e-Learning – The Good, the Bad and the Broadband!
By Adam Treadaway, Director of e-Learning

In 1975 a student from the Wyvern School wrote “Instead of teachers I think there will be a big machine with a screen, on which our work will appear. The lessons will be recorded on tape previously. We will all have screens on our desks and instead of books there will be words moving across the screen on our desks. Instead of the old lectures being given by a ‘boring’ teacher we will have the information passed across our screen. Instead of doing sums in our heads we will have calculators, after all, it is often said that the way you do a sum needs more thought than the sum itself.”

I don’t think for one moment that this student foresaw a global pandemic 45 years into the future, though it is interesting how close his vision has been to the experience of students over the past year.

No doubt all of us have suffered from Zoom-fatigue over the past 12 months; zooming for work, zooming for school, zooming to stay in touch with family and friends. Initially we were all taking part in weekly zoom quizzes, at least I was, and the novelty soon wore off. The thing that was keeping us connected in such uncertain times, was exactly the thing that many started to resent. Technology was enhancing our situation, but it came with its own frustrations.

The ability to have a routine and sense of normality during such uncertain times, is an extremely powerful thing and something that we have to thank technology for. It has enabled us to teach and interact with students across the globe and to continue to support them academically and pastorally through what has been an incredibly difficult time. It is important to realise what we have achieved over the past year. No one really thought that we would be in a situation where we had to rely so heavily on technology, but it has been an incredible journey to see how the use of technology in schools can enhance the learning experience and give both students and teachers opportunities to think about how we can develop teaching and learning both in and out of the classroom.

Online platforms have been entering the classroom for a number of years, with quizzing, research and educational videos being an expansion of teaching techniques. However, moving all teaching online has been a challenge, with adapting resources, modification of schemes of work, to name a few. The quick transition to online learning was difficult, but not insurmountable.

In my opinion, the way in which students are able to interact with resources and information online can be an incredibly powerful tool. Using software to embed a documentary or musical analysis video into a workbook with a student being able to watch it at their own speed and multiple times, gives a large amount of flexibility in the way that they work. It is this flexibility which is something that should stay. Rethinking the way that students engaged with information was a powerful thing and it meant that we could think outside the four walls of a classroom.

Inevitably, with any major change comes frustrations, not only the dreaded broadband speeds, but other difficulties; whether information was accessible in all corners of the globe, trying to ensure student progress, keeping in contact with students in different time-zones, too much screen time! All of these were issues that we faced as educators, but it was amazing to see how everyone worked together to limit their impact on both students and teachers.

I think it is important to reflect on what we have achieved over the past year. At Abingdon we saw teachers and students quickly adapt to online learning during an unprecedented situation. It is a time for us to be grateful for technology enabling us to keep connected with the outside world and to continue on the life-long educational journey.

Although dealing with a world-wide pandemic has been made easier by technology, it is important to remember that, although technology can enhance our lives, it cannot be a substitute for spending time with the people we value most. So, next time you are with family or friends, put down your device and be present in the moment, remember that there is nothing more satisfying than giving your full attention to the people around you, we never know when the next opportunity may arise…

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