Emma Darcy received the Pearson National Teaching Award for Digital Innovator of the Year in 2021. She works as a Director of Technology for Learning at Denbigh High School in Luton and across the Chiltern Learning Trust.
It is easy with hindsight to say that the effective use of technology in schools should be a priority. I have been fortunate to work with a series of leaders who saw the importance of developing a robust technology for learning strategy and supporting all the schools in the Trust in this way. This meant that, when we went into the first lockdown in March 2020, our staff and pupils were in a good position to move to online learning.
Supporting staff to upskill themselves
That is not to say it has been easy. Fully remote learning and then the move to a hybrid model has meant that all staff have had to evolve their pedagogy and practice. I have been hugely inspired by how some teachers who would previously have described themselves as "technophobes" have got to grips with working in an online environment.
To support the staff who may lack confidence with technology, it has been essential to first demonstrate the benefits of incorporating the use of technology into their teaching practice but also to offer a variety of ways for them to upskill themselves including:
- A range of links to tutorial films, online CPD sessions and help guides.
- The opportunity to observe other staff modelling best practice.
- 1:1 support and guidance where appropriate, especially if the member of staff describes themselves as an entry level user of the technology.
Using technology to enhance learning
There is no "one size fits all" solution as all schools are different, but it has been encouraging to see how diverse new ways of teaching have emerged during periods of remote learning and have then continued to be used once pupils were back in the classroom. For example:
- Moving many staff meetings online, as opposed to in person, to maximise the effective use of everyone's time and allow increased collaboration regardless of location.
- Deploying an online learning environment across all our schools, allows pupils to access their learning, engage with their teachers and submit work regardless of whether they are physically in school.
- Using more online video and audio capture tools, with staff recording explanations and demonstrations for pupils which can increase understanding and create a valuable set of resources for revisiting knowledge.
- Recording verbal feedback for pupils, which has had huge benefits, especially for disengaged and SEN learners.
- One of my favourite projects involved using green screen technology to create a fully virtual production of "A Christmas Carol" in which schools across the trust participated. Pupils who had never met one another interacted together in scenes that wouldn't have been possible otherwise and were able to develop their performance and digital skills.
On a more personal note, I was honoured to be a Gold Award winner at the recent Pearson National Teaching Awards. For the past two years, everyone working in a school, college or university has had to be a digital innovator whether they expected to be or not, so to be recognised in this way has been the absolute highlight of my career.
Get support from an EdTech Demonstrator school
Denbigh High School is part of the EdTech Demonstrator programme which provides EdTech support and expertise to schools and colleges for both in person and remote education. The programme offers short term operational assistance, through to longer term support on embedding technology and developing a digital strategy.
Find out more about the EdTech Demonstrator Programme.
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