Has COVID changed schools forever?
It is hard to imagine a life before COVID and lockdown, even though it was only six months ago!
At Newland St John’s CE Academy, we had recently transitioned over to using G-Suite (predominantly through the use of Chromebooks) and in hindsight, we couldn’t have been better prepared for remote learning.
G-Suite enabled us to immediately deliver work through Google Classroom. Children were already part of their virtual classrooms; researching, creating and submitting work, responding to feedback, peer assessing the work of others and so on.
As a school, all we had to do was ask children to log in to their accounts from home and from the first Monday of lockdown children were continuing to successfully engage with their learning. The change to remote learning was almost seamless. For those who had technical issues, we used Youtube tutorials to help families get their children logged on.
From a staff perspective, using video conferencing software Google Meets allowed us to meet regularly and maintain effective lines of communication, ensuring the smooth running of home learning as well as keeping the school open for key worker children. We could also use G-Suite to work collaboratively on documents in real-time which staff found extremely useful when they couldn’t meet face to face.
As lockdown continued and more children returned to school, our Chromebooks were deployed in school so that the children at home and at school had a similar diet of learning. Year Six, in particular, enjoyed the open-ended and investigative tasks the Chromebooks allowed teachers to set.
Paper free self-marking
Google Classroom allowed staff to provide differentiated work quickly and effectively and if work was set using Google Forms, the work could even be self-marking! On a number of occasions, I was able to live mark a document whilst a child was typing and address misconceptions as I would in class. In my opinion, the remote learning experience was much more bespoke and beneficial than other schools relying solely on national initiatives and websites, better reflecting the needs of our cohort.
After a couple of weeks, we were using Google Meets to video conference as classes. This was invaluable in checking the welfare of children and maintaining links with parents. The importance of being able to check on the wellbeing of the children cannot be overstated. Further to this, even something like a basic quiz on such video calls had a positive impact on the mindset of many children as they got to see their classmates and teachers.
Our digital vision
We are proud of our school for adopting Google for Education, it has enabled us to achieve so much in the last six months. As we now return to school in our bubbles, it is important to create a sense of belonging. As a result, we have regular assemblies using video conferencing. Children are in the process of joining their new virtual classrooms in readiness of any absence, and staff have discussed ways of streamlining children’s experiences on Google Classroom. Communication with parents is now predominantly done electronically.
No matter what challenges the future presents us, we plan to use Google for Education functions to enhance the learning of our children and ensure a smooth transition between home and school learning.
Newland St John’s Primary School
Published: September 4