As we settle into the new normal, schools are having to adapt fast. On the helpline, we are hearing a lot of the same questions from schools and educational settings. Schools especially are pushed for time, people are stressed and with that in mind I will leave the blurb about what a “tough time this is” and jump right in…
Cameras On or Off?
At the start of all this back in March 2020, this was all quite new and a decision to keep students’ cameras off while delivering remote lessons probably felt like the safest and least risky option. However, as we enter our (god knows what number) month of online lessons, some students, parents and teachers are looking to revise this. There is no hard and fast rule and ultimately this is a decision that needs to be made as a school or setting, with both staff and students interest as the forefront. Personally, I think we now start moving to having cameras on and here’s why;
- Interaction: Both for students and teachers it is really important to be able to see each other’s faces. I think we have all learnt this year just how social we are as human beings. Online does not match offline interaction, but it’s something!
- Engagement: If the cameras are off, how can you ensure students are engaged in your lesson? For all you know, they are playing Xbox in the back ground or scrolling through Instagram.
- Wellbeing: I know that most teachers did not go to university and study for a year, to then present a lesson in front of black screens. It would take a very strong character to not find this slightly sole destroying. Second to that, students want to see their teachers faces. Bonds are made, teachers are important adults in kid’s lives and yes I’m aware this isn’t true of all student/teacher relationships, but it is true for some.
Now of course, like anything there are risks with this, but ones I believe are worth taking. If cameras are on, there are some points to consider that you may wish to add to your AUP (acceptable use policy) or ‘online safety policy’. When updating a policy of this kind where things are being asked of students/ teachers, it is best to ensure it is read and agreed to (by way of signature) by students as well. Points you may need to add are;
- Dress code - important that students are appropriately dressed. Some schools even ask they wear school uniform to ensure this.
- Location - ideally students will have somewhere in their home away from others so they can concentrate so that siblings or other household members will not inadvertently broadcast to the class. This obviously won’t be possible for all students so exceptions can be made where needed.
- Microphones - regardless of cameras, what you don’t want is 30 kids talking over each other and in particular, over the teacher. Teachers much have control over mics to allow people to talk when wanted and to turn people off when needed.
- Appropriate sanctions - It’s all very well having a new set of rules but what happens if they are broken. I heard from a school last week that if a child does behave inappropriately they are put into a separate “time out” room. While this is obviously nowhere near as bad as having to stand in a hallway or the humiliation of being sent to a different teacher, it is again, something(!)
It is important to note that some teachers will not feel comfortable being filmed or broadcast online, and that must be respected. If teachers do not wish to have their cameras off, they may hopefully be happy to facilitate students having theirs on.
To Record or Not to Record?
Initially it felt again that recording lessons would ensure a level of safety, however this also opens up questions about GDPR, storage and so on. There is absolutely no reason to record every single lesson, but there may be times when recording is necessary, for example during 1-1 sessions. The alternative to recording is having more than one staff member or adult on the call, which in some instances just won’t be appropriate and could take away from the needed intimacy of a 1-1. Here’s some points to consider when recording;
- Consent - if the child is under 13, you will need their parents’ consent to record and store that recording
- If you are recording a lesson that is not 1-1 but recording for other students to digest later- try recording only the teacher’s screen/presentation rather than the whole class.
- Check with your data protection officer at school or local authority about where and how long you will store recordings.
Lots of children will unfortunately not have devices at hand to attend online learning. The DFE launched a scheme to get devices in the hands of those that need them last year, and there appear to be more to give out. Please visit the government website website more information.
The devices will come with a filtering software pre-loaded. If dongles are required and distributed there is also network level filtering pre-loaded onto those. What schools cannot do is ensure there is a network level filtering on home wifi connections. This would be an unreasonable expectation, but there are things schools can do to help educate and support parents to make sure there are some safeguards. For example:
- Info on parental controls can be found at saferinternet.org
- Step -by-step guides on device level filtering can be found at internetmatters.org
- Screentime resource with useful tips can be found on our resources page.
What To Teach?!
With schools having less than a day to prepare last week, it is ok to maybe feel a bit behind on your online preparation. I am also hearing from schools that with so many children’s parents being classed as a “critical worker”, classrooms are fuller than last year and so provisions for the students online, may sometimes be lacking. Luckily there are now online lessons and plans coming out of every nook and cranny on the internet. I have not used them all but here are some recommended sources for instant help;
- The National Academy
- BBC iPlayer
- For more specific lessons around online learning, please check out Project Evolve.
- Barefoot Computing
If you have other questions about which platforms to use or other remote learning curiosities, please check out our suite of resources here;
And of course, the helpline is here Monday to Friday to talk through any thoughts, queries or issues you may have, 0344 381 4772, email@example.com. This too shall pass, but let’s make it as good as we can while it lasts!