Almost all of us in schools had to adapt our processes and programs in response to remote teaching during COVID. It’s been a huge amount of work and it would be a waste not to use what we’ve done, to further enrich student learning, create more time for teaching, and future-proof learning.
Through digitising and centralising our planning, lesson preparation and assessment, we now have more time to actually teach the content and give extra support to students who need it most. It’s taken a few years (and focused effort), but our school is finally in a place with the structure, tools and processes we need to teach and use data effectively.
Through digitising and centralising our planning, lesson preparation and assessment, we now have more time to actually teach the content and give extra support to students who need it most.
Before we start, I’ll give you fair warning, this is a labour-intensive and challenging process - one that Edrolo can save you from having to do all alone. Partnering with Edrolo or not, the steps below might help you fully digitise your content.
Teaching is changing, and the way students engage in content is evolving. We wanted to ride that wave instead of getting buried by it. You can see it when you look at how adults pick up new things - you’re going to YouTube and watching TedTalks. We have to use and leverage off that. It’s like how students are all on laptops, and in the first few years of having that, we were still teaching from the front of the classroom, writing on a whiteboard while they were playing games. So now we have a computer connected to a projector, and a wireless keyboard, so we teach from the back of the classroom - so we can see that they’re all on task.
We’re asking our kids to adapt and change, it’s only fair that we do too.
I believed in what we were doing, and so I really worked with my staff to get them on board - which was challenging back when we didn’t have any proof it would work. Now we have a different recruitment process, where it’s clear from the start what the expectations and processes are within the team. And now we have proof it works! So it’s a much easier sell to get people on board and excited about what we’re doing.
As teachers we are so busy, it’s often the case that there are worksheets and files in all different spots –- some on USB sticks, the hard drive at home, in a printed stack at the bottom of a shelf. To be able to really leverage the existing content you’ve got, you need to see it! So centralise everything you’ve got from your staff into one spot where everyone can access them, so nothing gets lost.
I’m a big data fan, but I hate data that’s collected for no reason. Or data that’s a hassle to collect, or data that isn’t consistent. If you set things up right in the first place, the data will flow straight out of it. If it’s the right data you should know what you’re looking at. It should be really easy to evaluate and make sense without needing an explainer.
We’ve been collecting a fair bit of data – I knew if I was asking my team to take on this extra work we’d need the proof that it was working. But I always kept those basic ideas in mind.
I say “evolve” your content because this isn’t a step that is set and forget, it’s always in motion. We have master docs that our team all add comments to, and we’re always rebuilding it based on everyone’s experience and learning. It’s not static, it’s not owned by anyone, it’s owned by our team.
When we are writing anything, we now keep in mind that it needs to be understood by a parent or carer as much as by the students.
With lockdowns, we had parents at home trying to help their child with school work while also working their own jobs. They needed to be able to look at the steps and know how to help their child get started. If we were just writing it for other teachers, we might end up skipping a few steps and losing our connection to the parent.
We have also set up all of our documents with a basic structure that is the same for students all the way through. Every lesson that every student walks into has learning intentions, success criteria, steps for the activity, and homework revision. We created it this way knowing that the consistency and routine lowers cognitive load. And for the students that are self-directed and capable, we can give-up some control to let them follow it themselves - giving us more time and space to work with the students who need more guidance.
You can access the digital lesson template we use at Narrabeen here.
While the content is always evolving and changing, having it all in a fairly polished place means we can see rewards for our efforts. When we looked at the average mark for our learning portfolio, we saw it increased across the year, with an improvement in the end of year results as well.
The arguments I’ve heard against this approach are the same as I’ve heard against any online programs – that the system is going to replace them. That’s just not the case at all. Having the fundamentals in place means you have a bit of space to be able to bring your own style and your own stories, because you’re not always on the back foot trying to get through the curriculum. Having structure in place gives you more freedom, not less.
Narrabeen Sports High Schools is located in the Northern Beaches of Sydney, with 1100 students from Years 7 to 12. The school focuses on supporting every student’s individual needs, and supporting them to become capable and confident individuals. Science at Narrabeen runs across all Years 7 to 12 and has a history of producing strong student outcomes as measured in VALID8 & 10 and in the HSC. In Stage 6 the school offers Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Science, Physics and Science Extension - where students collaborate with research scientists as part of peer-reviewed and published research.
Find out more at the school’s website.