Learning for the New Normal Skills for the Digital World

Would you trust a surgeon who has never worked with another human being, only practiced on artificial and mechanical bodies, and never treated another human, but has an encyclopaedic theoretical knowledge (acquired digitally through a distance learning course no less) to operate on your heart, or your eyes, in the full knowledge that any incorrect decision would kill you or render you blind?

Classrooms, schools and universities are here to stay, as the most critical skills, knowledge and experience cannot be passed on and taught digitally (atleast not yet).

However, the shift to digital technology and resources is here to stay as well. Therefore, it is critical, that the future of learning is designed, ameliorated and amended with this in mind.

Parents who believed that devices were not good for their kids, and blamed their offspring’s addiction to the screen for their lack of social interest in the real world, are suddenly faced with a reality of having to encourage and teach their young ones using the very same technology.

Therefore, it is morally and critically important that we all share, learn and absorb skills for the digital and technology driven world.

Digital skills are mentioned often and are a focus of many a platform, but before Digital Skills we all need to learn Skills for the Digital world.

From the experience of the last 4 months, and having previously been a teacher my 5 top skills to master are:

  1. Security: This is not just the Pin number you enter to unlock your phone, but understanding:
    1. Where your Data and Personal Information resides – Where is your Digital home?
    2. Who has access to all the information: Yes someone knows what websites you visited and what documents you have saved – the question is WHO?
    3. Who controls your data: Your data is not your data. When you accept “cookies” or “accept Terms & condition”, many times you are willingly giving your data away. Sometimes it is for the free use of a platform, and sometimes it is just for the pleasure of watching something or reading something online.
  2. Connectivity: The assumption that the “internet” is always available is dangerous. Knowing the limitations of connectivity is critical, and ensuring you have your most critical information securely stored “offline” on your device or on a separate easily accessible Hard Drive is important
  3. Data Storage: Linked to connectivity, many people have become dependent on online storage, with many companies offering free online storage for its “CUSTOMERS”. This ties the customer or the learner into their ecosystem. If you stop being customers, the ecosystem is no longer accessible to you. Recognising the limits and knowing how to “untie” yourself from the ecosystem means you have choice of systems.
  4. Systems: With the fast evolving world, it is critical for the learner to have knowledge and skills not just for a particular system like Apple, Android (Google), Microsoft, or Linux but be familiar with as many as possible. Different industries and companies work on different systems and software and ensuring you have the right technology foundation is important.
  5. Understand the Technology: An “old school” trick, understanding the basics of how an ecosystem works means that you will be able to seamlessly shift from different operating systems and different devices as newer companies come to the fore and older ones disappear. Erm, so how do I use this Gateway computer with MS-DOS? (anyone remember this!)

Once you understand the basic Skills for the Digital World, you are now ready to pick up some Digital Skills!

In my next blog, I shall talk about my top 5 Digital Skills for the new normal. Until then, go out, breathe the fresh air and switch off your screen!

gov.uk

The British Government have published online educational resources for schools and parents to help children to learn at home during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak…. read more here.

Virtual Schooling

It’s only been a week since my last blog and the BBC have reported that children in 10,000 homes in the UK will be provided with vouchers for internet, highlighting the disparity and inequality of technology access for learners.

Another article pointed to lack of engagement amongst students, due to a number of reasons including lack of technology and study space. Learners from poorer backgrounds were less engaged than those from wealthier backgrounds according to the referenced NFER study.

With reality setting in, these limitations and inequalities are becoming prominent, and with limited signs of any vaccine against the virus, the focus must shift to implementing sustainable solutions for the new normal. On a positive note, we are beginning to see education departments in governments starting to ask questions around sustainable and easy to implement solutions with more focus on the solution rather than the product.

What is becoming clearer by the day is that the world is not yet ready for a digital only solution, while the current situation cannot accommodate the old mode of classroom only learning. Therefore, an innovative integrated blended solution is critical for the new normal. Having spoken to education departments across a dozen countries, I am seeing trends for the following solutions or combination of solutions as a priority:

  1. Scalable, Flexible and Secure Learning System that;
    1. Engages the learner and is Easy to use for teacher
    2. Has been deployed and delivered outcomes at a national level
    3. Can be used in the classroom to ameliorate onsite teaching as well as for home learning
  2. Connectivity Solution: In partnership with telecom providers and NGOs, a unique model is developing to provide subsidised or free access to government approved learning apps. In return, the providers are able to use school grounds to put up secure satellite hubs and local WiFi hotspots, bringing benefits of internet access to the wider community.
  3. Digitalising Assessments: With paper handling being linked to virus transmission, governments are seeking solutions to digitalise exams and assessments, as well as deploy devices (personal and government owned) in the classroom. If implemented, this would amount to a significant overhaul of decades old testing system, as well as environmental and financial benefits of saving paper.
  4. Administration tools: In the Western world, a large part of school administration, identity management and reporting is already digital. This is now being sourced and implemented in the developing world, to help manage and monitor onsite and offsite learning outcomes and engagement.

Alongside this, various governments are beginning to look at content and curricula. However, given the complexity and political nature of this area, the focus for most civil servants has been to simply digitalise their existing resources and make it available through their learning and/or resource management systems.

I am encouraged by the speed and intensity with which governments are engaging, collaborating and communicating with each other and the wider education community.

The shift in focus from crisis management using free software solutions, to a more realistic and sustainable long-term learning solutions is not only a necessity but critical for the future of education. Decisions made now will shape the future of generations to come.

LP+365 languages

At LP+ we are always looking for ways to drive user engagement and reduce the barriers for both teachers and learners. Over the past 10 years, we have seen that adding language options that allow each user to choose a language for the app interface drives usage and access. This in turn makes the app friendlier to use. All users are, of course, free to add contetn in any language of their choice, regardless of the language interface. In addition to English, our current language selection includes; Arabic, Bangla, Gaeilge (Irish), Filipino, Marathi, Tamil and Sinhala. New languages are being added all the time! To see the LP+365 app, see our solutions site here.

Bridging the lockdown learning gap

7 ways to bridge the lockdown learning gap:

1. Support for pupils – Emotional well-being, mental health, heightened anxiety, bereavement and re-adjustment to school.

2. Quality blending teaching and learning – Clear learning outcomes, differentials, interaction, feedback and digital access.

3. Curricular innovation – Outdoor learning, character education and talking about COVID-19.

4. Professional learning opportunities for teachers – Availability, affordability, sharing time and hardware/software.

5. Focused learning Support – Testing, availability of support and pupil absence.

6. Catch-up tutoring – Availability of tutors, affordability, safeguarding, digital access and summer school.

7. Enhanced parental engagement – Guidance to parents, Parental stress and digital access.

The Online Teacher

Catlin Tucker is a Google Certified Innovator, bestselling author, international trainer, and keynote speaker.

In her latest blog she talks about the traits of a successful online teacher.

Virtual_Schools

In my last blog, I introduced the concept of Integrated Learning.

Visionary leadership and aspirational teaching can only go so far in pushing the merits of integrating technology into education. Following the initial panic where schools, teachers, students & parents started using anything, everything available to them, after 2 months, reality is now setting in with questions asked around sustainability of these solutions and the future of technology in education.

Limitations of technology and the online only model are becoming more apparent by the day. Understanding these limitations is critical to integrating technology into learning. For the majority of the population education technology is a careful price conscious combination of software, hardware, telecom network & data package. Add to this the unreliable electricity in many rural areas of developing countries (where Per Capita Income is US$ 2000 to US$ 10,000 p.a.), and you have a really limited choice of options, if any. Therefore, the simple choice of Microsoft Teams Vs Zoom Vs Google Meet, doesn’t cut it.

Even in the UK, the government announcement to provide free devices to the underserved just highlights the scale of the problem globally. More than half the world population live in countries with a varying number of infrastructure limitations, and in many cases limited to a smartphone for a device. Delivering virtual schooling for all, while a noble dream, is still just a dream.

Therefore, Integrated Learning can only be successful if you have a program and structure that:

  1. Works online and offline,
  2. Is accessible in a low and high bandwidth environment,
  3. Can be accessed through multiple devices from the basic smartphone to the high-powered computer.
  4. Is based on a credible platform – most governments tend to limit their selection to either Google or Microsoft,
  5. Is easy to use for teachers (technical capabilities vary widely in different regions)
  6. Is available in multiple languages & dialects to reduce barriers to learning
  7. Is secure and affordable

Given the wide variety of challenges and the disparity of IT standards, integrating technology into the core of classroom teaching, is the only way to level and standardise access in the medium term.

Presently, the pandemic has focused learning from home, but with schools already partially reopening and learning likely to remain disrupted for an extended period, a lot of thought and planning needs to be given to sustainable solutions that support both onsite and home learning.

In my next blog, I shall cover the process of creating a sustainable solution for the new normal. Until then, stay safe, keep reading and keep learning!

We are delighted to announce that our CEO, Mehool Sanghrajka, is featured in this month’s K12 Digest. You can read his full article here.

Q&A

If you missed the Microsoft Webinar today, or simply want to review the contents, then welcome to our blog!

The full webinar can be found here.

During the webinar, we had a number of questions which we have answered below. If you have other questions, please contact us.

Q. Is the LP+365 platform free or paid?

A. LP is a cloud based subscription platform. During COVID19, we are currently offering schools the App for free. (Until September).

Q. How can I install LP+365 in my school?

A. Please visit our COVID offer page or contact us.

Q. Does LP+365 work on all browsers, including tablets and mobiles?

A. Yes, LP+365 works on all devices, including tablets and mobiles and supports modern browsers including Edge, IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari etc.

Q. In remote areas can it be used offline?

A. Yes, LP+365 allows you to synchronise your files, notes, mail, calendars to be used offline. It will re-sync your changes when you are next online. We are currently working to expand this function.

Q. Does LP+365 support my language?

A. The user can select a language for his/her interface at any time from the languages available. If your language is not present, we can usually add it in a short time.

Q. Is this platform appropriate for four to seven-year old children?

A. Yes, the platform is designed to be used by students of all ages. We have seen learners from age 4, all the way to University.

Q. Do we need to sign up individually or through our school admin?

A. LP+365 works with a school’s Office 365 tenancy. The school therefore has to register and the portal will be accessible to all teachers and students at the school.

Q. Is this accessible if you have already your Microsoft account?

A. Yes, as long as the Microsoft account is through your school or college, you can register here.

Q. How can we teach pupils who are living in a far flung places?

A. LP+365 can be used to delivery resources to your class, manage assignments and start collaborative projects. Online classes can also be delivered using the integrated Teams and Skype functions.

Q. Are any certain Office 365 plans required to run this platform?

A. LP+365 works with all Office 365 educational plans, both free and paid.

Q. Is there an in depth demo of LP+365 available?

A. Please see the link to the Microsoft webinar above.  In addition, our training videos explain every aspect of the LP+365 platform and can be viewed here.

Q. Can the platform be used for adult students?

A. Yes, the platform can be used by colleges, universities and vocational training colleges.

Q. How is the data submitted online safeguarded and not prone to hacking?

A. All data is encrypted at rest and in transit, using several strong encryption protocols, and technologies that include Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer (TLS/SSL), Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

Q. How is Teams integrated within LP+365?

A. Teams in LP+365 offers teachers a virtual staffroom where they can communicate and collaborate. Teams also allows teachers the ability to have online classes.

Q. Can we set different types of assessments/assignments and also choose which students they go to?

A. Yes, the assignment tool allows you to set both formative and summative work, in many different formats, for individual students or the whole class.

CV3: the ‘New Normal’

The-New-Handshake

This week’s announcement by Cambridge University that it will conduct classes online only for the 2020-21 academic year is significant as it signals the real timelines for this pandemic. Most of us have been living with the hope that by the summer, or September at the latest, we will be back to the ‘old normal’ that we knew at the start of this year. What Cambridge’s announcement does is move this timeline from weeks and months, to years.

The ‘new normal’, as its now widely being called, is a radical departure which will dictate our lives for many years. Until there is a viable treatment for this pandemic, social distancing and face masks/gloves will remain the norm, which means schools and colleges will have to learn to operate in new ways.

I suspect Cambridge’s announcement also took into account the inability for international students (on whom British Universities have built their economic models) to travel to the UK. Just how other industries that will find social distancing difficult (travel, hospitality, retail) will now sustainably operate is still unclear.

In the first of these blogs, I discussed how EdTech may actually benefit from COVID. We have certainly seen a dramatic increase in the number of countries discussing possible platform solutions. The biggest change over the discussions of last 20 years is that everyone now understands the need for ‘elearning’, ‘learning platforms’ and ‘learning from home’.

However, most education technology today has been procured on the basis that its there to support classroom teaching. The new normal requires technology that also supports learning from home. Whilst currently most schools are using a mixture of free tools and resources to continue supporting learning, these will need to be replaced, as I discussed in my second COVID blog, with long term solutions. Focus has therefore shifted to the large platform providers – Microsoft and Google.

In any case, whilst we have the global issues of population growth, environmental destruction and rising temperatures; as well as the social issues of growing human inequality, inhumane farming methods and regional conflicts, it seems to be very possible that such pandemics will also sadly become the norm.

As schools choose to open over the next few months, I think there are already some indicators of the direction we all need to take. I have listed my five below;

1. Firstly, schools will have to develop hybrid models for many months or even years. A combination of learn at home with some face-to-face teaching.

2. Secondly, this means that teachers will need support to become more familiar with technology, and in teaching learners remotely.

3. Thirdly digital skills will become even more critical; not just for learning from home, but in the new economy where working from home will also become the norm.

4. Fourth our exam systems, which were the first casualty, early in this pandemic, are unlikely to survive the pandemic and will need to be reevaluated.

5. Lastly, focus in education will move towards platforms, content, devices and connectivity as governments consider how to support all their learners.