Its been just over a year since the world began shutting down. Around March 2020, Classroom learning was suspended, parents became teachers overnight and the screen (laptop, phone, tablet) became the mode of communication and delivery. Teachers became IT professionals, while “the cloud” (just like Apple & Amazon) had more than one meaning. Teams and Zoom effectively became bywords for communication tools.

As the pandemic developed, first came the panic as cities hollowed out (for the lucky few), followed by determination that we will defeat this, accompanied by the positive spin that our new lives were better, more calmer and family time was precious.

12 months on and reality is sinking in, if not sunk in. Parents can never replace teachers (the sigh of relief, jumps of joy, etc, in the UK on Monday as schools reopened was telling!), and zoom can never replace schools and classroom. However, many are also realising that technology does have an important role to play, and education is a collaborative approach between teacher, parents and the community. Many kids appreciate their teachers and parents more and are perhaps even more grateful for their friends. If having exams caused anxiety for children, the cancellation of exams in the UK seemed to have caused even more anxiety and panic for both parents and children.

All of this seems to suggest that while change is required, the approach needs to be considered, calculated and outcome driven. Companies of all shapes and sizes have rushed out solutions (some brand new, some modified), without as much as a second thought around outcomes and the long term implications. EdTech has become the new arena for commercialisation, but with a significant part of the world still trying to work out what Ed(ucation) it needs, incorporating Tech(nology) into the equation is not the do all, solve all solutions.

Digital skills are important, but it is even more important to develop broader skillset – interpersonal skills, non-digital communication skills, teamwork among others – and create an environment outside the screen. Culture, Dance, Music, Sport is just as, if not more important for our mental and physical wellbeing.

The mental effects are only just beginning to show, with phenomena like “Zoomed out”, “Teams Fatigue” are now a regular occurrence. Children who are introverted, or from areas with poor connectivity, or simply resource poor (not everyone has the latest device), often struggle to engage and beginning to suffer from low morale and self-worth.

Therefore, schools are now even more important, and it is critical that resources need to be focused on the right areas to improve the schools and the education system as a whole for the future, making it more resilient, more adaptable and more accessible.

As the past 12 months how shown us, technology can help fill the gaps, but it can never replace our need for social human interaction and 12 months on, it is clear that the schools of the future will need to have an element of blended learning to make it inclusive, accessible and resilient to whatever the future may hold.

App Updates

E-Library

During the COVID pandemic schools globally were faced with no classroom based learning. While the decision was made to close schools undoubtedly saved lives, but posed disruption to students.

While schools scramble to adjust to the new norm, Learning Possibilities took this initiative to enhance their Lp+365 product to ensure that new but secure  features were made available for students to use for their on-line experience.

App Feature Updates:

  • e-Library – The e-library is a selection of over 15,000 educational titles, including classics, from around the world that have been part of the foundations of education for centuries.

All books are available to download onto any device and can even be viewed offline.

The search and filter options help you to find the exact content that you are looking for and you can also mark books as favourites to make them easily available from the favourites Tab.

Collections are groups of books on a particular subject that are presented together for your convenience.

  • White-label – Partner now have the option to White-label the App.

General Updates:

  • Security – Bug fixes to address vulnerabilities.
  • Skype Chat – Skype chat has been removed from the App as Microsoft are withdrawing the product.
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.

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.