Schools of all types have become a lot savvier at using technology over the course of the pandemic as they have grappled with the challenge of remote teaching.
Now, with the hope that a form of normality may return, how can we ensure that these hard-earned edtech wins don’t go to waste? One thing that will be important is ensuring you continue to use technology to streamline how your school operates even when back in the classroom.
How schools can make the most of edtech
Here are some tools designed to help do just that.
1. Seating plans in seconds
Who knows what September will bring in terms of seating plan accuracy and track and trace woes, but seating plans will likely be key for all of your classes in September.
Thankfully there are some great seating plan tools that take the headache and time out of forensically planning your environment, until the next round of musical chairs starts a few weeks in.
If you have the budget there are some fantastic tools which allow you to create data-rich seating plans quickly. Some even take into account how well students get on, alongside crucial pupil premium, SEND and attainment information.
2. Mail merge magic
Mail merges are the epitome of saving time. A mail merge in its simplest form fills in data in multiple locations.
For example, if you wanted to create a certificate for every student in a year group, you could have a simple table of 20 student names in spreadsheet software (Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets) and one copy of the certificate.
At the click of a button, you now have 20 certificates, all with the student names on them…magic!
If you go down the rabbit hole of mail merges, you’ll quickly realise that there’s so much more that you can do with them, including auto-generating questions for student response time after an assessment.
For Microsoft products, mail merge is built in. For Google Workspace, Autocrat is exceptional.
3. Folders in a flash
While this one isn’t likely to get much curb-appeal, it’s a great thing to know and will save you valuable evening hours.
Have you ever had a list of students that you need to create folders for on the computer, whether it be for teacher-assessed grade evidence collation or work students have produced? Doing this manually for each folder can be a drag.
I’ve been secretly using Text2Folders for years. Now it’s out of the bag, you can download it for free. This superweapon allows you to copy and paste as many student names as you like from a list (or Spreadsheet) straight into Text2Folders, tell it where to create the folders and click "create folders"... boom!
4. Instant quizzing
Online quizzing is here to stay: quality diagnostic questions with a cavern of analytics data at your fingertips after a quick Assessment for Learning task and all set up within a few minutes –what’s not to like?
There’s lots of options on the market, with most of them offering a free version or a try-before-you-buy trial, so I suggest you try a couple (make sure you check GDPR before you do as well) and find which one you like the best.
When your question banks are prepared, they are ready to use time and time again.
5. Email rules
The reality of a modern education system is that we receive way too many emails. It’s time to fight back and prepare to work smart.
Creating some simple email rules could redefine your inbox for the entire year to come.
For example, you could set a rule to always send emails from certain email addresses straight to trash, or you could set an email rule to put all emails from teachers within the key stage 1 phase into a folder, for quick reference.
You could even automatically "star" or "flag" emails from particular people. Any email from an exam board could be forwarded to other people, too. You get the idea.
Most schools that I’ve worked with as part of the Edtech Demonstrator programme use either Microsoft Outlook or Gmail as their email provider and both are entirely capable of some quick rules to sharpen the way you work.
6. Use specialist software
There are countless pieces of software that can supercharge your yearly tasks. It’s always important to consider the cost against the benefit, but you’ll probably be positively surprised when comparing with the working hours saved.
Whether this be for timetabling, payroll, behaviour systems or something else, it’s worth doing your research.
Timetabling, for example, is so important to the day-to-day smooth-running of a school that it might just be worth the investment in quality software.
Ultimately, the key for the 2021-22 academic year is to ensure that you harness the power of technology to make your working life – and that of staff – as smooth as possible.
Tristan Kirkpatrick is director of computer science at Outwood Grange Academies Trust and edtech project lead at Outwood