It wasn’t that long ago when, if you'd asked me what blended learning was, I would have said I wasn’t quite sure.
And now I have appointed my first blended learning coordinator. The education world certainly has moved fast this year.
After all, where once the idea that children would be taught remotely for larges parts of the year would have been unthinkable, now it is a reality we have all experienced.
And while the circumstances that led us here are far from ideal, we must not overlook what we are learning during this period.
Coronavirus: Blended learning is the new reality
Blended learning could well be one of the positives that we take from this time, demonstrating, as it does, that, with the right training and technology, it is possible to deliver good, robust learning to pupils wherever they are.
It’s no substitute for classroom learning, of course, but we have no idea how long this situation is going to last with children regularly having to spend time away from the classroom when required to be in quarantine if they come into contact with someone known to have contracted Covid-19.
Furthermore, with the possibility of further lockdowns, it means we are faced with a variety of scenarios: from all children learning in school, to individuals quarantined, to classes, year groups or more in quarantine or everyone learning remotely.
All in all, it is clear that we need to change the way we think to ensure that wherever our students are, they can still access the curriculum and find ways to work together.
A dedicated role
This was where the idea to appoint a dedicated blended learning coordinator role came to mind.
It would ensure that we had a single teacher responsible for helping us to make sure that our blended learning approach is delivering the best possible outcome for all involved, including:
- Demonstrating to other teachers best practice in blended learning lesson delivery.
- Assessing the technology we are using to deliver this to ensure that we have the right mix and are not spending money on multiple versions of tools that effectively do the same job.
- Helping to create a policy on how much screen time students working remotely should have.
- Ensuring that parents are adequately trained on using our online platforms – predominately Seesaw.
The teacher overseeing this has been allocated two hours per week to these roles and they will also work – which is not a huge amount of time for the scope of the work – but at present it is probably as much time as we can allow when factoring in all the other things she has to do.
Nonetheless, having this dedicated time is vital as it will ensure that we now have someone with a dedicated focus in this area to make sure we are providing the best blended learning experience possible – as the successful applicant will now tell you herself…
Claire Nuttall is headteacher at St George's International School in Luxembourg
Why I wanted the job
Sighle O’Doherty, the new blended learning coordinator...
When I first heard about the blended learning coordinator role, I wasn’t really sure what it would involve but I knew it was something I would be interested in.
I think I’m lucky in that I’ve always grown up with technology so it has always been somewhat second nature to me but now that everyone is having to engage with technology, including parents, too, there is a clear need for us as a school to ensure we are using it as efficiently as possible.
As such, one thing I am looking forward to is working with colleagues to ensure they know how to get the most out of the platforms we use – I’m already a Seesaw ambassador, so will be ensuring I pass on my insights on that – as well as on any interesting new technology that we may wish to use.
Tech fit for the job
And conversely, as Ms Nuttall notes, I will also be working to ensure we only have the core tools we need available to staff and pupils – we don’t want to be using hundreds of different tools if we can actually just concentrate on using a certain amount that gets the job done.
I think it’s really important a role like this exists now as we know children are going to be using these sorts of tools more in the future, whether that’s during primary school and certainly into secondary and higher education, regardless of whenever the pandemic is over.
There’s no way of knowing quite how the job will evolve – it’s not something that really exists in any management textbooks or you can go on a course for at present, but it’s really exciting to have the opportunity to lead and shape such a vital part of our school, and the wider education landscape.
Sighle O’Doherty is a teacher and blended learning coordinator at St George's International School in Luxembourg