When I was at school, I remember the huge excitement that accompanied the opening of the school’s first computer room. This was the beginning of the use of technology in the classroom. Looking back, who would have guessed that computers, and now tablets and phones, would have such a major impact and presence in our lives?
There are many articles discussing the pros and cons of mobile technology in the classroom. Whilst we need to equip students with the necessary technological skills to succeed in the modern world, it is important that they can still survive without their mobile phone, Google and social media. The answer is, of course, to continue to use a variety of approaches to teaching and learning.
The use of technology interests me, because it is both quick for teachers to use and engaging for students. My journey started at the end of a summer term when my A-level chemistry students were missing their scheduled lessons in order to visit universities. I decided to record key parts of my lesson and upload to YouTube so they could catch up with missed work, enabling them to come to the next lesson fully prepared. In response to my students telling me how helpful they found these videos, I continued to record my lessons even when I had a full class. It allowed my students to review these lessons whenever and however many times they wished to, which was invaluable during revision time.
I realised that this was a method of flexible teaching that, along with my own students, was benefiting students studying chemistry around the world. I started to answer queries from students in other schools, and I have marked past papers for students who do not necessarily have the teacher:pupil ratio that independent students benefit from.
The other benefit to teachers recording themselves is for their own professional development; it is easy to share your lessons with colleagues and acquire their feedback. For example, I had not realised how many times I said ‘So…’ in lessons! It is also rather good fun for your staff and parents to see their headmaster teach and do practical demonstrations. Parents can see exactly what their children have been taught that day.
I appreciate that not everyone feels at ease teaching in front of a camera and uploading his or her lessons for the world to see. However, there are many apps that can be used to record learning resources without anyone seeing you. ‘Explain Everything’ is an app that I personally find useful and easy to use, which is essential if you want to encourage busy teachers to use it. Interactive resources are quick to prepare and give students instant feedback even when they are at home.
A particularly heartwarming moment for me was when I received a card through the post from one of my ‘YouTube’ students with whom I had been communicating via email, thanking me for all my help and letting me know that she had achieved the grade she needed to get into university. Now that is what I consider to be independent schools supporting the education of the wider community; not just giving access to our facilities but offering access to our lessons and teachers!