The value of using digital tools to access learning has been brought to the fore due to the current pandemic, but in certain parts of Scotland the advantages had already been understood and innovative programmes were already being adopted.
Global tech company CGI has been rolling out devices which have proved invaluable in delivering continuity of learning during this time.
The pandemic has accelerated this strategy and, while it is hoped pupils will soon be able to return to their physical classrooms, it seems certain that some form of digital learning will remain in place, as it has a plethora of benefits for pupils, teachers, parents and carers.
Two areas that had started ground-breaking work before the pandemic were the Scottish Borders and Glasgow which, with CGI’s help, were deploying their Empowered Learning solution as part of the Inspire Learning and Connected Learning projects
Originally seen as a way of removing the issue of inequality of access to digital learning, improving attainment and increasing efficiency, the importance of the projects has been highlighted by the closure of schools and the need for pupils to learn from home.
In both areas, iPads are being supplied to all pupils from Primary 4 (Borders) and Primary 7 (Glasgow) upwards with devices used by the younger children in a class.
In Glasgow in particular, the roll-out is vast and specifically targeted at equity so that every child has access to the same tools for learning. When the initial lockdown hit, CGI made a huge effort to continue to supply devices to teachers and students. In the Borders, this involved developing a home delivery approach where pupils and parents were helped to build and operate the devices with the aid of videos and phone support.
“It has been an effective partnership with our customers in both Glasgow and Scottish Borders to make sure that they can continue the delivery of education and we are very proud of that,” said Richard Sadler, Director Consulting Expert for education at CGI.
With over 65,000 managed devices across both projects, the second lockdown has meant schooling has been easier this time around for those supplied with iPads and the knowledge of how to use them properly.
“Parents are talking positively about it – access to the device is a massive help – there has been a big difference between the first and second lockdowns,” said Sadler. “Educators also speak highly about having one solution across the board, with everyone having the same devices. Having a uniform approach really helps.”
In Glasgow, the expedited deployment phase for primary and secondary is now complete – ahead of the original end date of August 2021. An additional 6,940 iPads have been deployed for vulnerable children and all teachers and pupils from P7 to S6 now have their own tablets. Shared devices are being deployed across users in P1 to P6 and teachers in early year establishments.
“In Glasgow remote learning has been heavily reliant on tablets as part of the connected Empowered Learning solution,” said Sadler. “We have seen a threefold increase in usage and active connections since schools adopted remote learning. This solution is allowing secondary schools to follow existing timetables and utilise digital learning for lessons.”
There is also the opportunity for parents to receive a personalised code to access uploaded digital learning content for their children and over 4,000 new Apple TVs and projectors have been installed within classrooms as part of a huge upgrade to classroom AV infrastructure.
“Making sure there is a good quality, secure, safeguarded solution that everyone can use whether they are in school or not is really important to us,” said Sadler.
An added benefit has been seen around mental health during an incredibly difficult year for young people. The iPads from Empowered Learning mean teachers can keep in regular contact with students and how they are feeling.
“Meaningful contact is very important for both students and their teachers during this period. Teachers are being supported and we are also trying to help parents wherever we can,” Sadler said.
However, when the pupils are back in school full time and the pandemic is behind us, digital learning will continue because of the benefits it offers, including reducing the equality gap and helping to raise levels of attainment.
Whether at home or in a busy classroom, pupils can be given speedy feedback from teachers.
Using the devices in this way can save teacher time and increase engagement from pupils as they feel better supported and can be more creative as a result of all the ways the devices can be used.
“Personalised feedback and timeliness are really important in raising attainment and teachers are able to do that through apps, video clips and sound clips on pieces of work,” said Sadler.
“Also, via our Monitoring & Tracking web service, we can capture key education attainment data and reduce the time it takes to do school reports. We try to take away the resource-heavy activities in order to allow teachers to focus on teaching. Working with the Empowered Learning solution day to day gets the best outcomes for everyone.”
This includes making sure the devices are safe and secure.
“We manage all the tablets and make sure the security updates are reviewed and updated at the right times so they don’t affect the school day,” explained Sadler.
“We also apply content filtering both at school and at home to safeguard the pupils. We work closely with customers on the apps they use to make sure all apps are assessed and secure for use. The app store is agreed with customers so schools can access the appropriate apps but not anything else. Empowered Learning is a fully managed but flexible solution.”
Sadler has convinced the effect of the pandemic will make digital learning more widespread in future.
“In Glasgow and the Borders key large education transformation programmes had already started before Covid focussed on learning and teaching, equity of access to learning, raising attainment, creativity, mobility – the pandemic has just highlighted their importance.”
Digital learning for all is here to stay.
Courtesy: Herald Scotland