Slough’s a big place – reducing the impact of snow on teaching

Clayesmore’s Head of Digital Learning, Mark Fraser, reflects on how the school ensured that learning continued in the recent bad weather. 

We had snow last week. Lots of snow.
 
OK, not ‘lots’ by the standards of some parts of the world. But more than we are used to.
 
We are a rural boarding school with a fairly even split between boarders and day pupils. The roads around the school are not great at the best of times. The snow meant that the boarders were stuck at school, unable to get out while the day pupils couldn’t get in.
 
In the past, that would have presented lots of problems and we’d have lost important lesson time just when preparations for the big public exams are getting into full swing.
 
There might have been some memorable snowball fights but there wouldn’t have been much work going on.
 
This time, it was different. A couple of years ago, we moved over to Google Classroom. We use it for everything from academic lessons to extra-curricular societies.
 
Classroom meant that we could set work and the pupils could access it just as normal. Some colleagues, stranded at home, used ‘live marking’ to engage with their pupils’ work in real time, just as they might in a normal lesson. Some even managed to drag themselves away from ‘Cash in the Attic’ long enough to run live Q&A sessions on Google Meet.
 
It was a really good ‘stress test’ of Google Classroom.
 
It passed.
 
More than that, though, it was a good reminder of possibly the most important challenge that new technology presents us as teachers:
 
How can we be as effective outside the classroom as we are in it?
 
We have always tended to think of the classroom as the place where we ‘perform’, the place where the ‘real work’ happens. Sure, we know that the preparation and the marking are important but only because they allow us to perform better in the classroom.
 
There’s some merit in that belief. After all, the job is about interacting with pupils and the classroom is the place where that interaction has to happen.
 
Except that now it doesn’t.
 
Recent technology has enabled it to happen beyond that place.
 
London University has just announced its first entirely online undergraduate degree. I know, of course, that distance learning is not new. Indeed, London itself claims to have pioneered correspondence courses…back in 1850! Other institutions such as the Open University have offered online degrees before.
 
But this announcement means that online degrees are entering the mainstream.
 
In time, they will become a normal part of the educational landscape, especially when cash-strapped students start to add up the tuition fees.
 
And, as teachers, we need to embrace the challenge and ask ourselves how we can have as big an impact outside the classroom as we do in it.
 
The answer won’t be straightforward and it’s going to involve a fairly major re-think of our methodologies.
 
But like David Brent in BBC’s ‘The Office’, we need to realise that our “world does not end with these four walls…Slough’s a big place.”
 
You can read more from Mark Fraser at the following links: 
 
Clayesmore Digital Blog
 
Clayesmore Digital Community