A holistic approach to digital learning

Thanks to their early adoption of innovative teaching tools, some Scottish schools were already well prepared for the digital revolution, writes Nan Spowart.

The value of using digital tools to access learning was highlighted due to the current pandemic, but in parts of Scotland the benefits had already been understood and innovative programs were already being adopted.

Global technology company CGI has deployed devices that have proven invaluable in ensuring the continuity of learning during this time.

The pandemic has accelerated this strategy, and while it is hoped that students will be able to return to their physical classes soon, it seems certain that some form of digital learning will remain in place, as it has many benefits for students. , teachers, parents and guardians.

Two areas that had started pioneering work before the pandemic were the Scottish Borders and Glasgow who, with help from CGI, were deploying their Empowered Learning solution as part of the Inspire Learning and Connected Learning projects.

Originally seen as a way to eliminate the problem of unequal access to digital learning, improve results and increase efficiency, the importance of the projects was underscored by the closure schools and the need for students to learn at home.

In both areas, iPads are provided to all pupils from 4th primary (Borders) and 7th primary (Glasgow) with devices used by the youngest in the class.

In Glasgow in particular, the rollout is large and specifically focused on equity so that every child has access to the same learning tools. When the initial lockdown took place, CGI went to great lengths to continue delivering devices to teachers and students. At the Borders, this involved developing a home delivery approach where students and parents were helped to build and use the devices with the help of videos and phone support.

“It has been an effective partnership with our clients in Glasgow and Scottish Borders to ensure they can continue to deliver education and we are very proud of it,” said Richard Sadler, Director and Education Consultant at CGI.

With over 65,000 devices managed in the two projects, the second lockdown has made schooling easier this time around for those who have iPads and know how to use them properly.

“Parents are talking about it in a positive way – access to the device is a huge help – there was a big difference between the first and the second lockdown,” Sadler said. “Educators also praise the idea of ​​having a solution at all levels, with everyone having the same devices. Having a consistent approach really helps.

In Glasgow, the accelerated deployment phase for primary and secondary is now complete, ahead of the original August 2021 end date. 6,940 additional iPads have been deployed for vulnerable children and all teachers and students from P7 to S6 now have their own tablets. Shared devices are deployed between users in classes P1 to P6 and teachers in early childhood institutions.

“In Glasgow, distance learning has relied heavily on tablets as part of the Empowered connected learning solution,” said Sadler. “We’ve seen a threefold increase in usage and active connections since schools embraced distance learning. This solution allows high schools to follow existing schedules and use digital learning for lessons.

Parents also have the option of receiving a personalized code to access downloaded digital learning content for their children.

“Making sure there is a good quality, secure and protected solution that everyone can use, whether they’re in school or not, is really important to us,” Sadler said.

An added benefit was found around mental health during an incredibly difficult year for young people. Empowered Learning iPads allow teachers to stay in regular contact with students and their state of mind.

“Meaningful contact is very important for students and their teachers during this time. Teachers are supported and we also try to help parents wherever we can, ”Sadler said.

However, when students return to school full time and the pandemic is behind us, digital learning will continue due to the benefits it offers, including closing the equality gap and l ‘increased success levels.

Whether at home or in a busy classroom, students can receive prompt feedback from teachers.

Using devices in this way can save teachers time and increase student engagement as they feel better supported and can be more creative with all the ways the devices can be used.

“Personalized feedback and punctuality are really important in improving results and teachers are able to do that through apps, video clips and sound clips on pieces of work,” Sadler said.

“Additionally, through our web-based monitoring and tracking service, we can capture key data on education level and reduce the time it takes to complete school reports. We are trying to cut out resource heavy activities so that teachers can focus on teaching. Working with the Empowered Learning solution on a daily basis achieves the best results for everyone.

This includes making sure the devices are safe and secure.

“We manage all tablets and make sure security updates are reviewed and updated at the right time so they don’t impact the school day,” Sadler explained.

“We also apply content filtering at school and at home to protect students. We work closely with customers on the apps they use to make sure all apps are rated and secure. The App Store is agreed with the customers so that schools can access the appropriate apps, but nothing else. Empowered Learning is a fully managed yet flexible solution.

Sadler is convinced that the effect of the pandemic will make digital learning more prevalent in the future.

‘In Glasgow and at the borders, major education transformation programs had already started before Covid focused on learning and teaching, equity of access to learning, improving outcomes , creativity, mobility – the pandemic has just underlined their importance. ”

Digital learning for all is here to stay.

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This article is published as part of The Herald’s The Future of Education campaign, in association with CGI.

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