Learning methods change constantly; this much we know. And as technology forms the foundation of schools' efforts to prepare students for the future, it makes sense to incorporate it into teaching and learning as much as possible right now. With the right blended learning tools, schools can do exactly this, whilst being well-positioned to adapt to whatever comes next.
If schools were not already delivering some degree of blended learning before 2020, they soon came to embrace it when lockdowns arrived. Fast forward to 2022, and many now appreciate its versatility and the possibilities it offers in delivering a variety of learning modalities.
But what should schools look for in classroom management platforms to aid with in-class and/or remote blended learning? Tools to assist with behaviour management, feedback and communication are essential, but so is the functionality that can act as a channel for the teacher’s creativity to teach, support and engage students.
With that in mind, here are four features of blended learning platforms for schools to consider:
1. Focus attention and monitor
When teachers need to explain a concept, set learning goals or convey important information, having the ability to lock screens in an instant is invaluable to get students’ attention. With these kinds of disruptions minimised, less time is wasted. And with real-time monitoring tools, educators can check what any student is doing, watching or listening to at any time. This gives them the power to keep students on track and manage lessons effectively.
2. Multi-platform functionality
When schools consider which virtual classroom solution to select, it’s wise to consider the wide range of devices their students use. For example, if pupils are learning from home, they might be trying to access the platform on desktops, laptops, tablets or even phones. With so many different manufacturers and operating systems, whatever edtech schools choose must have the ability to operate reliably across a wide range of platforms and devices.
3. Interaction Interaction
is at the heart of learning, so it should be a top priority when it comes to digitally-led classroom and remote learning, enabling students to play an active role in the learning experience and become more deeply immersed in it.
Tools that allow students to request help from the teacher mean they can resolve their queries discreetly – and, as a bonus, without disturbing the other students. In addition, group chats ensure that students can work collaboratively, even if they are in different locations. Other useful features to think about are student surveys and feedback forms. These can help teachers determine what concepts students are struggling with and what virtual learning techniques they’re gaining the most from.
4. Stay on task and stay safe
Regardless of the year group, controlling students' internet usage during school hours is vital. Setting website permissions creates a backdrop for maximum engagement while removing the temptation to stray to non-lesson websites. As well as helping to keep students focused and minimising class disruptions, such tools can also help to shield them from inappropriate content. By restricting access to social media, for example, schools can remove the temptation to click on recreational websites.
Future-proof your students’ education
Blended learning is the future, whether it happens within a classroom or across different locations. It offers clear advantages for teachers (e.g., easy communication and flexibility) and for students, by offering them enriched instruction across the curriculum.
The next step is to further integrate these learning platforms with other third-party solutions to offer a resource-rich, meaningful learning experience that delivers real impact and drives students’ progress. With every bit of edtech experience they gain, students are forming the foundations of the skills they will need in their future careers. Providing them with the best instruction tools we can is an opportunity we should not miss.
Authors: Al Kingsley, Academy Chair & EdTech, Hampton Academies Trust and Richard Barnes Academy.
CEO NetSupport / Chair of a Multi-Academy Trust and of an Alternative Provision Academy. As well as his CEO and Chair roles Al is chair of his region’s Governors' Leadership Group and chairs the regional SEND Board. With 20+ years of governance experience, Al also sits on the Regional Schools Commissioner's Advisory Board for the East of England and North London. He is an FED Co-chair of two groups, Chair of the BESA EdTech Group and chairs his regional Employment and Skills Board. He’s a well-known face in EdTech around the world; author of My Secret #EdTech Diary and co-author of A Guide to Creating a Digital Strategy in Education. Al writes and speaks internationally on the effective use of Educational Technology and is a Forbes Technology Council Member. He continues to support schools and EdTech vendors with consulting and mentoring – as well as writing for the wider education community and speaking at events.