Originally viewed as a way of ensuring the Scottish workforce of tomorrow is digitally literate, distance learning is now helping pupils keep up with their work during the pandemic

DISTANCE learning is the buzz phrase in education during the current coronavirus crisis but many pupils in Scotland are already well placed to learn remotely thanks to a recent innovation.

The lockdown in countries across the world has thrown some systems into chaos with educators struggling to come to grips with the technology necessary to allow teaching and learning to continue. 

However Glasgow City and Scottish Borders are two areas of Scotland that are ahead of the curve, having already started to roll out digital technology as an educational aid.

Global tech giant CGI is implementing the scheme and has not only been strengthening the internet infrastructure of schools but is also supporting teachers in the use of iPads for teaching and learning, with the devices supplied to every single pupil from P6 to S6. 

Richard Sadler, Director Consulting Expert, Education of CGI said: “We have enjoyed working with our partners in Glasgow City and Scottish Borders to craft and deliver an education environment that we always hoped would make learning in these places the best education experience anywhere in the world. 

“Now that we are in such challenging times we are delighted that we have created a foundation that allows education to continue to progress and students to achieve their potential.”


INITIATIVE: Left, Richard Sadler, Director Consulting Expert, Education of CGI.

Connected Learning began in Glasgow City over a year ago and is supplying iPads to every pupil from P6 - S6. As part of one of the largest technology in education programmes in the world, primary and secondary schools all across the city are already benefitting from this new connected learning environment, especially in the current situation.

In Scottish Borders the focus has initially been on secondary schools, where every pupil in all nine secondary schools in the region has a specially adapted iPad for learning, both in school, and now at home.

The iPads are specially set up for students to use safely online and give access to a filtered series of applications agreed with the local authorities.

“In terms of classroom workflow, both these projects enable a straightforward way of sending content, assignments, and learning challenges home to students that they are able to complete and send back to teachers for feedback so that teaching and learning can keep going and the students can check in with their teachers every day,” Sadler explained.

“A powerful element of this solution is that every student has the same access to the same great tools for learning, no matter who they are or what their background is. That key commitment to equity is at the heart of both projects.” 

The iPads can be personalised so that students with learning difficulties can use the accessibility features to allow them to do their work, supporting a wide range of learning needs by enabling speech selection, customisation for dyslexic needs such as screen tinting and dictation, and the ability to personalise the look and feel of the device.

Another advantage is that the iPad offers a powerful creative dimension so that students can be encouraged to engage in active learning tasks, brought to life and shared with technology, and not just simply sitting in front of a keyboard churning out material. 

“The iPad is not simply a computer, it’s a mobile device you can take anywhere and you can capture, collaborate and share more creative tasks by using the camera,” said Sadler. 

“The ability to receive, consume and share content is so important in this current education environment but the element of creativity is also a vital part of what makes great teaching and learning in this new world.”

In terms of software, Glasgow has a platform called Showbie which allows students and teachers to connect with one another to share assignments and documents. Teachers can set assignments by sending videos to the class, then give feedback orally on the students’ work by adding a voice note.

“It means the student gets feedback as soon as the teacher marks the work and it is more detailed than if the teacher had to write it out,” Sadler pointed out.  “It’s a better experience for the teacher as well as it enables them to provide more focused and in-depth feedback but in less time than it would in the classroom.”

The Scottish Borders is using similar platforms in the shape of  Microsoft Teams and Show My Homework, which allow teachers to gather their classes remotely to share work and discussions.

“The platforms contain a bunch of really powerful tools that deliver enables teachers to develop skills and deliver relevant, engaging learning and teaching,” said Sadler.

“When the unexpected has happened the whole world has turned to technology to continue to live and work and the same has been possible for education. It feels like in both these projects we have been slightly more prepared because we have taken some of these decisions.” 


Revolution is within touching distance

With iPads and other tablet devices becoming prevalent in schoolwork during the current Covid-19 pandemic, a new appreciation of technology could transform education


SCREEN TIME: Educators will value technology more after the present pandemic passes, says Sadler.

SCOTLAND was somewhat of a pioneer in the use of iPads in the classroom, with the very first school in the UK to use the devices in teaching and learning being located in Greenock.

The revolutionary device was launched by Apple in 2010 and since then become a more familiar sight in Scottish classrooms. Education authorities are excited for its further potential in enhancing both teachers’ and students’ experience and are currently exploring the best ways to incorporate the technology into studies in order to see maximum impact on students. 

“I see the immense value these devices add to every day experience in teaching and learning,” says CGI’s Richard Sadler, who firmly believes that the current pandemic will see educators looking afresh at the value of technology in education, allowing it become a more central part of teaching and learning as a result.

“There have been so many competing priorities in education that technology is rightly not always seen as the most pressing issue,” he said. 

“Some teachers will adopt it very quickly but others are quite frightened and sometimes that in itself can make it hard to encourage a strategic change.” 

For these reasons, educators have been quite slow to adopt the technology but Sadler pointed out that in the current emergency they really didn’t have a choice but to explore ways of using it. 

“People are seeing the value of it now,” he said. “To encourage a culture change is quite challenging but with a situation like this we are working to support even the most reluctant teachers to show them how they can begin to access simple technology to enhance and improve their experience of being a teacher at this particular time.” 

Sadler added that the current pandemic could result in a different landscape in terms of education and technology. 

“Educators across the world will become more familiar with what remote learning looks like and, while face-to-face contact is vital, I do think we will become comfortable with learning in new ways, and get huge value from the technology we have. 

“In the same way that we now go to work with a laptop or digital device rather than a briefcase of folders I think it is inevitable that a student will go to school with a device rather than a big bag of books and jotters,” he concluded.

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