Technology is all too often sold (and bought) as some sort of magic fix for any number of problems. Instead of a cost vs benefit discussion there is a lot of "This will transform education" followed by vague muttering about how, and so far no technology has lived up to this claim. Computers have not taken away all of the teaching jobs. Cloud technology can be used well by teachers, however, to make the most of the available opportunities. So in this blog series we are looking at some real pros and cons of using cloud technology and will give some tips for schools to consider when taking the plunge with cloud technology.
Our first blog in the series looked at Benefits to students using edtech. This blog looks at technology for teachers. Often schools will buy technology that has a promised learning outcome for students or an impact on exam results. However, offering technology which makes life a bit easier for teachers, either by making paperwork processes more efficient, or enabling a whole school strategic view which supports implementation of change, is well worth the cost if rolled out well. Cloud based solutions can also help you to offer staff more flexible working as they can access from home, or even via mobile technologies, as required.
Benefit 1: Time saving
Using online tools, such as messaging to all students, hosting resources online instead of printing and photocopying, online tests and marking tools, will free teachers up from an endless stream of paperwork. It isn't going to take everything away just yet but quick wins such as asking pupils to download the homework online rather than the teacher having to hand it out during the lesson following a mega break time photocopying session can start to relieve a bit of the strain on teachers’ precious time. It won't magically improve GCSE results but a well-rested teacher, fresh from a cup of tea unwinding with colleagues in the staffroom could make a big difference to the stress levels on a Friday!
If not all students have access to printers it can be tricky to give out homework that works for them all. However, if you use a system which allows you to take advantage of a full suite of cloud based tools to complete the homework online and hand it back in that way, you can cut this issue out altogether. Students can open, edit and save their work easily from any device.
Benefit 2: Flexible working
Working from home or flexibly is not something which is often associated with teaching. However, if you give teachers online tools which allow them to mark work and communicate with students via the cloud, then you can repay their commitment to new ways of working by allowing concessions such as working from home during PPA time. Some schools have even implemented practices such as allowing teachers to use PPA time to get a haircut, go shopping or watch their own child’s school assembly. Teachers are then refreshed and happy and able to use their weekend or evenings to work if they wish. We never like to hear of teachers working all hours. But for some staff this would work for them if it was their choice to use their PPA time to do other things that are not usually possible during term time. A great staff benefit which will also have knock on effects as the online nature of the work will benefit many students also.
If implementing technology which allows flexible working keep an eye on how much time they are spending online as well as in school. Some teachers will end up working long hours at school as well as evenings and weekends and that will lead them to early burn out. It is usually simple to see log in statistics with many systems so that you can have a friendly word with any teachers who are overdoing it!
Benefit 3: Personalised Teaching
We hear a lot about personalised learning for the students but the children with different working preferences grow up to become adults with different working preferences and your teachers are no different! By implementing school wide cloud technology options teachers can pick the right tools for them from any suite. Some may like to use self marking online tests (maths and science teachers most commonly) and others may find it gives them more flexibility to use video and sound files in their homework projects (looking at you art and drama teachers!) so can give teachers ways to transfer their preferred teaching practices to the cloud, instead of being restricted by paper resources in school bags when giving students work and resources for outside of the classroom.
Ensure when rolling out training for staff that they are given a range of options to start with. It can be tempting to teach one tool at a time and expecting every teacher to do that before moving on. But if that tool doesn't work for the teacher or their subject then offering them tenuous reasons for enforcing it will switch them off. But giving a few examples of what they could do with a range of tools and then letting them learn their preferred tool first, will likely result in more widespread usage of the system.
Whatever your reasons for buying into cloud technology, don't forget your teachers. Learning outcomes are great of course, but the teachers are best placed and prepared to impact on those if given the right tools!
Microsoft has really come a long way to support personalised learning and is a great example of empowering educators and engaging students. As a Microsoft partner, Skooler has developed a cost effective elearning portal to support teachers to adopt Office365 in the classroom. By producing online tutorials and guides, teachers can now access 24/7 all year round. Learn at their own pace and without the expense of a face to face trainer for the day.
Start your journey today and sign up for more information.