As the world navigates all elements of a global pandemic, teachers and educators are discovering how to deliver lessons, engage, and connect with students from a distance. In Australia, we have a long tradition of teaching remotely and the systems and tools to do so have been available for some time.
A Global Challenge Within the Australian Context
The COVID-19 emergency has meant that Australian schools have been closed except to some groups of students, for instance those with parents who are front-line workers. This has meant that education systems have had to gear up quickly to provide advice, content, and training for teachers to support them in delivering learning from a distance.
Fortunately, the tools that are effective for blended delivery have been on the Ed Tech road map for most Australian education jurisdictions. The Federal Government provided massive funds under the Digital Education Revolution to ensure that all senior secondary school students had laptops - thus reinforcing the importance of Ed Tech for teaching and learning across the nation.
In the State of New South Wales, the Department of Education implemented the Connected Classrooms Program in 2002, providing video conferencing tools, SMART Boards and collaboration software to ensure effective delivery of a broad curriculum and shared expertise across its 2000 schools.
Technologies have evolved since these two programs were delivered and today are more elegant and affordable e.g. video conferencing is possible on every web-enabled device and now in the hands of students. Learning ecosystems in schools are quite sophisticated as are the Ed Tech Capabilities of Australian schools as described in SMART research.
Federal Agencies such as ACARA, the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, and Education Services Australia have delivered curriculum and assessment on-line and the production of digital content to support classroom delivery - https://www.learningpotential.gov.au/
In addition, strategies, and initiatives such as “Future Focused Learning”, STEM Education, and “Future Frontiers Education for An AI World”, have encouraged schools to be innovative with their adoption of technology and to prepare students for an evolving world. Most Australian teachers now use Learning Management Systems, create and adapt digital interactive content for their students and share it anywhere and anytime. They have also learned to use technologies to enable students to collaborate online.
Today in Australia, more than 20,000 teachers create learning sequences and activities using SMART Learning Suite Online. With this online component of SMART Learning Suite software, teachers have the additional capability of sharing their content and their rich pedagogical activities with students on any device in the classroom, as well as enable them to engage from their home settings. During the COVID-19 crisis many teachers have used the SMART Board in their classrooms to successfully deliver creative and engaging lessons to their students in their homes.
In Australia students will soon return to school, some only one day per week, so many teachers will have to find a solution to teach both face to face and remotely. To support teachers to learn how to do this effectively and efficiently, the SMART ANZ Team hosted a webinar series: Let’s get agile! Learning how to prepare for blended lesson delivery.
Teachers from more than 50 schools joined the two, hour webinars on blended lessons and learnt how to use SMART Learning Suite online to deliver learning effectively. The feedback was outstanding, and the teachers had suggestions for further learning.