The ‘New’ Normal

November 14, 2020

Laura George discusses the ‘new’ normal and its impact on teaching and learning 

The 'New' Normal

I remember getting to the final assembly of 2020 and, of course, it was a wholly virtual affair. I was drafted in to do the ICT back ground support, I sat in my lounge surrounded by 5 different screens ready to press the play button to start the virtual cathedral bells to mimic the actual cathedral we all should have been sat in.

As the final note of our school song was sang I felt tired and overwhelmed but decided I could do one last ‘piece to camera’ shot of me shutting all the screens down to signal the end of the year and uploaded it to Twitter. I was off for a glass of bubbly…it was my birthday after all and I deserved a break!

What a year it had been, how much we had learnt and how far we had come; and how much of this was like every other school in the country at that point; sadly though this wasn’t the end we all hoped it would be….

At this point I still hoped for normal in September, who didn’t still, even at this point, hope that over the summer months the virus would change in some way to get back to the past. This wasn’t the case and the reality has come that we are now the ‘new normal’; our generations label for having to change on a six pence every five seconds.

If only the new normal had meant we were through the worst and that the advancements many had made would make the next stages easier. This state actually meant that rather than the clarity that all pupils would be off that actually we would be often living in a duel economy where some pupils would be learning in front of us and some via remote learning. It would be easy to look at the negatives of this but we are teachers and that’s not in our nature.

So thus the ‘new normal’ brings possibilities and these could be some of them.

I bring to you the 5 Ts of our Educational ‘new normal’:

1.  Time: The pandemic has shown us the importance of time with family and we cannot lose this, for ourselves or our pupils. Many parents evenings have gone virtual, allowing parents to spend less time commenting in for a five minute slot and finding childcare.

2.  Technology: We know so much more in such a wider circle about how technology can help education and now there is little question of IF technology can aid learners but HOW. Using apps, virtual meets, collaboration online has led to a massive improvement across the board. What we now need is for this to filter to all pupils, no matter what their socio economic status is, so all can access this technology.

3.  Teaching: It has had to change and adapt and this can aid all learners and teachers. Especially some of the accessibility features are now understood by many learners and teachers alike. The simple ability to put writing white on black, using Google Classroom to specify work for certain learning, speaking words just to name a few examples which have opened education up to many pupils with SEND needs.

4.  Training: The internet is now full of free and easy to access training. Twitter, Facebook and even TikToc have instructional videos on how to utilise the technology freely available. Just search items like #AppleEDUChat, #GoogleClassroom or #Microsoftlearn to gain a world of knowledge across different platforms.

5.  Trace: We know that our trace and footprint on the Earth is staggering. Technology allows us to take this into account. If our pupils can access worksheets via technology rather than printed paper we are making headway into thinking about the stability of our future for those we teach. This was notably a large part of Apple’s newest releases and focus for the future, thus even the technology we use aims to be carbon neutral.

Some of the best products that are free to help the ‘new normal’:

1.  Virtual clients: Google Classroom, Teams, Zoom etc are amazing. They allow for face to face with pupils, staff and parents alike and can allow the human connection when it is not available. Just make sure your lines of communication are secure and set ground rules if working with pupils. Many now offer add-ons too so have a look at these too to enhance the experience between funky backgrounds or costumes. Imagine a new normal where your school play can still happen and the sets are already made and costumes cost nothing!

2.  Virtual trips: AirPano, Google Earth and Google Expeditions allow you to not lose some of the things we will find hard to replicate in the new normal but also for when we are back to normal. We will still want trips but sometimes we are confined by time or cost.  These apps will allow you to travel the world from the comfort of your classroom.

3.  Accessibility:  The accessibility features on many products can aid SEND pupils using technology during and after the pandemic. If you’d like to know more about accessibility on Apple products try looking on Twitter for #AccessingAccessibility to get you started.

4.  Collaboration: Collaborate anywhere; the classroom, your school or even the world! Using built in features on most documents you can now add people and collaborate as you work on Word, Google docs and any Apple iWorks products. You can even go a step further and make some useful items across the world to share training and CPD. Maybe use a video or podcast to share with your colleagues or the world. Then use social media to spread and collaborate too.

5.  Augmented Reality: Using apps like AR Markr there are numerous examples of how AR can be used across all subjects, such as science (e.g. a beating heart) and geography (e.g. landscapes that come alive on the floor of the classroom). This is future education available today, the new normal here looks pretty exciting.

We are not at the end of this technological advancement, a pandemic has launched us into light speed and we’re still moving. So take time, take stock and embrace the success you have made of the new normal, we’re all making history right now.

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