Lady Barn House are a private school near Stockport who needed to find an innovative way to deliver teaching and learning during lockdown. We were already supporting their school with an iPad deployment, so we were in a perfect position to help them overcome the challenges of teaching remotely. We sat down with year 5 teacher Alice le Feuvre to discuss how they tackled the problem…
What was the issue your school faced?
“We went into lockdown quite suddenly and it was all very rushed. This meant over the Easter holidays, we had to think about how we would reach the children with an online platform – which we did fairly successfully. But what we missed was that face to face contact. I was the first one to teach remotely which was fine, but you just feel a bit like you’re herding: sometimes you were Zooming from home, or sometimes you’d have students’ pets in the call – it didn’t feel focused.
What Jigsaw24 did was come in and initially question us about what we wanted, and that helped us realise what we were looking for – which was replicating the classroom as closely as possible for the learners at home.
From our conversation with Alan (Regional Education Manager at Jigsaw24), we realised we needed students to see us and ask questions, but also, they needed to see our Smartboards, as they are key to our teaching. The turning point was being able to Zoom students so they could see the classroom and feel like they were there. They could write on the board from home, message us in a chat box or put a hand up and we could talk to them on another iPad personally.”
What technology did you use?
“We used iPads, Smartboards, cameras above the board, a microphone and speaker, and we also had a headset available. We started out just with year five, then years three and four have done it, too.
The children from years three to six were all given iPad before lockdown, so we needed a solution that could work alongside iPad.”
How have you prepared staff for the new technology?
“Well, it was kind of a ‘jump in and go for it’ situation. Jigsaw24 told us what we needed, but we had to use our intuition because of lockdown. The good thing about working with Alan and Jigsaw24 was that they helped us try new ideas and would help us build on them over time.
If the technology hadn’t been bulletproof, we wouldn’t have kept going at the rate we were going. We were constantly trying new things, and when things go wrong it’s easy for people to bury their heads in the sand. Using this technology was almost like being observed – parents could see everything, and governors would drop in, too. I can imagine that if there had been a big embarrassing fail, we could have stopped and not tried it again – but that never happened.
Normally there’s an approach of ‘if it isn’t broke’, but this situation really gave us an opportunity to try something different.”
Have you changed your teaching style?
“No, what’s been really nice is that I’ve been able to carry on teaching as normal given the unprecedented circumstances. My friends in state school are doing nothing like this. Because our parents are paying, we felt we had to justify what they were paying for outside of school.”
What benefits has it had so far and what do you see it doing in the future?
“There’s no loss of momentum. Things seem to have ground to a halt in some schools, but that’s not the case for our children. Parents have been so positive and grateful, the general feedback I’ve had from year five parents is that the students are thrilled to see us and interact. It’s been difficult with them not being able to see their friends but seeing them every day feels like it’s normal teaching. Even though that contact isn’t physical, it feels like a proper classroom.
I think it’s definitely going to shape the way we teach in the future. It’s hard to say how because things change so quickly, but certainly the way we use exercise books and deliver lessons can be improved on – simply because we have more options. When children are ill, we can get work to them. But we can also do this with children in the same school, which is quite significant with subject specialists and cross-year group activities, and the delivery of assemblies. Anything you can think of in the school day has more scope now.
The biggest surprise is how simple it has been, the more open-minded you are, the more you can do anything. It’s been a case of if you can think of it, you can do it.”
How Jigsaw24 supported the project
Before lockdown, Lady Barn House had been working with our education team to roll out iPad using our Leading Innovation Programme. But when they were faced with students returning to school, they had half of their students at school, half of them at home, and no way to organise and connect to everyone at the same time efficiently.
Our Regional Education Manager Alan Doyle used the government guidelines to come up with a solution based around what Lady Barn House would need to teach: cameras, microphones and speakers in rooms connected over a network to each different classroom. This meant students could connect with subject specialists from each room while still remaining in their bubbles.
To enable their vision for a truly connected classroom, Alan worked with our AV team to make it all work. They demonstrated three solutions which included different types of hardware for all the rooms so the school could choose the solution that worked best for them.
After seeing the solution in place, the school then rolled out the new AV devices into every classroom. This all integrated with their iPads, so students could connect to the Smartboard from home, talk and communicate through Microsoft Teams and get personalised help from a teacher using iPad.
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