Blended learning: top tips from the Computing at School community

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In this guest blog post, Computing at School’s Wendy Piccinini shares top tips for blended learning, taps into a wealth of support and resources and highlights a great upcoming CAS Inspire event

The pandemic has brought widespread change to the learning landscape with teachers and educators pioneering new ways of working. In particular, blended learning has come to the fore. Blended learning is “an approach to learning that combines face to face and online learning experiences.  Ideally each (online and off) will complement the other by using its individual strengths” (Teachthought, April 2020).  This has had a major impact on the education sector and the way in which schools deliver lessons with its mix of face-to-face and remote methods.

Blended learning has had a positive impact for teachers and students and has brought multiple benefits.  Teachers have been able to host their learning resources online, which has saved time and money as this has removed the need to print worksheets or buy textbooks.  The best online lessons have been interactive and engaged students, keeping them focused for longer periods of time.  Students have been able to take greater ownership over their own learning and work at a pace they are comfortable with.

There have also been many challenges brought about by this way of working.  For example,

  • Should teachers deliver live or pre-recorded lessons?
  • Which platform should be used for digital remote education?
  • Should cameras be switched on or off?
  • What are the best ways to support the wellbeing of teachers and pupils?

With every school being unique in its set up and established ways of working, there has been, as one would anticipate, a wide range of responses to these issues.

In acknowledgement of this, many organisations have stood side by side with teachers and offered dedicated blended learning support and advice.  Two such organisations are BlendEd and Computing at School.

BlendEd: ‘a fantastic platform’

BlendEd is a fantastic platform where teachers can find a wealth of support for blended learning.  There are online courses and resources, all of which are based on the latest pedagogy and are free!  Once on the platform, a teacher can search for resources in a variety of ways: audience (primary/secondary), type (link/PDF or video), theme (eg online safety/wellbeing) or country. The website also features a Learn section, where teachers can book to attend live, online events, or can work through online courses at their own pace by watching recorded webinars or completing self-paced courses. The programme has been designed by teachers for teachers and with this in mind, all that is available has been created in handy bite-size chunks.  BlendEd supports all involved in education to make the greatest use of digital technologies wherever learning is taking place.

Computing at School

Over the past year, Computing at School (CAS), a grassroots organisation which supports teachers and promotes excellence in computing, has worked with teachers across the country to bring together up-to-date guidance, useful links and resources to help with remote education across all subjects.

Remote education expert, Holly Billinghurst, led a series of webinars centred around practical tips and techniques for getting the most from your virtual classroom There was also a series of webinars for primary teachers which covered a range of primary computing curriculum activities.  For example, approaches to inclusive computing, online safety and digital parenting, computing in the early years and teaching primary computing without computers.

Other resources include podcasts, asynchronous and synchronous guides with hints and tips to facilitate learning.  All of these resources are free and can be found in the CAS Inspire section of the Computing at School website.

CAS has also facilitated blended learning through its CAS communities.  These are computing subject leader meetings run by teachers for teachers which meet once a term and provide opportunities  to access free training and support.  Attendees have valued the chance to learn how to use different platforms, ask important questions and find resolutions to issues they are facing.  It has also been invaluable for teachers to come together and share their own experiences of remote education.  Online meetings have enabled teachers to benefit from the knowledge and experience of other professionals across the country as well as in their local communities.

Top tips for blended learning

Here are some top tips for blended learning from members of the CAS community:

  • Have something ready for the children to look at while they are waiting for the lesson to start, eg website, tech news item.
  • Keep lessons as similar as possible to classroom lessons.
    “I do exactly the same as I would in the classroom,” said Hollie. “I’ve made props, my own ‘mute’ symbol which I can hold up to give a visual cue for my five and six-year-olds. I do lots of actions, holding up my finger when counting and use a whiteboard. All of our children have a whiteboard at home too.”
  • Make use of third-party websites and resources.
    “We’ve been looking at cybersecurity or ‘drawing’ circuits that animate when they have a closed connection,” said Julia. “I’ve also been using NCCE KS3 resources* with the school children and they have great activities all through the lesson.” (*The National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) has a free comprehensive scheme of work which can be accessed here).
  • Have high expectations of what the children can do.
    “Our Y5 and Y6 have shown they have the capability to do more. They have upskilled massively in their computing and digital skills,” said Hollie.
  • Keep the children engaged by using interactive activities as much as possible. “At the end of a lesson, I do a quiz to check how much they’ve done and how they’ve engaged,” said Julia.
  • Remember that different approaches suit different schools.
    “Know your students and what works for them,” said Jayne.

Coming up: CAS Inspire event

With the DfE report on Remote Education Research (February 2021) stating that “it is likely that schools will incorporate aspects of remote education into their teaching after the pandemic,” where can teachers find help with this?

Looking ahead to September, BlendEd and CAS are collaborating at an upcoming CAS Inspire event where CLC’s BlendED learning platform will be featured.  In this session, attendees will have the chance to hear more about the principles of blended learning in an interactive session so please keep an eye out for this event

To find out more about all that is available from Computing at School and BlendED please visit their websites.

About Wendy

Wendy Piccinini is the Computing at School community outreach manager for schools across London and the East of England. Her role is to establish and nurture CAS Communities of Practice in these areas. She works for the BCS Chartered Institute for IT and in close partnership with some of the NCCE Computing hubs to promote excellence in computing. She is also an NCCE trained facilitator.  

Prior to joining CAS, Wendy was a primary teacher and computing lead in Caterham, Surrey. She trained as a CAS Master teacher and led a local CAS community. She was also a Computing Practitioner for Excellence and worked across a variety of schools in her local multi-academy trust. Through her association with Computing At School, she had the opportunity to host visitors from all over the world who came to observe computing lessons in her school. 

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