Authors Head of Study English and Maths Department Daniel Short, Programme Leads English Sandra Owen-Edmunds and Maths Sam Townson and Fehmida Kousar and Lead Learning Technologist Alison Magee.
Digital tools and strategies have been implemented to improve learner engagement and consequently improve learner outcomes for English and Maths. A variety of approaches have been explored, primarily Teams, as this fits with our TCG Digital Strategy, and solutions to the challenges brought about by the Covid pandemic. This case study outlines the digital tools, websites and resources used in these subject areas, how tutors implement these to support learning and teaching inside and outside lessons, how tutors track and measure progress and the impact on the learner experience.
Implementation across GCSE English
Microsoft Teams is the technology that has been embraced and used with learners this academic year and throughout lockdown. Back on site after lock-down it was difficult to do paired or group work due to covid restrictions and Teams has enabled these activities to take place – similarly activities to those implemented in a face-to-face learning environment. Teams allows the easy creation of reading and writing activities that are very accessible to learners online. Learners who had no access or limited access to appropriate devices, such as laptops, were still fully able to participate as they could complete hand-written work, photograph this on their phones and submit these to the online Teams Platform via Assignments, channels posts or chat.
Teams – 1:2:1 facility – Chat and Private Channels has enabled to discuss and meet privately with individuals to deliver effective support where lessons are 1 hour. For 2hrs lessons with full-time learners, breakout rooms worked online. For an hour group this doesn’t work due to time limitations and the expertise of the learners.
Tutors have used Forms effectively, for starter activities such as definition quizzes to test previous knowledge. The Teams Online Whiteboard has worked really well for collaborative learning activities in online lessons such as looking at text and picking out certain language features. Learners enjoy actively participating such as highlighting text and afterwards they find real value in that the work is saved into the meeting chat to revisit and access anytime.
During lockdown Seneca Learning resources https://senecalearning.com/en-GB/seneca-certified-resources were used as it opened up its platform to support learners during this time. Staff signposted learners to specific AQA resources that were made accessible on this platform to support different aspects of English. There was a large uptake by learners but unfortunately these resources are no longer available on the free version of Seneca.
Padlet is brilliant and is effectively used with learners as it is very accessible and engaging and works well with MS Teams. The Group now has an unlimited backpack account for tutors. Example Tutor GCSE English Padlet Resource https://tcg.padlet.org/sandraedmunds/lbibtyp4n6zz
You Tube Revision channels such as Mr Salles Teaches English videos are very dynamic and successfully work to engage our learners. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEB4IwW-eVk9SxHBIGhrY3w
Implementation across GCSE Maths
Staff have adapted different approaches and learning experiences with 1 hr and 2 hr weekly sessions for learners to meet their needs and their varied competence with technology.
Microsoft Teams has been fully adopted as the communication platform, this has made life easier for both learners and tutors.
Microsoft Forms and Teams Assignments has been used with varying degrees of success due to the learning curve and limited time available with learners. Forms have been used successfully not only as MAP3 but also to design diagnostic and topic assessment quizzes. Microsoft Forms worked well to set work and this is something that will be taken forward and developed further next year. Multiple choice questions enabled self-marking assessments and learners benefited from receiving feedback straight away.
Class Notebook has been used with some adults and full-time learners who have 2hrs learning timetabled and this worked for some but not all. Class Notebook would not work with learners only timetabled for a 1 hour classes as these learners found accessibility to Class Notebook harder to negotiate and manage.
Some tutors have used class notebook to set assignments. Exam questions have been added to notebook pages and then set as a Teams assignment. The learners have completed the questions in their notebooks, took pictures and have uploaded them. Tutors could easily review the work in the learner notebooks and provide feedback. The impact of this activity varied for different groups as this was introduced halfway through the year. A few groups responded very well while others found this a bit overwhelming.
We have realised that more training is needed to support learners to photograph and submit their work online through the Teams Assignment Portal as many learners were sending their work via the chat and this proved difficult for tutors to manage. Access to wifi in college via learners own mobile phones has contributed to problems for work submission and this is something we need to address going forward.
The class notebook has also been used to set work for an independent learning hour. Links were shared on notebook pages to ‘The OAK Academy’ and distributed as Teams assignments. The OAK national academy has very useful icons which made the whole exercise quick and accessible.
The Graphics tablet has been extremely useful in presenting information in face-to-face lessons with social distancing in place. Explaining processes with hand-written examples using the different coloured pens works brilliantly well to engage learners and consequently the outcomes are so much better.
Hegerty Maths has been used, however, learners have been overwhelmed by the resource and communication takes place on the Hegerty platform which has proved difficult to manage alongside communication in Microsoft Teams. As the whole syllabus isn’t taught and learners just need practice of specific aspects of maths the department is looking at the 5R’s revision lesson package https://www.5rs.co.uk/ as an alternative approach as this focuses on the most common areas of maths for resit learners. This was trialled with a learner group and worked well but ultimately the cost implications will need to be considered.
Padlet has worked well in supporting weaker learners. This resource is easy for them to engage with and learners like it. We have made Padlet reference resources with worksheets, activities and videos and these embed extremely well, very easily accessible from inside Microsoft Teams. An example Maths resource follows, created by one of our tutors.
Tutors find Oak Academy videos work well to provide short manageable chunks of learning to students. Learners ‘stop’ and complete the work activities and photograph what they have done. Activities were signposted through Teams Assignments and learners would upload their work through the portal and they did respond positively to this. Notifications would come up on Teams so it was easy to manage and track learner completion and progress in one place.
Flash Revision (Corbettmaths)cards have been used well and in addition to the hard copy of cards copies were posted A3 size around the classroom. Learners could scan the QR code for both exam questions and model solutions. It helped to promote not only independent learning but also allowed learners to work towards individual targets.
Microsoft Whiteboard Desktop App has enabled the Microsoft whiteboard to be used not only for the online classes but also as a blended approach within the classroom. Tutors found this very helpful being able to upload PDF’s, PPT’s and Word documents and write on them during the lesson. Each class had its own whiteboard and this could be exported to each team/channel as a full lesson, accessible for learners to revisit after the lesson.
The whiteboard also has an option to use a collaborative exercise where the whole class can contribute when access is granted.
Staff members who have explored the Whiteboard desktop app have found it useful where the whiteboard in the classroom is compatible with the software (it is not possible to use in all maths classrooms).
The implementation of Microsoft Teams as a platform to enhance and improve the learner experience has positively impacted the learner experience across the English and Maths department. Access and ease of communication has most definitely improved. The department has used and explored a variety of Digital tools and TLA Strategies with varying levels of success. Careful thought and consideration will now be given to which to take forward and develop for use next academic year, to deliver a consistent approach and to ensure to effectively meet the needs of all our learners.