As in so many other areas, the pandemic added new urgency to the take-up of digital solutions in Scottish education. It has changed everything for teachers and pupils alike

How schools switched BY COLIN CARDWELL

Among the many daunting challenges presented by the extended period of Covid-19 lockdown that began in March 2020 was the closure of Scotland’s schools. It wasn’t a problem con- fined to Scotland or the UK: the pandemic has disrupted learning for more than 1.6 billion children and young people worldwide, ac- cording to the Open Data Institute. Evidence from studies such as

one conducted by the University of Strathclyde has concentrated on the impact on mental health and wellbeing of young people, citing increased levels of distress and anxiety, with likely reasons includ- ing feelings of loneliness and wor- ries about school and the future. Schools, then, have been

confronted with a dual dilemma: that of engagement, with the curriculum being disrupted for many children and young people, plus their wider worries. And as in so many areas with Covid-19, the roll-out of digital education acquired a new urgency. Of course, many teachers and

their students had already started out on that route. Te Scottish Schools Digital Network, Glow, was launched in 2007. It was founded by the Scottish Govern- ment and managed by Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) to provide online resources and connected learning for school- children and teachers. A Glow Connect account provides access to a suite of applications config- ured for individual schools which can include Microsoft Office 365, Glow Blogs and Google G Suite for Education. Meanwhile, Education Scot-

land, e-Sgoil (founded in 2016 by Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar),

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“While there was a sudden demand for iPads, these couldn’t simply be bought off the shelf and distributed.” Claire Harvey, quality improvement officer at Glasgow City Council

the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), the Scottish Government and Regional Improvement Collabora- tives (RICs) have all stepped up to increase the support available na- tionally for e-learning. Broad gen- eral education programmes for P2 up to S3 have been developed by e-Sgoil as schools planned to raise their level of support for remote learning, with senior phase pupils able to access its study support webinar lessons. It is too soon to make an assess-

ment of the wider success – or otherwise – of these efforts but what have been the practicalities of ensuring student engagement during the pandemic? Glasgow’s Digital Learning

Strategy Group had been estab- lished in 2016 and chose Apple’s iPad for its Connected Learning Programme because at that time it was the best on the market plus it was light and suitable for pupils to carry between home and school. Head teachers were asked to

nominate a teacher to become a Digital Leader of Learning (DLOL), identifying those with a sound understanding of effective learn- ing and teaching in the classroom and an interest in technology. Te city’s Education Ser-

vices launched the Glasgow City Council Digital Learning Strategy in January 2018 and stressed to DLOLs that they would play a key role in the success of the programme by using the iPad to enhance learning and teaching in their classrooms. In 2019 Virtual Apple Regional Training Centres (RTCs) were established in each area of the city. Te training materials used are

specified and developed by Apple to build capacity in using the fea-

tures built into the iPad. Te RTCs also represent a professional devel- opment opportunity for the now 400 DLOLs involved, taking them from Apple Teacher status through the Apple Digital Leadership Acad- emy, to a postgraduate certificate in Digital Leadership from University of Nottingham or developing their skills to become an Apple Profes- sional Learning Specialist.

Lockdown presented new and unexpected challenges. “Ev- erything was happening very quickly and we found that while some teachers had iPads, oth- ers didn’t, and the same went for pupils,” said Claire Harvey, quality improvement officer at the council. “And with lockdown Glasgow City Council decided it would remotely deploy the tech- nology to teachers so that when they returned to school in August they would all have an iPad.” It wasn’t as simple as that,

however. “While there was a sudden demand for iPads, these couldn’t simply be bought off the shelf and distributed. We had to think of the young peoples’ secu- rity, with firewalls that ensured they were operating within a safe environment.” Te roll-out during lockdown,

she explained, began with sec- ondary teachers and continued to primary teachers during the school holidays. Some schools be- came hubs where teachers picked up their iPads, set them up and worked with them at home. “We then changed the deploy-

ment method so that senior students, those in S4-S6 got them first and all had iPads by the last week in August or first week in September and they subsequently

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