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Give more time to teaching

The pressures of teaching and the accompanying workload have been well known in the profession for a number of years. In this post I have taken the opportunity to explore some of the options that technology already provides for teachers in this regard.

It is encouraging to to see the education secretary talking about the level of teacher workload and the impact that this is having both upon those in the profession and those that they teach. Critically, there is recognition of the amount of time that teachers are having to spend on non-teaching activities and the role that technology can play in helping teachers to work smarter rather than just harder.

Let’s be honest, teachers join the profession because they want to work with children, not because they want to get bogged down in paperwork and admin. The good news is that there are already tools available that can streamline many of these admin processes that have little impact on the classroom, but are necessary for schools to function successfully.

Let’s take a look at one of these day-to-day tasks and see how technology can help - the school trip. These can have a very positive impact on a student’s education and their school experience, but organising a trip can be a significant logistical headache. Details of the trip need to be shared with parents, permission slips have to be issued and collected before children can attend, risk assessments need to be completed, cover lessons have to be organised, student details need to be collated and shared with other teachers coming on the trip… and the list goes on. Fortunately, a great deal of this can be made easier to manage and less time-consuming through the use of technology.

Schools with Firefly are already using the Firefly for Parents app to share information about upcoming trips and activities with parents, before providing them with permission forms that they can access on their mobile phone. Once these forms are completed, they can be automatically emailed to the relevant teachers at school and even reused for subsequent excursions. Trip organisers can easily track which families have returned their forms and send reminders when necessary, minimising the amount of chasing up required. Any school trip will have an associated risk assessment be filled in, so Firefly forms can provide templates to be completed online, making this task much simpler for teachers and office staff to manage.

On longer trips, it may be important to keep parents informed about how their children are getting on. Trip blogs in Firefly are used by many schools to give parents an insight into the kinds of things their children have been doing. Students can even get involved by adding pictures, videos or a diary of activities to the trip blog (under teacher supervision, of course!). Providing parents with this level of insight was once almost impossible, but with Firefly it's as easy as drag and drop, taking very little time to manage.

Of course whenever a teacher is out of school, they need to make provision for their remaining classes. Cover lessons can be requested through Firefly, which also allows teachers to upload teaching materials for the lesson. Alternatively they can use Firefly to  create an assignment containing activities for the class, which will appear for the students on the day of the lesson and can be shared with the cover teacher. These assignments might include worksheets and videos, or self-marking quizzes helping to ensure that the lesson itself is purposeful and minimising the amount of follow up and marking waiting for the teacher on their return.

One way to reduce the amount of cover lessons required in a school is to look at how CPD is delivered. There are courses that certainly benefit from the teacher being away from school for a day, but equally if we can deliver training that minimises the disruption to the timetable this can only benefit everyone in the school. Firefly offers a package of courses, including workshops and seminars delivered online in manageable, bite sized sessions. These allow teachers to develop their teaching and learn from the best practice of their peers, without having to take whole days out of school along with all of the disruption that entails.

Here at Firefly we agree with Mr Hinds when he says “It's only by forging a strong partnership between government, technology innovators and the education sector that there will be sustainable, focused solutions which will ultimately support and inspire the learners of today and tomorrow" and we work closely with schools to identify ways that we can help to improve the experience of everyone involved in the educational process.

Anything we can do to give teachers more time in the classroom will only increase their professional satisfaction and improve the educational outcome of their students. Technology comes into its own when it reduces stress and allows teachers to focus on what is really important - helping their students learn.

“It's only by forging a strong partnership between government, technology innovators and the education sector that there will be sustainable, focused solutions which will ultimately support and inspire the learners of today and tomorrow"
Damian Hinds Education Secretary

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