When schools closed in March, many teachers were plunged into the deep end of emergency remote teaching.
A recent report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that, prior to the crisis, only half of teachers reported using online technology for classwork on a frequent basis, and up to a quarter of schools faced shortages or inadequacy of digital resources or issues with internet access.
Yet, the same research found the vast majority of teachers were open to change and wanted to be able to support learning through the use of digital technology.
The good news is that teachers in Ireland are able to upskill through a range of information and courses that provide training in areas such as blended learning, remote teaching apps, the impact of trauma on learning and other skills that will be vital from next September.
We’ve compiled a collection of some of the best courses and webinars for teachers and principals seeking to prepare for the return to a very changed school environment.
Educational psychotherapist and author of Teaching the Unteachable Maire Delaney has been providing trauma-informed training to schools while their buildings are closed.
The training, currently being offered as two 90-minute Zoom sessions, aims to help teachers to recognise the impact of trauma on thinking and learning and provide them with educational tasks and activities which create emotional safety.
“Children will need regulation and safety and they will need calm adults too,” says Delaney. She explains the course will help teachers recognise the impact the pandemic has had on them first. “Self-regulation comes before co-regulation.”
A similar course provided by the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation as part of its summer programme, Understanding and Supporting Pupils with Adverse Childhood Experiences, is fully booked, indicating the demand among teachers for this training.
Many teachers will be familiar with ResearchEd conferences. They offer a platform for teachers and educational professionals to discuss evidence-based education.
They moved online during the lockdown and, like the on-site conferences, there is a wealth of research discussed. Unlike the on-site conferences, with overlapping talks, you can check it all out as they are recorded and available online.
If there is one must-watch webinar then it is Paul Kirschner’s talk, Ten Tips for Emergency Remote Teaching.
Kirschner’s detailed tips will guide teachers unfamiliar with remote teaching through lesson planning and help manage their expectations. Some of the advice includes keeping the lesson short and spaced, communicating goals expectations clearly to students and giving starter activities the day before to help activate students’ prior knowledge.
All of the tips come with a caveat – and it’s one which teachers have no control over: students have to remove what Kirschner call the “weapons of mass distraction” (social media) before learning can commence.
Another talk that will be of great interest to teachers is given by educational scientist Pedro de Bruyckere. His webinar What about Education Post-Corona? examines education during the pandemic, the impact it has had on children’s learning and what needs to be done next.
He uses a familiar analogy to highlight the impact of the crisis, stating that the crisis has been flattening the educational curve. While in health has been a positive, in education it is a negative and where a child lies on this curve is not dictated by his or her ability but by external factors, such as toxic stress and inequality.
De Bruyckere also discusses the complex relationship that exists between wellbeing and learning, teacher burnout and what to expect when the school buildings reopen, along the importance of not skipping the summer holiday – for the children, parents and teachers.
Wriggle, a company that specialises in digital learning for education, had been offering support services to schools in the form of on-site demonstrations. They responded to the school closures by switching this support to webinar format and placed the focus on remote teaching and learning.
The webinars were recorded and teachers can access them by registering for the webinar on the Wriggle website. They cover a number of platforms available to teachers from Office 365, Microsoft Teams and how to structure remote teaching.
For teachers unfamiliar with remote teaching apps, such as SeeSaw, they can access a webinar which demonstrates how to set up the app remotely with a class. It also deals with the logistics of activity creation, as well as how to differentiate on the app.
The webinar goes through the set-up in real time by using a screen-share function so teachers can see the steps as opposed to a list of instructions. It also demonstrates what the interface will look like for the student. For schools considering using the app in the coming year, it might be useful for teachers to view this webinar as it demonstrates how to maintain consistency of use with the app throughout the school.
E-portfolios and digital tools
For teachers who are looking for training that is more in depth than a webinar, CPD College is running a 20-hour summer course that aims to prepare teachers for remote teaching and learning. Cost: €89 cpdcollege.com
Learning for All
These webinars were facilitated by the Teaching Council for the Professional Development Service for Teachers. The Learning for All discussions were recorded so teachers and principals can access them at any time.
The “for all” section of the heading refers to both the education professionals and students as the webinars address the different levels of familiarity that teachers have with remote teaching while also considering the issue of device access and learning environment for students.
The final webinar, An International Perspective – What are Other Countries Doing? offers schools a chance to hear first-hand from schools in Australia that have reopened, with an interesting comment on the emotional experience of being in the busy school environment once again.
There is also a discussion around not falling into the “catch-up” trap when school buildings reopen. A common thread throughout the webinars is the role the student- teacher relationship plays in teaching and learning and the difficulties teachers have experienced fostering this on digital platforms.
Stem sa Bhaile
This is a series of webinars delivered by the Professional Development Service for Teachers website. The webinars offer structured activities for teachers to make use of the home environment to deliver Stem subjects. The Stem in the Garden webinar has a contribution from former primary school teacher and Ireland's very own David Attenborough, Paddy Madden. He details the academic, physical and social and emotional benefits of gardening activities.
The webinar provides structured learning activities involving bird or tree classification, tree journals and construction activities. All resources are also available to download from the PDST website.
Hand hygiene and PPE
Teachers can access advice on hand hygiene or PPE on either the HSE or WHO website. While guidance for infection control in childcare settings during Covid-19 outbreak was published in May, guidance for schools is still being developed. Some Education and Training Boards across the country are also providing free courses in this area.
Education centres throughout the country continue to run online webinars that address a variety of areas. Supporting special educational needs students in the distance-learning setting, virtual sports days, blended learning and GDPR and health and safety are some of the topics covered by the centres.