Covid exposes holes in schools' online learning policies

21 Jun 2020

Fewer than two in three schools reported that their students had devices fit for digital learning.

By Katherine Donnelly, The Irish Independent

 

More than one in three schools don't have a policy around digital teaching and learning, according to research that exposes gaps in the education system that caused major challenges during the lockdown.

While the introduction of information and communications technology (ICT) into schools has been official policy for more than 20 years, the study highlights deficiencies in practices that exist.

 

Half of schools only integrated digital platforms after the Covid-19 pandemic forced teaching and learning to switch from the classroom to the home.

Fewer than two in three schools reported that their students had devices fit for digital learning.

Two in three teachers said they had no experience of online teaching, while just over half said they were not comfortable with digital learning technology.

Meanwhile, two in three (62pc) of parents described their children's digital learning experience during lockdown as being difficult.

 

Principals, deputy principals and teachers in 371 schools were surveyed by the online learning company Wriggle, which also commissioned Amárach Research to elicit views of 2,118 parents of primary and post-primary pupils nationwide, between March and May.

Key findings from schools include:

 

  • 57pc said that students have devices fit for digital learning;
  • 54pc only started using digital learning platforms for creating and sharing resources and lessons since March;
  • 35pc don't have or never created a policy around digital learning or teaching;
  • 62pc had no previous experience of online teaching and 55pc of teaching staff said they were not comfortable with digital learning technology.

 

However, where schools had good digital learning integration, they saw increased staff engagement and collaboration.

 

Wriggle, which has a presence in 500 schools around the country and upskilled more than 9,000 educators in the past three months, said lessons must be learned from the Covid-19 experiences.

The company's teacher engagement manager, Seán Glynn, said the pandemic disrupted the traditional education model, but now an opportunity existed to improve it and to prepare for the future.

He said there was a need for a shift towards a system that integrated technology into the classroom with structures, training and supports in place for teachers, students and parents.

The latest research mirrors previous studies tracking the use of ICT in classrooms, which point to patchy broadband connectivity, a shortage of devices in classrooms, lack of technical support, teacher training and teaching practices as contributory factors.

A report last year by educational researcher Dr Eemer Eivers showed how the percentage of primary pupils saying they regularly used computers in schools halved between 2011 and 2016, from 46pc to 23pc. 

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