Welcome to the first of a weekly series of newsletters from the Till Project. This is a strange place to start. Schools in the UK are shut, though they remain open to the children from disadvantaged homes and children of key workers. The UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced on Sunday that he was expecting schools to re-open for children in the Reception Year, Year 1 and Year 6 on 1 June 2020. This is intended to aid their transition to the next stage of their education.
During the lock down, teachers have become even more adept at using technology to support their work. Many have provided lessons and resources for parents to use for ‘home-schooling’ through the school’s website. Some have used Learning Management platforms (sometimes called VLEs – virtual learning environments) or Google Classroom to teach children directly. Others have used online conferencing tools such as Zoom or MS Teams to hold meetings, plan learning, meet with parents and communicate with their classes, and others have conducted online assemblies (collective acts of worship) and whole class physical education lessons. The lock down has, for example, made a star of Joe Wicks, ‘the Nation’s PE Teacher’. Notably, the government has invested in the Oak National Academy https://www.thenational.academy/ which owes much to the Teach First programme https://www.teachfirst.org.uk/. Thousands of children have engaged in a variety of online learning activities which have kept them engaged with school, and reduced the chances of falling behind.
The reason for citing these examples is simple. Online learning is a good idea whose time has come. And so, too, online teachers’ professional development. Many teachers have made good use of their time in lock down to access a wide range of professional learning opportunities. The TiLL project fits neatly into this ‘new normal’ landscape. The project team should have delivered a stakeholder conference in Brussels in May. The event had to be postponed due to the Corona Virus, but it did not stop us meeting using Skype. We are planning the next phases of the project, as well as, re-planning the launch event in October. We hope you will all join us for that face-to-face event in Brussels. In the meantime, we hope you will take the time to complete the self-assessment tool and use some of the tools to develop your understanding of where your strengths lie and where you can continue to grow to inspire lifelong learning in your pupils or students. And the great advantage of TiLL is that you can do it all from your own device, whether you are working from home, in school, or travelling between the two.