As a former Primary teacher, senior leader, LA advisor for ICT it’s been quite some time since I’ve really done any proper teaching! I’ve spent the last 10 years + promoting online learning, supporting schools with implementing technology approaches and platforms. Suddenly on the 20th March, like most parents, I was presented with a new challenge of homeschooling. I put my technology skills and knowledge of the market into play and as a school governor encouraged and supported my school to think about how technology could and should play a role in this new scenario. I led them gently along a route of using technology to enable keeping in touch and support the social and emotional aspects of not being in school. We also looked at ways for teachers to review and comment on pupils home learning and provide that teacher support from afar.
We were a few weeks into our homeschooling routine when a technology news item sparked a thought – now would be a good time for children to explore coding, learn a new computing skill. I decided that maybe I should use my background and skills and actually do something to support my fellow parents. I launched an online coding Mash Club for Year 2! I surveyed parents and got a big enthusiastic response, so created 2 groups and committed to teaching two 1-hour sessions each week.
The challenges – the children obviously have varying abilities and IT skills, although let’s be honest they’re all now experts in Teams and Zoom! In a ‘normal’ computing lesson you have the ability to see what’s going on, you can see their screens. Teaching 10 six-year-olds via Teams, I can’t see their screens. It requires a lot more listening and concentration than they thought it might! Although some are very adept at using a separate device for the Teams meeting and turning that to show me their screen.
But I’ve made use of the ability in Purple Mash for the teacher to see students work – so we’ve done a lot of ‘save your work and I’ll open it on my computer’ to enable me to see where they are up to and make suggestions. I’ve also been able to share my screen, with their work open, so I can use their work as an example to encourage others or to help guide them to correct problems. It’s also been a great way for children and parents to work together and learn something new. Some of the children are definitely more confident than parents. One comment was “I think Daddy found it harder than Mimi”
Initially, I overestimated how much we might get done in an hour and very quickly realised that each Mash Club session is probably 2 or 3 online sessions – progress initially was slow as we all got to grips with the technology, concepts, coding language etc. But we’ve got quicker and adapted along the way.
As children began to return to school part time in June, I surveyed parents whether it might be a good time to stop as children go back, unanimously they all said no! “It’s the highlight of Samuel’s week”, “Charlie lists Mash Club as his top 3 favourite things in lockdown”. We’ve had fun, it’s provided a bit of a focal point to the week, it’s enabled parents and children to spend an hour learning together.
I accept I’ve got lots of technical skills and I enjoy the challenge of grappling with the technology. But hopefully, I’ve demonstrated that online teaching and learning for younger learners is possible, even with challenging topics such as coding.
If you want to find out more about Mash Club or 2Simple Purple Mash, take a look here.
If you want help with planning online teaching activities or planning for further pupil absences then get in touch and I can help.