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Universities: learning outside the lecture hall

Blog Editor, IOE Digital22 September 2021

Allison Littlejohn.

Lockdown led to the largest transformation of teaching in the history of UK higher education. In March 2020, the entire university workforce had to transition to working online. This was remarkable transformation for institutions that, founded on tradition and convention, tend to be slow to change.  As the 2021-22 academic year begins, record numbers of UK students are about to enter our universities once again.

National reports suggest that both students and staff found the lack of face-to-face learning and social interactions over the past year or so difficult. Enforced isolation during lockdown had an impact on student mental health, while students’ representatives have run campaigns questioning the value of online education under lockdown conditions and called for a refund on student fees. They have been arguing for a return to face-to-face lectures and on-campus social activities.

As for staff, our study of the experiences of university staff as they moved to online teaching during lockdown found that academics, especially those with little prior experience of digital education, had to invest considerable extra time redesigning courses, recording lectures and connecting with students to provide (more…)

How better education for health professionals can help curb antimicrobial resistance in poorer countries and save lives

Blog Editor, IOE Digital16 June 2021

Three unfocused overlapping petri dishes containing bacteria seen through a microscopeAllison Littlejohn.

While the world’s attention is focused on Covid-19, many other serious international health concerns still need urgent attention. Few public health problems are of greater global importance today than Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

In 2019 the UN Ad hoc Interagency Coordinating Group on AMR warned that, if no action is taken, drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million additional deaths each year by 2050 and cause catastrophic damage to the global economy, forcing up to 24 million people into extreme poverty.

Over the past three years I have been the Academic Director of the ‘Tackling AntiMicrobial Resistance’, a project aimed at reducing AMR in low and middle income countries by improving healthcare practice in the use and monitoring of antibiotics. Funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (more…)

Touched by music: a Christmas playlist with a tactile spin

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 December 2020

The In-Touch team, UCL Knowledge Lab

Music is a part of our everyday lives: many song lyrics both ‘touch’ us and tell stories of our tactile relationships with one another.

The interdisciplinary InTouch Project at UCL explores the social implications of digital technology for touch communication. As a fun side-project the team has compiled a Touch Playlist – and it seems every music genre loves a bit of touch!

This winter season, lit up by Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas and Hogmanay, heralds its own set of songs packed with tactile metaphors, invitations to touch, and felt memories. Here, we share a few thoughts on ‘touchy’ Christmas lyrics. Indeed, in the words of Queen (not The Queen), ‘it’s been a long hard year’ for many of us, in shared and different ways. How might the usual medley of (more…)

Maths anxiety: how can we overcome the ‘can’t do’ attitude?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital1 December 2020

Celia Hoyles. 

The Covid-19 pandemic is raising public anxiety not just about the virus but about the maths being used to explain how it spreads and how it can be controlled. What is the so-called R value? What do we mean by “flattening the curve”?

And if people were not confused enough, what are we to make of a slide like this, shown by the Prime Minister last Spring, which presents us with an equation that makes no mathematical sense? How did you react to it I wonder? I remember thinking I must have heard it wrongly, provoking me to consider the ‘equation’ more carefully. For many it might have been just one more instance of confirming ‘I cannot understand mathematics’.

If the pandemic brings no other benefits, it will surely answer the question: “Why is maths relevant to my life?” But this won’t necessarily help people to process the meaning behind large numbers and complicated graphs presented (more…)

A few words in the OFSTED framework could help boost the digital skills children need for learning outside of school

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 November 2020

Sara Hawley.

While the pandemic continues and individual pupils, groups or classes stay home self-isolating, the DFE has made remote learning part of schools’ legal duty for now. OFSTED has suspended routine inspections but is carrying out interim visits (without grading schools) to understand the lay of the land.  Yesterday, Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman published a report detailing the skills many children had lost during months of absence from school and acknowledging that home learning remains ‘patchy’.

For those of us working in and around schools in England over the last decade, it comes as no surprise to read of the huge variation in online learning provision across the state sector now and during the spring lockdown. Funding and policy choices made over recent years have in many ways taken things backwards. The abolition of BECTA (British Educational Communications Technology Agency) in 2010 meant the end of a coherent national strategy for online learning resources and infrastructure.

Since then, schools have been left to their own devices, navigating a baffling range of commercial options, often relying on any expertise held by enthusiasts among their staff. Compounding the difficulty has been (more…)

Education and Covid-19: five needs that must be met to provide vital learning lifelines for children and teachers

Blog Editor, IOE Digital14 October 2020

Vagner-Xaruto / Pixabay

Rose Luckin.

The latest reports from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) have some interesting lessons for the UK as we all try to ensure that pandemic compliant teaching and learning are effective wherever they happen: at home, at school on the bus or in the park.

Yes, the data is from 2018, but the dramatic changes we are going through are unlikely to invalidate the learning we can and must glean. Critical links in our education ecosystem are missing and that breaks what could be a learning lifeline for students, but it’s not just the technology that learners lack, it’s the human touch too.

We already know that the pandemic has highlighted discrepancies in access to technology. However, the PISA data shine a light on ways in which we are not meeting some of the basic student needs that must be met for effective remote learning.

There is general agreement that learners need four key things in order to stand a chance of learning remotely if and when they are unable to attend school, and the PISA data provides some support for a fifth (more…)