Management Information System (MIS) for schools
EdTech | Mental Health and Wellbeing
Category : Blog
Schools have been on an incredible journey in the last year, adapting to completely new ways of working with technology to deliver virtual lessons, cope with staff and students offsite, organise complex logistics and report on a whole new range of data. But changing ways of working in such a short space of time means
Schools have been on an incredible journey in the last year, adapting to completely new ways of working with technology to deliver virtual lessons, cope with staff and students offsite, organise complex logistics and report on a whole new range of data.
But changing ways of working in such a short space of time means staff haven’t had the change to properly reflect on this change – especially since schools have remained open throughout the pandemic!
To discuss how we can use technology in a more positive way, we were delighted to welcome Rachel Coldicutt to ArborFest on 12th November to give the Keynote presentation at our customer festival.
Rachel is the former CEO of Doteveryone and expert on the social impact of technology, having collaborated with many organisations in the charity and public sectors. She recently produced The Glimmers Report – a practical toolkit designed to support schools and community organisations to reflect on their use of technology and how to build resilience for the future.
Rachel shared some really meaningful tips that schools can use to make sure as we move forward in a reflective way under the new Covid-19 status quo.
First of all, I think it can be useful to look outside of the school context to think about where you fit in. Since March, society as a whole has had to pivot extremely quickly to cope with rapid change, living now more of less all of our whole lives on video or looking at a screen.
We’ve started to accept new ways of behaving as normal and hardly remember things we took for granted as normal before. I’ve seen, for example graduations – institutions which haven’t changed their format for decades, transformed into a virtual events.
People have responded to new restraints incredibly quickly, and this pivot is completely unprecedented. When we think about change and progress, we normally think of things happening in a linear way; with a horizon in sight. We’re used to moving forwards a bit, then backwards a bit, then forwards again. We’re used to having time to learn the new rules and adapting as we go. We’re used to getting clues and cues so we know when change is having success.
But during the pandemic, progress surged overnight. 2020 has been like having one foot in 2050 and one in 1630 – in some ways a lot of things have been taken away from us, but in other ways we’ve travelled miles into the future. What we need to remember is that we’ve moved into the future with the same skills and experience we had last year.
No time for reflection
Everyone has been gathering around the technology, rather than the cultural or human elements of change. It’s only months later that we’re realising how exhausted we are, having had no down time to talk about the changes, or even to properly process the traumatic things that have happened.
I drew the diagram above in June, but actually it’s probably better drawn like a fast heart rate, to reflect how we’ve been continually adapting to and integrating change at an incredibly fast rate.
Building foundations for the future
As we move forwards into a future that is uncertain, we should think about “recovery” not something that accidentally happens but something you have to nurture. At the moment, as we’re still responding and still don’t know how long the crisis will go on for, it’s important to think about how to look after ourselves, and to prioritise our culture, our team and our tools.
The first step to moving forward is to recognise some of the compromises or problems that have perhaps been overlooked, such as burnout, lack of infrastructure and platform dependency, instead of storing them up for later.
The designer Caroline Sinders has come up with the “digital duct tape” phenomenon which describes how, rather than having well worked-out infrastructure, we’re more likely to be using a collection of tools patched together that only sort of work.
We should also recognise the heavy negative focus that has surrounded new technologies – focusing on safety, privacy and a culture of worry – particularly in schools and the public sector when sensitive data is involved. This has meant that people tend to use platforms only in exactly the way they’re prescribed from fear of doing something wrong. But if systems are well made and safe, they should give you the freedom to adapt, improvise, and use them creatively.
Practical tips for moving forward
The Glimmers Report is a toolkit designed to help schools and other organisations understand where you are now in terms of your use of technology and the impact it’s having, and to end up in a position where you feel you have the tools and experience to be prepared for change in the future.
When compiling the report I began talking to charities and other groups in March and April, most of whom had not really worked in digital ways before the pandemic, but had suddenly moved to operating almost completely digitally. We then carried out interviews and observations, brought together theory and a range of practitioners to share the kind of things they’ve experienced.
The toolkit helps you and your staff reflect around three main themes:
This section encourages you to capture and understand what has changed, what you’ve learned, what you’ll keep and what you’ll discard, helping you to move ahead with more certainty.
These questions allow you to think about how people’s roles have changed, the skills people have gained, and how people have felt during the process. It also helps you reflect on the intimacy that might get forgotten when using technology. For example, without the usual in-person cues, how do we know when people are listening and engaging? How can we create space? How can we get feedback? How can we show applause? How can we celebrate achievements? You might ask these questions once, or keep asking them regularly to see how your responses change over time.
These simple questions and prompts help you look ahead and forecast the opportunities and obstacles that are likely to happen, and how you will respond. This is different to how you might normally plan because you’ll be able to bring the skills and experience of dealing with uncertainty. Just the exercise of projecting as a group what you might do if something totally new happens is really important in building resilience.
An important thing to remember about technology is that no two people use a product in the same way, and the way we use products is always changing. And they’re designed that way – rather than there being a prescribed way of using technology, most developers are fascinated by how their users adapt and integrate technology in their lives.
So rather than thinking of technology happening to us, we should allow ourselves to adapt the tools we use around our lives and experiences, and to meet our changing needs.
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