Time-saving Technology

by Nick Acton, Computing Coordinator at Maldon Court Preparatory School

Time is a luxury that no teacher can afford to waste, what with marking books, planning lessons, writing reports, updating assessments and so on, it’s amazing that there’s any time to actually teach. Anything that can speed up the day-to-day admin associated with being a classroom teacher can be a real life saver. Technology can help in this regard. Approaching tasks digitally or augmenting some processes with technology has saved me stacks of time. I appreciate that not everyone feels as comfortable when tapping away on an iPad or a new app. Some may even feel that it can be a frustrating waste of their time. For me however, I have found that any time-consuming app exploration, has tended to pay off massively, saving me hours and hours in the long run. So persevere! Some of these technological time-saving processes will no doubt become the norm in the not-too-distant future. It’s better to be ahead of the curve than lagging behind it.

In this blog, I’ll be examining how technology can help to save you time when you splice it in to some of the most standard ongoing teaching processes.

Distributing Resources

We all know the rhythm and sound of the school photocopier far too well! I’ve spent countless minutes waiting for worksheets to be printed and many more minutes replacing the paper. There is a better way. Distributing worksheets or PDF resources digitally has never been easier. With apps like ‘Showbie’, teachers can upload a worksheet once and have the technology replicate it for them. The sheets are then shared with the class digitally; the children can fill in the worksheets digitally as well. Then, with a click of a sharing button, the work can be back on your screen ready for you to mark or comment on. This kind of digital workflow saves you time in many ways. Firstly, there is no need for a trip to the photocopier. Secondly, there is no collecting and collating of work after the lesson. Most importantly however, there is no chance of the work being ruined in any way. There’s always a child in the class who clumsily crumples the paper a bit or spills water on the sheet. There’s no bigger waste of time than a beautifully created worksheet that is intentionally or unintentionally vandalised within the first few seconds of being in the hands of a child. These digitally completed worksheets can be printed later if you need physical copies. It’s well worth a try!

Managing and Tracking Behaviour

Schools would run very smoothly if there were no children in them! Loads of classes have over thirty children in them now and each child comes with their own behavioural quirks. Some of the most time consuming projects I have ever been tasked with is keeping a close eye on an individual or a group of children in order to collate a behaviour report. Thankfully, there are apps that can help to capture behavioural patterns. ‘Class Dojo’ is the best one out there for Primary School Educators but I can also recommend ‘The Great Behaviour Game’ for older students. Both applications use a subtle scoring system that tallies up points for each individual child in the class. Crucially, you can also take points away by highlighting less desirable behaviour. When you utilise these systems for a while, you begin to build up a very good picture of a class’s behavioural patterns and you can hone in on one particular child. Other teachers and TA’s can also add to the points system. This enables you to get a much better insight than simply making your own observations and it is wholly less time-consuming because you are contributing to the ‘behavioural report’ as you go. Overall however, the data can help you to put processes in place to prevent bad behaviour so that you don’t waste any time in the lessons as well!

Ongoing Assessments

As children move up through the school years, the assessment data surrounding them becomes more and more reliant on numbers. The younger children in our school system need a much more holistic approach. For EYFS teachers, gathering multimedia evidence of a child’s ongoing progression is probably the most time -consuming element of their job. ‘Tapestry’ has made a massive dent in this workload. The app itself enables teachers to take photos or videos at a moment’s notice; type up notes or voice recordings; map these elements against individuals or groups of children and attach EYFS standards to the evidence all in one easy-to-use app. Past EYFS, I would recommend using an app called ‘SeeSaw’ to do the same thing. SeeSaw however, offers another element that is well suited for slightly older children. Tapestry is a Teacher-led app but SeeSaw is both learner and teacher led. In other words, the pupils can upload their own work to SeeSaw and add to their own ongoing assessments. Both apps culminate in the collation of a journal. These journals can be printed off at any point. Essentially, both apps take the cutting and sticking out of creating individual ongoing child assessment journals.

Collaborative Documents

Lots of schools opt to harbour a collaborative environment for the teachers as well as the children. Sharing workloads can absolutely save everyone time especially if you work in a two or more form-entry school. However, it’s my experience that some of the systems in place to ‘aid’ the collaborative mindset can have an adverse effect and cause problems that waste time such as copying documents and saving new drafts and emailing back and forth. The good intention is there but the process isn’t. Thankfully, there are now a few options for collaborating over documents that are easy to use and more suited for an educational environment. Apple Pages and Google Docs both now offer collaborative functionality where two or more people can work on the same document at the same time on multiple devices. This means that there is only ever one master copy of the document in question and you all have access to it all the time. What’s more, you can see who has affected the document as and when. This enables you to track the changes to the work as you go. These collaborative functions extend to Apple Keynote and Google Slides as well as Apple Numbers and Google Sheets. Therefore, you can share the workload on document, presentation and spreadsheet creation. This streamlined approach to collaborative working can save bucket loads of time.

Being more efficient is the aim of the game here. If the technology is not offering a more efficient way of approaching the task, then don’t use it. It may well be easier to print something off or use a pen and paper. But I would say that nine times out of ten, the technology can offer an alternative that saves time and can maybe save on resources as a bonus. Continuity is key as well. Something that saves you time is something that should be shared across an entire school. If an entire educational establishment takes on a time-saving change, it can make a huge impact. Most of these changes are incremental but it’s important to keep an idea on the bigger picture. A new system that might take you a month to properly get your head around might seem like the most frustrating thing you’ve ever done, but it might also click into place and start saving you more time than you could have imagined. Ultimately, if the technology isn’t helping, then what is it there for? What we really need is a time machine. Hopefully, there will be an app for that soon.

Nick Acton

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