Karen Gracie-Langrick, head at Colchester High School, on how teachers and pupils fully embraced technology to continue their educational journey through lockdown
Before we begin, could you give us a brief overview of your school…
Colchester High School is a small co-educational independent school, for ages 2½ to 16, where pupils are encouraged to aspire higher and develop a global perspective and mindfulness for social responsibility which last them a lifetime.
Looking at the past 14 months or so, have you ever experienced a period like this in education?
While an unprecedented and challenging time in education, I am privileged to have been at the forefront of a pioneering generation of pupils and educationalists who have embraced technology, to ensure an uninterrupted educational provision.
How did Colchester High School cope with the lockdowns?
CHS are fortunate to be part of the Cognita Group who have significantly invested in Edtech, providing interactive white boards in all classrooms and 121 devices for all staff and pupils from Year 3 to 11. Operating on the same platform saw an “explosive” development in expertise and application of Microsoft educational technologies, enabling teaching and learning to seamlessly transition from “live” to virtual classrooms.
How did your teachers cope with working from home?
Teachers have exceeded expectations, embracing the opportunity to use a range of transformational platforms (SeeSaw, Teams, Onenote, Flipgrid and Book Creator), to ensure our pupils remained engaged with their learning.
The greatest challenge was ensuring online learning personalised to meet the needs of all our pupils. Impressively, teachers demonstrated a dramatic growth mindset in terms of experimentation, adaptation and collaboration, dedicating time to develop and share their own expertise, whilst gaining Industry Standard Accreditations that support our aspiration to become a Microsoft Showcase School. Invaluably, technology also allowed the school to remain connected, continuing with enrichment and events – concerts, student council meetings – and hosting virtual parents’ evenings and school open mornings.
Did your pupils surprise you in any way?
We have been so impressed with how pupils embraced the new technology, developing digital proficiency and taking greater autonomy and ownership of their own learning. Our Digital Champions co-created elements of our Digital Citizenship, E-Safety and wellbeing curriculum and helped develop a “visual” protocol for online lessons to aid communication and create a closer representation of their classroom face-to-face experience.
What’s the greatest thing about having everyone back under one roof?
Re-uniting the school community – hearing the laughter and seeing the faces of our children (and their parents!) light up when they were back with their friends and teachers.Seeing their love of learning still being sparked through the introduction of new ideas, new opportunities and new concepts in the classroom.