CfEM blog: using technology at Leeds City College

Blog by Jonny Diamond, Deputy Head / English and Maths Development at Leeds City College for the Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) programme.

Using technology has always been an integral part of teaching, learning and assessment at Leeds City College. The current climate has only reinforced what we are trying to achieve is purposeful and future-focused. Preparing for an online delivery model was one that we had planned for but hadn’t tested to its full potential.

As a CfEM that is trialling the Technology and Data theme, we implemented a TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) Navigator initiative at the end of the academic year in July 2019. This scheme was designed, and is led, by Iain Thompson, our TEL Advanced Practitioner at the college. The sole purpose of this scheme is to unleash the potential that technology has to offer in the teaching of mathematics. Additionally, it seeks to empower maths teachers to embrace new technology and be the ‘go-to’ person for tech advice, support and innovation in their own vocational areas.

A critical part of this scheme is collaboration. Staff were placed into action learning sets to support one another and build a community to share and discuss their learning and findings. The scale of the college and multiple campuses meant online tools such as Google Meet were used to support remote communication. Staff received training on various EdTech tools  and are now at a point where they actively search for new tools to share with colleagues. Overcoming initial personal barriers with the support of a collective has led to the continued growth and success of the programme.

Since lockdown measures were introduced, our maths teachers have delivered all their materials, sessions, support and feedback to their learners online on any medium that their learners prefer. We don’t have a one-website fits all mantra and learners can choose from a range of online support tools. Engagement figures on one of our subscribed websites is staggering. Pre-lockdown the learners answered 7000 questions in a given week. Post-lockdown that figure is now at approximately 21,000 questions answered with an accuracy of 82.4%. Pre-closure, and with the learners having access to in-class and face-to-face support, the accuracy rate was only 1.75% better. Interestingly, the introduction of a physical barrier seems to have minimal impact on the accuracy of correct answers. Additionally, and most impressive, is that teacher feedback on this website was given 33 times a week pre-lockdown. Post-lockdown that figure is now at 254 instances a week (or over a 600% increase). Teachers are engaging and personalising this new way of delivery as much as their learners are.

From past experiences, for online learning to be effective you need to plan to deliver in an adaptable and innovative manner. Clear expectations but simple approaches support the learner journey in the virtual space. Taking time to familiarise learners with technology tools supports a smoother transition to online delivery and aids motivation to participate. There has never been a better time than the present, for both staff and students to upskill in the use of digital tools.

The introduction of online learning has helped to inspire maths teachers and change their mindset. The maths team have welcomed new CPD opportunities which have encouraged growth and development of skills. The delivery of maths teaching has now moved to a more accessible model enabling flexibility for all students.

Details for Leeds City College and the other Centres for Excellence in Maths can be found on the CfEM webpages.

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