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With thanks to Patrick Shaw, EdTech Consultant, EdTechAdviceUK

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Many (most?) schools have G-Suite or Office 365 deployed already, because it’s free to schools – so access to remote tools is not a problem.

The problem is that schools generally have not invested in the skills, expertise and pedagogies to implement/embed use of these tools. So a typical school with 800TB+ SharePoint Online storage for free, will still be using internal mapped drives to run 80% of its function. Microsoft Teams IS generally not embedded despite having free access.

Email is still the key technology (Gmail or Exchange/Outlook) used by staff to communicate with staff and students.

Here are some options we think you have:

  • Remember Safeguarding is King. Brief staff on approved systems use outside school to communicate with students. Shouldn’t be a problem as Office 365/G-Suite is Safeguarding-safe. For protection of staff and students, unsanctioned/unmonitored systems should not be used.
  • Have you got integration between MIS, Active Directory and Office 365/G-Suite? Use a tool like @SalamanderSoft to automate account creation/access for all stu/staff.
  • Have you got documents in the Cloud? Move content from mapped drives to SharePoint/OneDrive. Verify appropriate security/permissions though.
  • Do all your teachers have a school-assigned laptop/tablet? If not, plan to re-assign curriculum laptops for staff access at home.
  • If you have an RDC service, set sensible restrictions to priority users. 1200 concurrent attempts to connect will bring down RDC services intended for 10+ users (typical).
  • School IT Technical Support should be testing remote access tools that can be used to remote support home-to-home, and plan to need to issue several new guides to staff and students.
  • For teachers happy with live remote teaching, buy them some decent headsets.
  • Ensure your public communication channels are open, accessible and parents know where to go for updated information/instructions (Facebook, Website, Twitter, SMS, bespoke school app).
  • Secure access to passwords to systems off site? Populate a secure password manager. Use a specific tool for this, like LastPass, or Dashlane. These use encryption to ensure that passwords cannot be accessed, even by their staff, without a master password. Do not lose the master password or you will lose access to the passwords. Do not use something like Google Documents or Google sheets to store passwords, these tools are not intended for such.
  • Make use of distance learning Curriculum services, eg. GCSEPod. These services are embedded maturely across schools, and they offer good realtime student progress analytics – perfect for distance learning. Doesn’t replace the teacher though.
  • Train teachers how to broadcast PowerPoint presentations to remote learners – Broadcast your PowerPoint presentation online to a remote audience.

We’re sure you’ve got lots of other great suggestion, please use the comments box below to let us know what else you think should be considered.

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