Provider of Community Portals for most of UK’s regional networks of School Business Managers (owned by Neil Limbrick). SBMs are charged with coordinating school decision-making re: COVID-19 for all schools/MATs: @EducationCol
https://www.commonsensemedia.org/ Essential tool for checking how safe apps/services are for different age groups as part of schools’ statutory Safeguarding duty. Could be important if teachers are forced to divert from usual tools available in schools.
We’ve gathered some top tips which we hope will see you through the first days of teaching from home or a remote location.
Getting ready to use video conference tools as a classroom on limited bandwidth connections.
Turn off your computer’s cloud back-up service such as Box Sync or Google Drive Sync.
Turn off any software automatic updates. They eat bandwidth. Save software updates for overnight or the weekend.
Turn off your mobile phone’s wireless connection & other devices in your house that will suck your bandwidth dry.
Ask others in the house to not use the internet during video conference meetings.
Limit the number of browser tabs. Lots of web pages like to automatically and periodically “phone home” creating extra traffic.
Close as much desktop software as possible during video conferencing for the same reason as limiting the number of browser tabs.
If you share a screen, share the smallest screen available. Less pixels to render across the network.
If using my camera in a video chat, make sure the room lighting is steady and use a plain wall in the background. Movement and lighting changes force more pixel value changes to be calculated and sent across the network. Trust me on this one. I’ve seen it happen more than once where the sun streaming through a window keeps peeking in and out behind clouds and the video gets all blurry and choppy.
Use a headset with a microphone, if possible, to reduce background noise and to hear other participants better.
Where possible use a wired over a wireless connection when using video & audio. The connection quality is significantly higher.
Be understanding/empathetic that there is a lag between your spoken words, and the students/other hearing it.
Be understanding/empathetic that students’ home situations are not the same as a classroom. Background noise, children, etc. Many faculty and students are new to virtual classrooms.
Consider your video conferencing technology’s “mute” functions. Take some time to learn what options are available.
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.
You’re stuck at home, you’re missing social interaction, you’re not sure if you’re allowed to (or it’s even sensible to) pop out to your favourite Latte spot and you’re starting to get restless! How are you going to stay productive whilst feeling trapped at home, the kids are screaming and the dog is barking. You’re literally climbing the walls!
OUR TOP TIPS
Get dressed – do not be tempted to wear your pjs to work. It will put you in the wrong mindset for work. No need to go the whole hog and wear a suit, but find a comfortable medium that makes you feel comfortable at your new working spot, but also makes you feel professional and motivated.
Be strict with yourself (and family/friends) about your working hours.
Prep lunch for yourself ahead of time if possible and eat something healthy – no more Pret sandwiches
Use video and/or speaker phone wherever possible to discuss team actions and help you feel connected to your office-base
Keep some time for you – your commute may now be much shorter and the temptation to work extra hours will be huge, but you can’t support your business or your friends and families unless you’re healthy! Make time to exercise, rest and relax as much as possible.
Moderate your social media time – right now there are distractions everywhere but spending time on social media and news sites whilst you’re meant to be working is going to eat into the time you’re protecting for the rest of your life. Stay as focused as you can so you’re not adding performance anxiety to the mix.
Best practices and tips to help you stay sane, focused and boost your productivity while working from home, a coffee shop or really anywhere in the world, because distributed teams are a reality and remote work is the future: http://www.benedikt-lehnert.de/contact
Keeping the kids occupied while you are all at home, and not letting their education slip, can be hard work. There are lots of free educational resources and some that have been opened up specifically to help with the coronavirus issue in this list.
Look towards the bottom of this post for Age specific links as well!
BBC Learning http://www.bbc.co.uk/learning/coursesearch/ This site is old and no longer updated and yet there’s so much still available, from language learning to BBC Bitesize for revision. No TV licence required except for content on BBC iPlayer.
Khan Academy https://www.khanacademy.org/ Especially good for maths and computing for all ages but other subjects at Secondary level. Note this uses the U.S. grade system but it’s a mostly common material.
At the point that we’re working remotely because it’s part of business continuity plan, then we are already on Plan B. So what comes next? How do we build contingency into remote working?
Disaster Recovery plan – review your existing
disaster recovery procedures. Are they up to date? When were they last tested?
In the event that offices are closed and empty for long periods security may
become a risk. Is your data securely off site?
Where might your tech fail?
Stress test your remote connectivity. You may have several users that
already have Private Network (VPN) or other methods to remotely access your
internal network – but how many people will it sustain simultaneously? Cheaper
SMB routers will struggle to manage more than single digit number of
connections. The slightly more advanced and commonly found Draytek 2860 router
for example will support 32 simultaneous VPN connections.
Similarly, your remote software may have limitations on licensing for the
number of simultaneous users.
Ask your IT provider/administrator to check your hardware limitations and
software licenses. Whilst they’re at it, check the router configuration is up to
date and supported – VPN and security standards are updated regularly so ensure
you’re confirming to the latest specifications.
Your office connectivity will also need good, high speed connectivity to support many remote working tools such as remote desktop. Consider that a remote desktop connection requires approx 1.5Mbps to operate well. Typical modern Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) lines run at a maximum of 80Mbps download and 20mpbs upload (data FROM your office), many SMB connections are slower than this. If you’re limited by a 20Mb upload speed you will be able to support a maximum of 13/14 full screen remote desktop connections, less if each of those users is also using the internet on their machine in the office. Check with your IT administrator what your maximum theoretical bandwidth limit is to determine how many users can be supported.
THOUGHT: Things to consider
Remain agile – policies are helpful but when technology fails help people make sensible choices that allow them to continue to work.
Offer Help – employees will be struggling with technology; ensure you’ve got enough resources ready to help people use and fix their technology
Stay close to your board and executives – they may be struggling more with technology than anyone else and they may need a lot of hand holding. Consider allocating 1:1 support