Back to school? 3 golden rules

10 September 2020
blog back to school

The past months have shown the incredible resilience and creativity of schools and teachers. The lesson learned? With the right mindset and digital toolbox, together we can provide good education in any situation! Here are the three golden rules to keep your school up and running, whether you’re reopening or focusing on distance learning for another while.

1. Think outside the box

The coronavirus outbreak called for finding new ways of being together while physically apart. And that’s exactly what schools and teachers did! Many schools made the transition from traditional education to online distance learning. Schools that didn’t have the means to teach digitally found their own unique ways to resume some lessons. Every school, regardless of their particular resources, embraced new, creative solutions. And it’s exactly this willingness to think outside the box that we need most in this new school year.

What if your school lacks adequate digital tools for online education? Focus on what is available and take it from there. In India, for example, a third of all students don’t have access to a (parent’s) smartphone or other device to join online education from home. Yet virtually every Indian household has a radio. To enable a maximum number of students to participate in distance learning, educators have been broadcasting virtual classes and other educational content on public radio and TV. This way, every student has been able to keep learning, regardless of their home situation.

For schools that already use digital learning environments, offering remote education is a lot easier. But even with the right tools, effective and fun distance learning requires creativity! We don’t want kids to spend all day glued to their screens. So now is the time to try out new types of assignments, resources and ways to connect (with) students. Involve them in off-screen activities. For example, let students post a video of themselves performing a hobby or outside activity. Sign them up for the COOL Quest. Have them call each other up to discuss a question or give each other feedback, and let them develop various new skills along the way.

If your school has to stay closed for a while…

  • Focus on opportunities, like improving students’ self-efficacy and digital literacy, and becoming more independent as a teacher.
  • Try out new (digital) tools and methods and share your resources with other teachers, inside and outside your organization


2. Embrace new ways of learning

Distance learning doesn’t depend on a classroom space, school hours and fixed schedules. So there’s a lot of room to alter things that used to go unquestioned. For example, if you’re teaching a group online, it helps to work in longer subject blocks. Combine central instruction at the beginning with monitored self-study, using communication and productivity tools like Google Meet and Skilltree. Add COOL Monitoring to the mix to stay in control and easily keep track of what your students are doing. And at the end of the day, ask students about their experience: what went well, what not so much? 

Online learning has the beneficial side-effect that education becomes less unidirectional, both when the school is closed and when you’re back in front of the classroom. Introducing digital classroom tools like Google Classroom and the COOL Platform, but also educational apps like Kahoot! enable a much more interactive and adaptive teaching style. In addition to having a positive impact on the learning process, digital tools help students stay connected and bond in new ways. 

For you as a teacher, it means a chance to expand your pedagogical and digital skillset. If you’ve started using digital tools for remote lessons, you’ll see they’re actually a helpful addition inside the classroom as well. Use Google Classroom to give your students assignments. Save loads of time (and paper) by sharing fun quizzes with Google Forms, instead of manually copying and checking them. Use COOL Monitoring to push specific content to students and easily share their screen on your interactive display in front of the class, or create engaging presentations with the Pear Deck add-on for Google Slides. The possibilities are endless!

When your school opens its doors again…

  • Integrate the digital tools you’ve used to teach remotely in the classroom to save teaching time and keep students involved.
  • Enjoy the benefit of teaching in smaller groups, where you can attend to every individual child.


3. Make digitalization a team effort

As the saying goes, the teacher knows best. And after meeting all the challenges of the past months, teachers now know even better! With some schools (partially) reopening, they return to school with a lot of newly gained knowledge and a new digital toolkit at hand. Whereas previously, school admins were mostly dealing with IT on their own, as a teacher you can now think along and get involved. Complement the admin’s technical expertise with your educational perspective and find digital solutions for your school together. Make IT policy a team effort! 

Companies and professionals in education technology have also pooled their expertise to make digitalization and distance learning as easy and effective as possible. Google and Microsoft supported schools around the world by quickly creating many new student accounts. Here at Cloudwise, a special distance learning task force was immediately put in place when the first school closures happened. Ever since, our team of experts has worked on up-to-date resources and solutions to support schools and teachers, like our Distance learning toolkit, free Google user guides and (recorded) webinars to help you get to know your digital toolbox.

Further tips for blended and distance learning


Everyone wants the best for education. Whether we’re teachers, IT developers, or school admins, together we can create the best classroom solutions and continue to provide quality education. To always offer you the right tips and tools, we’d like to learn what challenges you’re currently experiencing at your school. Do you see new learning opportunities? What are some of the positive changes you’ve witnessed in your work as a teacher, school admin or principal? We’re curious about your stories, new favorite teaching tools and methods as well as your tips and wishes for digital and distance learning!


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