As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, one thing was clear: technology was a critical component during the pandemic. Dr. Nicole Beurkens, a child psychologist recognised “There’s been a lot of adjustment for kids and families with tech use during this time when the world has gone from in-person to everything being done virtually,” she stated that “Technology and greater use of technology has allowed kids to stay connected to their friends, peers, activities and certainly has allowed them to continue their education”.
We know that practitioners and teachers in NI and ROI have used a range of technology to support home learning, sharing of information and engagement with parents. We also know that settings, including those involved in the Sharing from the Start, have used technology such as email, WhatsApp and video calls to maintain relationships with other settings. These relationships have enabled staff to connect with one another, share ideas, reflect on current practice and support one another during this surreal time. Heather Martin, leader from Cloughmills Early Years explained “As a mummy of two young children I have found the use of IT very beneficial during the lockdown period. It meant that I was still around for the children but could attend the webinars and support sessions that were offered. The early years webinars have been fantastic and a great source of information at this very busy time as we face reopening our settings. Without this support I would have been lost.”
Teresa McNeill, leader Glenravel PG added “Technology for me during this pandemic is what has got me through. I was able to contact parents using a text local service, regular contact with leaders through a WhatsApp group and able to contact my Early Years Specialist by phone, text and email. I even increased my learning through webinars. I never realised the benefits of online technology and feel that I am much more prepared going forward after having this support through COVID 19.”
Even with the increased usage, Dr. Beurkens said much of the time being spent using technology has been positive. Within Early Years we have embraced the use of technology and used a range of packages to collaborate and communicate with staff and management. We have used emails, Facebook, twitter, and our website to share information and government updates, the use of Blogs and Vlogs enabled specialists to connect with staff teams, parents, and the wider community.
The Senior specialist team have facilitated a range of webinars, these have provided an effective means of connecting with staff, the live sessions made it easy to interact. Some of the sessions provided a platform for sharing relevant information, while others provided opportunities for disseminating ideas and strategies to support curriculum delivery and transitions during and post Covid-19. The chat function allowed participants the opportunity to comment, share ideas and ask questions.
As we continue to live in uncertain times, settings involved in the Sharing from the Start programme have been reflecting on, and considering how they could continue to utilise technology to support the facilitation of Shared Education as they move into the final year of the project and we look forward to seeing these unfold in practice.