Lesson planning

26 January 2021

Using Oak vs live lessons: does it have to be one or the other?

Tom Rogers

Guest blogger

“Those schools who try to do everything they would do in a face-to-face context in a remote context are going to come unstuck”, said Darren Northcott, the education lead for NASUWT at a recent webinar for teachers concerned about online teaching.

One of the most significant trends of this new world of online teaching that we find ourselves in seems to be the idea that the teacher needs to be ‘present’ all the time. This has been encapsulated in ‘live lessons’ – namely, teachers teaching their normal timetable live and on screen.

During Northcott’s presentation, he highlighted the lack of research around live lessons being better than pre-recorded, ‘non-live’ ones. And there’s certainly a broad interpretation of what’s ‘best’ in schools across the country.

I entirely agree with Darren - we need to protect teachers’ workload and that we can’t do everything we do in a classroom. So I asked myself: does it have to be a choice between one or the other? Maybe the two approaches are not as mutually exclusive as the current conversation might lead us to believe.

There is space for a live lesson – where the students and teacher are present in the moment – that involves the teacher facilitating learning in a different way than solely delivering it all whilst also battling new technology, engagement, intervention and everything else.

My school has implemented a full timetable of ‘live’ online learning.

I wanted to come up with an approach to live lessons that would be as effective as possible whilst still allowing me a life! The idea of planning and delivering four or five live lessons a day, led solely by me, was out of the question. It’s just not a sustainable way for teachers to work. So I looked at alternatives.

I knew about Oak National Academy anyway from their work in lockdown one and quickly realised that if I could stream an Oak lesson through Microsoft Teams, then it would be almost like ‘team teaching’ the content.

As a history teacher, I knew they had most of the key content we were delivering, including the ‘medicine through time’ unit, covered.

So, my standard lesson plan is now as follows:

  1. Starter/introduction/register – with a retrieval quiz activity
  2. I play an Oak National Academy video lesson and pause at the points the Oak teacher says to pause (pause points are embedded in each video)! I encourage Q&A with students at these points. Pausing is used for students to complete comprehension questions and for me to answer questions and deal with any misconceptions or misunderstandings.
  3. Students submit their notes and answers to any tasks set, including comprehension questions, as an assignment through the VLE.
  4. I turn my own camera and mic on and lead a quiz, using something like menti.com which allows the students to submit answers that show up on screen for all students ‘live’.

(One thing to note is that you need to have the Microsoft Teams desktop app installed to be able to use the ‘share screen with audio’ button. I tried to do this originally using it through a browser and that button doesn't exist!)

The lesson is still ‘live’, so you have all the advantages of that – real time interaction with students, added accountability to attend and engage and so on. But – and this is key – using this approach means there is less onus on me, as one individual teacher, to facilitate quite complex and multi-faceted sessions, four or five times a day.

I can ‘team teach’ virtually and add another knowledgeable, qualified, expert into my lessons. It has already saved me a huge amount of time and effort.

I am also always conscious of the student experience in my lessons, whether face to face or online, and wouldn’t want to use something that detracted from that or that I felt uncomfortable using.

Every Oak lesson I’ve used so far has been excellent. They don’t overcomplicate things, they are easy to follow and are also as interesting and engaging as anything I could do myself in an online setting.

Thanks to all the Oak teachers and I hope this method might work for you if you are looking for a slightly different approach to lesson delivery.

And if it’s helpful to see it in action – I have created this little ‘how-to’ video here to show you how I do it: https://youtu.be/JpBef73KO4c

There are many ways to approach remote education and we’re all adapting to the ways which work for us.

For more ideas or information, Oak National Academy regularly hosts free webinars to show the lots of ways schools are using the resources, and you check out and use all of their lessons for free here.