By Nadia Dooner, Director of Learning at Antser
As a working mum of two boys, aged five and seven, lockdown brought about many challenges in lots of different ways. Probably the biggest of these – as was the case for many parents – was the need to homeschool while balancing working from home.
As the Director of Learning at Antser, my job is to find innovative ways to help professionals from the sector learn and develop their skills. It was now time to put my expertise to the test with my own children, I must admit the idea that their education was now solely in my hands was quite an overwhelming thought. With that in mind it was time to accept the challenge and consider how I could be innovative and creative in teaching my children.
Thankfully, we have technology! Technology played a huge role in keeping us all connected at a time when we were forced to be apart. The likes of Teams and Zoom meant that daily work meetings could continue from the comfort of our own homes, albeit with children running around in the background and often gatecrashing important calls. It was somewhat of a novelty at first and gradually progressed to normality, waving at each other’s children as they flew past the screen.
Homeschooling started out ok; schools were quick to respond and we were swiftly introduced to new online learning platforms which were to become the mainstay of our children’s daily lives. At first it was exciting. Having not seen their teachers for weeks, the children relished the opportunity to watch recorded videos and send their little messages back about the seeds they’d been planting and the walks we’d been on.
As time went on, it became more challenging with the monotony of the days passing by, weeks and months got to us all. After a brief spell back in school, the children were back at home once again, as were we. This time, technology had advanced further – online platforms had remedied bugs, so we all spent far less time shouting: ‘can you hear me?’, ‘are you still there’ and that WFH favourite: ‘you’ve frozen!’
At work, as a training professional, we had adapted all our courses to be delivered online, which was no mean feat and meant that we could continue to deliver our much needed courses to social care professionals during a very challenging time. Meanwhile, back at homeschooling, things had also become far more sophisticated. Zoom lessons had been introduced for one son and Teams lessons for the other. This was fantastic in that it meant my boys could interact with their friends and ask their teacher questions directly. In the evenings, the children would log off their school platforms and join their friends on their iPads on Facetime, playing Roblox and the like together. It meant we could all remain connected and still very much a part of our respective communities.
Yet while there were many positives to our new way of working, schooling and living, there were also down days. The challenge of managing a full week of work calls and two school timetables meant there were constant arguments over whose turn it was on the laptop. I would regularly join my team meetings signed in as my five year old, much to the amusement of my colleagues.
The learning platforms also brought a new form of social pressure. I felt like I was winning just making it through each day, but was then left feeling deflated looking at the endless photographs of craft, cake baking and bug hotel making on my children’s class portals. Why weren’t we doing more of this? Was I letting my kids down?
The work life balance we had once strived so hard to achieve was suddenly non-existent. Once the kids went to bed, that was my time to catch up on emails and those precious lost day time hours. The lines between home, school and work had become blurred to say the least.
This greater level of sophistication through the advancement and greater use of technological solutions brought about changes to all of our lives. I wonder if we will ever return to the world we once knew, or if this giant technological leap forward is here to stay? My five year old is far more advanced on all devices now than I could ever wish to be. His knowledge, speed and aptitude on a device is inspiring, but I feel sad that the first thing he does when he wakes is ask where his iPad is. Whilst traditional education may have lagged behind, children’s ‘IT’ skills have done quite the opposite.
One year on, our lives have fundamentally changed in so many ways and as technology has been a lifeline for all of us, I dread to think what lockdown might have looked like without it. It has certainly advanced our lives, but has it enhanced them? The jury’s still out.