Reducing teacher workload: 10 top tech tips for tired teachers

With research showing that teachers spend more than half their time on admin, we’ve rounded up some of the most effective productivity tools and techniques to stay on top of email, planning and collaborating.

Photo by Andreas Klassen on Unsplash

 

Teachers in English schools won’t be surprised by a recent report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) which shows that teachers work around 50 hours per week in term time, longer than police officers and nurses – even when school holidays are factored in.

What might surprise many is the finding that teachers who work longer hours are more likely to stay in the profession.  It backs research by Sam Sims at FFT Education Datalab who found that the key factor in quitting is not the long hours but the feeling that workload is undo-able.

How many of those long hours is teaching time and how many admin? According to a recent DfE letter to school leaders, “more than half” of teachers’ time is spent on non-teaching tasks, including planning, marking and admin, and this kind of workload is one of the most common reasons for teachers leaving the profession.

The circular coincides with the publication of a report from the Workload Advisory Group – led by education expert, Professor Becky Allen. In a recent podcast she highlighted that it’s the perception of work burden that is key and teachers don’t tend to feel burnt out if the things they are doing don’t feel like a hindrance and if they have the support to do it.

Teacher Tapp, which we’ve highlighted in a previous blog post, offers some clues to the nature of the workload. Teacher Tapp collects data on the work practices and experiences of UK teachers via three questions each afternoon. Email, email and more email (taking up almost a whole teaching day each week), planning lessons and marking (partly as a result of prescriptive marking policies) are top bugbears.

There must be a better way…

So, what tools and approaches could help teachers?

  1. Email

Email is not going to go away any time soon so, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or simply want to cut down on the time you spend in your inbox, these tips from Doug Belshaw are a good place to start to make it all feel more manageable:

  • Turn off notifications. In 90% of all cases we don’t need to know immediately that there is a new message. Segmenting our email checking time into two, four, or eight times a day has massive benefits.
  • Prepare, but don’t send emails on Sunday evening. Simply assess what your Monday game plan will be.
  • Be concise – write shorter emails. What is the one main thing you want to communicate? Say it concisely. The shorter your emails, the shorter their response tends to be. It saves everyone time.
  • Communicate facts by email and emotion – whether good news and criticism – in person.
  • Be positive and friendly.
  • Treat emails as if they’re postcards and assume anyone might read them.

If you’re looking for something more radical – possibly even life-changing – we’re huge fans of David Allen and his Getting Things Done (GTD) system. Put simply, with email, if it’s going to take less than two minutes to answer, just answer it. It’s quicker in the long run than reading, closing, reopening, reading again and then answering it. With those that remain, there will be (1) those that require more than two minutes to deal with and (2) those that represent something you’re waiting on from others. A simple and quick way to get control is to create a “Waiting For” label and an “Action” label – and review regularly. There’s much more to GTD than that – read this article by a fellow believer to get started.

Alternatives to email:

For internal messaging, the giant chat room that is Slack, the ‘email killer’, can be a good alternative. It’s starting to be used by a lot of schools and has both a free and a paid-for version (with big discounts for education). Point three of this excellent blog post details how a school uses Slack effectively. For text messaging to teachers and consent forms, services like ParentMail and Teachers2Parents exist.

post-it notes on a wall
Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash
  1. Collaboration tools

At London CLC we’ve found working on collaborative docs in Google suite saves us huge amounts of time and, for teachers, having a cloud based system such as Google Suite or Office 365 is a game changer. Teachers have told us about how many hours they’ve saved since student reports were put onto a cloud-based system like Google suite – suddenly you don’t have to wait for colleagues to complete their section and pass the report on. Likewise for collaborative planning – Google docs or Office 365 makes working on the same document easy from anywhere.

  1. Google Classroom

Google Classroom lets you organise your classwork and hand-ins of work. When you collect pupil work it is automatically organised into a Google Drive folder. If you set a single document template worksheet for pupils to complete it will make a copy for every pupil and again organise it into folders on Google Drive.

  1. Collecting and curating info

Drowning in links to ‘must reads’ in random emails and notes? For collecting and curating information, whether articles, blog posts or your own notes, you need Evernote or Pocket.

  1. To do lists to get things done

Trello is brilliant as a way of managing both personal to do lists and large-scale shared projects. It even ties in nicely with the Getting Things Done methodology.

  1. Meetings

If you must have meetings, at least make sure that sorting out dates and times that suit all the participants doesn’t add to the workload. Doodle polls make scheduling quick and easy.

  1. Assessment

Consider apps and tools that do automatic marking, such as Socrative, Kahoot and Nearpod.

  1. Time-saving content

Try Quizlet, where teachers share their question sets. It’s easy to search for specific topics, such as a year 6 spelling revision question set, and read through them or make a copy and amend for your class. Nearpod also has lesson content. Much of it is for the US curriculum but, again, it can be adapted for UK use.

  1. Routines

Committed but overworked teachers might want to analyse personal habits as well as school systems. This US blog post has some tips for using routines and online tools to help manage the heavy working day.

Don’t forget to take control of your phone!

  1. Finally, close down your day

 

  • Got a time-saving tool or app to recommend? Please share it in the comments!

  • Sign up to our weekly newsletter to get edtech news and views, free resources and reviews direct to your inbox every Thursday lunchtime – including a weekly ‘give it a try’ app or tool recommendation.

 

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Upcoming CPD

Summer primary school computing conference
Summer primary school computing conference

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

14/06/22,
09:15
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EYFS, KS1, KS2
Computing subject leaders, Teachers...
Creative Arts, Digital and children – CLC meets More Than Robots online
Creative Arts, Digital and children - CLC meets More Than Robots online

Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.

Presentations

The Play Observatory - Prof. John Potter

“In their own words”: Westminster Abbey & CLC digital projects - Sian Shaw

Building (and maintaining) a city-wide primary arts curriculum to raise attainment - Kate Fellows

More to be added soon

This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions.

This informal event is an opportunity to discuss real examples of what does/doesn’t work, meet colleagues from other sectors working on similar challenges and share useful research, news or updates

The morning will include case study presentations (details below) followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.

24/06/22,
09:30
- 11:30
KS1, KS2
Subject leaders, Teachers...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
25/11/21,
09:30
- 14:25
KS2

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum
21/02/22,
-
KS1

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

  • How are they planted?
  • How do they spread?
  • What is inside them?

 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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