Guest post – DigiLearn Sector: A ‘Tech and Tactile’ approach to teaching – pandemic update!

Published by Caroline Carlin on

Author: Fran Brown-Cornwall – Education Department Lecturer, Staffordshire University

On Wednesday 16th September 2020, I was really grateful to head to the DigiLearn Sector community and share my experiences using my ‘tech and tactile’ approach to teaching

It was a look at how I combine playful pedagogy, digital and creative methods to merge the digital and physical classroom together. 

However, once the pandemic removed the physical classroom entirely, how has this unfolded? 

Well, I’ll update you… 😊  

Keen not to lose the tactile element, students across all levels and UG programmes were issued goodie bags of stationary at the beginning of the year, including but not limited to playdough, post it notes, paints etc. This wasn’t only to fulfil my approach but was also shared pedagogy in the team… Online teaching was not going to kill creativity and tactile activities for any of my colleagues neither!

The institute equips students with the software for the digital element, and as a department, we equipped students with the resources for the tactile element.  

So here are my top five tips for retaining ‘tech and tactile’ approaches to teaching, even when a pandemic hits!

  1. Maintain choice

Students learn in different ways and are unique individuals who now more than ever need some support and bespoke delivery according to their preferences and circumstances. Therefore, whilst lessons were largely delivered over Microsoft technologies, activities still maintained options and choices in terms of how the students could participate. This has been made explicit in the instruction to each activity, and students were reminded they could use tech or tactile resources each time. For example, during note taking students were reminded they could grab a pen and paper, drop in the chat, pop your mic on etc. – This was always a choice, no matter how simple or large scale a task. Therefore, those that preferred pen and paper could still opt for this and show their work via taking a picture and holding it up to the screen etc. Alternatively, those who preferred word processing could attach their work as a document.

A larger task such as consolidating theory by creating their own versions of theoretical models, could also be done either digitally or tactile, and again, students were reminded of the choice to them – grab the paints and pens, or use smart graphics in PowerPoint. Maintaining choice was effective so long as the options were made explicit in the instructions to the students. These were strange times to be studying and that natural ‘knee jerk’ response to engage in a task in the way they preferred wasn’t as natural. Therefore, maintaining and reminding students of the choices available has been important. 

2. Encourage ‘no screen’ time

Personally speaking, online delivery is quite fatiguing, and I was conscious that students would be feeling the same way. Therefore, activities and learning that was communicated via Microsoft tools could often be taken away from the devices. For example, when exploring World Book Day activities, students were encouraged to make provocations using things in their home, and to plan Literacy activities using books physically available to them. Therefore, there was an opportunity to develop their skills, whilst taking a break from their digital device. Something as simple as reminding students of the ‘read aloud’ functions in Microsoft Edge, PDFS and other Microsoft tools, meant they could engage in reading tasks, but could also take a moment to avert their eyes from the screen – which they may have done a lot during World Book Day. Like I say, ‘tech and tactile’ can always be combined, and just because the sessions were online, it didn’t stop me dressing up!

3. Elicit art and creativity

As aforementioned, students were given some tactile resources, therefore activities were planned for which made us of these e.g. paint a model of teamwork, use playdough to represent an element of practice, and my personal favourite from this academic year – a welcome task called ‘behind the mask’. Here, students watched a video on Covid Policy and Practice in schools. which then got us onto mask policies. As this was our first session, it was a great way to explore an activity adopted in schools to familiarise children with mask wearing. It also helped them get to know each other better and use tech or tactile methods according to personal preference. I think you’ll agree the quality of work is great!

4. Provoke design and production 

Project based or problem-based learning by providing scenarios for students to respond to, has been a great way in encouraging them to design and produce artefacts to demonstrate their learning. Once again, provoking this from students and reminding them of the choices available to them has meant students have designed and produced teaching resources, assemblies, presentations, and asynchronous activities. The list really does go on.

5. Pedagogy first

Finally, I worked hard not to use technology as simply a Covid response. I had already embedded Microsoft tools into delivery, so this didn’t need to alter too much. If I had a subject or learning goal that was better explored digitally, then I opted for digital. If it was better to be away from a screen using tactile, then I still chose tactile.  

Hopefully this has been a worthy update from my DigiLearn Sector webinar last year. I also hope this can influence others to feel more confident combining ‘tech and tactile’ methods concurrently, pandemic or no pandemic.  


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