Devices for remote teaching and learning (May 2021)

This guidance is for school leaders and teachers.


The nature of the Coronavirus and its continuing evolution means that while pupils in the UK have, at the time of writing, mainly returned to school, there is no guarantee that sporadic outbreaks of COVID-19 will not require some pupils to be taught at home. Remote teaching looks set to be a fact of school life for some time to come.

This will affect all pupils to some extent but will be more disruptive and damaging to those in some households with limited access to appropriate devices and all those living in geographical locations where internet access is poor.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that neither the government, local authorities, or individual schools have the resources to supply every disadvantaged pupil with their own computer and broadband access. To help overcome these educational inequalities, schools should be aware of the range of devices that are already available to their students, their limitations, and how best to leverage them to support remote teaching and learning.

We hope these notes will help inform those discussions so that the inevitable disadvantages can be mitigated.

This guidance note is specifically related to disadvantages brought about by not having access to the most appropriate hardware and the internet: it says nothing about other factors which make studying at home difficult for many. In particular, having a quiet place to work without distraction, family competition for access to a limited number of household devices, and the general stress of living in “lockdown”, all of which must be taken into account when considering the support needs of individual students.

Similarly, we have not attempted to cover any physical or mental challenges pupils may have. In the case of SEND students, we are assuming that similar levels of IT support will be provided to students when working remotely as are available to them when in school. In particular, the special accessories (large screen, screen readers, high-contrast keyboards, etc.) that can be connected to a school computer can be provided to them to use at home.

Finally, these notes are about hardware and the internet. We do not cover  how remote learning is presented, except insofar as we consider that much of it will be accessed via a web browser and learning environment (MS Office 365, Google Classroom, etc.), and various “live” interaction applications like Zoom, MS Teams, GoogleMeeting, Skype, etc.

What follows will consider the range of devices that pupils may have in the home already, which can be used for remote or home learning. For each type, there is a description and a list of “pros” and “cons”. The devices covered are:

●          Desktop (Windows, Mac, Linux)

●          Laptop (Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook)

●          Tablet (iPad, Amazon Fire, Samsung, etc.)

●          Mobile Phone/Smartphone (iPhone, Samsung, etc.)

●          eBook Reader (Kindle, Kobo, etc.)

●          Games Console (Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, etc.)

●          RaspberryPi


The full guidance can be downloaded as a pdf below.