City Manager for CityFibre, Neil Madle puts the spotlight on some useful digital tools for business and family life.
As we approach autumn and a further tightening of movement, it is safe to say that most of us are still adjusting to the new normal that is everyday life. For many, working from home has become almost ubiquitous – indeed, kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms have all become places of work, and they will remain so for some time yet.
As you might expect, this is placing a huge demand on the nation’s broadband infrastructure. Every day, countless workers log on simultaneously to access everything from remote servers and web conferencing solutions to live event streams and team collaboration tools. Communications infrastructure has never mattered more, which is why CityFibre is working hard to progress its roll out in Swindon and provide town-wide access to reliable, high speed, high capacity digital connectivity.
With full fibre access, businesses, residents and public services alike can benefit from a platform for growth – one that drives productivity and innovation, breaks down digital divides and makes spaces and services smarter.
Even at a personal level, the benefits are far-reaching, especially when it comes to making life easier for workers and learners alike. Homeworking and educating can be challenging, but with the right tools, it can contribute towards increased efficiency, improved work life balance and better outcomes.
Here are ten digital services that are helping us home-work and home-school during these challenging times.
The itslearning platform allows education professionals to personalise learning by collating curriculum resources, instructional strategies, objective-based lesson plans and assessments, and real-time reporting all in one easy-to-access central location.
Also, the system provides many different opportunities to develop interactive/ engaging lessons as well as offering different paths for students to collaborate with their teachers and easily share materials, allowing teachers to spend more time on teaching their students.
2. Google Classroom
Google has teamed up with educators across the country to create ‘Classroom’, a streamlined platform which offers several useful features to teachers and students where anybody can sign in from any computer or mobile device to access class assignments, course materials, and feedback.
Following this, practitioners can track the progress of their students so they know where and how to give extra feedback. With simplified workflows, there is more time for teachers to concentrate on giving students constructive, personalized recommendations.
Most importantly, it is also totally free to use and set up!
3. EdPlus Kids
Fairly new to app stores, EdPlus Kids has been developed by an Oxford University Spinout to make out-of-school learning easier for parents and more fun for learners.
Specialising in maths, it also offers study subjects in a range of subjects including science, English, and other foreign languages.
What is more, it keeps learners motivated by allowing them to unlock games as a reward as they complete tasks. Parents and guardians can also keep an eye on progress by receiving notifications when milestones are achieved.
4. Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is an online platform that is part of Office365. The platform can be used for several different purposes, whether its socialising with friends, speaking with colleagues or holding online education classes.
Members can join an online conversation from anywhere – either in the form of a group chat or a video conference to teams of up to 10,000. More impressive is the system’s ability to access, share, and edit Word docs, PowerPoint, and Excel files in real time – meaning no more frantic searching-for-files ever again ahead of an important meeting.
5. Reading Eggs
Reading Eggs is built around the school curriculum and provides an excellent source of resources and strategies that make learning to read both rewarding and fun. The programme was developed by an experienced team of teachers, educational writers, animators and web developers, so you can be sure that it offers a quality learning experience for young learners.
Masterclass is an online streaming website where subscribers can learn and participate in workshops taught by the world’s leading professionals. The site includes online masterclasses in sports, cooking, business and much more held by individuals such as Gordan Ramsay, Serena Williams, Jodie Foster and Chris Voss.
Outsourcely is an online platform aimed at freelancers; the site connects freelancers with companies looking for external workers from customer support and data entry, to project managers, virtual assistants, recruitment and sales.
One of the best aspects of Outsourcely is that it aims to link individuals to companies who are looking for long-term workers, rather than those hiring for short-term projects – particularly important with more freelancers looking for work than ever before.
8. Focus Keeper Time Management
For self-confessed procrastinators, this app could help make your home working days more productive. It is based on the Pomodoro Technique, which encourages users to focus their work efforts into timed 25-minute slots, allowing for a five-minute break between each burst of activity.
The app allows you to tailor your focus sessions and set goals around the number of focus periods you want to achieve each day.
This is a great app for those who miss the hustle and bustle of the workplace, as it allows you to mix your own ambient sounds so that it’s easier to get into the zone for a productive day’s work. It’s also perfect if you want to drown out other sounds, such as the washing machine, dishwasher or chatter from housemates when you’re working from home.
Finally, Evernote could revolutionise homeworking life for those of us who don’t have access to a printer or want to reduce their paper consumption. It works by enabling users to save all of their ideas, notes, to-do-lists, and reminders in one place.
Even better, Evernote allows users to add notes in all sorts of different formats – Typed notes, attachments, web clippings, or recorded memos – while also making them searchable.
These are just a few examples, but there’s plenty of quality resources and applications out there, all designed to help us be more efficient and stay informed and entertained.
CityFibre is working to roll out full fibre to up to 8 million homes across the UK, ensuring that even more of the population has access to the high-speed, high-capacity internet that lets us enjoy these fantastic resources without the lag so many of us have grown used to.
Construction to build Swindon’s full fibre network will begin in October and, once complete, almost every home and business in the local area will be able to access gigabit capable services over full fibre.
Our networks, however, are about more than just bringing gigabit broadband services to residents. We also serve thousands of critical healthcare, education and community sites too, including hospitals, GP surgeries, community buildings, schools and council offices.
As key workers, CityFibre has been asked by the UK Government to continue to expand the nation’s digital capacity. All contractors are being urged to follow the social distancing protocols as outlined by Public Health England to ensure our build partner’s safety.
For more information about our Gigabit City Programme and our response to the Covid-19 outbreak, visit cityfibre.com/your-street