Webinars: the new Twilight Zone?

By Margaret Allen, Strategic Education Manager

Twilight Zone (noun): A situation or conceptual area that is characterised by being undefined, intermediate or mysterious.

When I was a teacher and it came to professional development, we either attended a course, had INSET days or we had twilights. These would involve coming together as staff, with other schools, or very occasionally attend training in London. Not only were these designed to impart and share knowledge about the (then-new!) National Literacy/Numeracy Strategy, but they were also an opportunity meet with people you had known for years and who had, like you, an opinion of the Government’s latest initiative…

I’m not a teacher any more, but I know that nowadays, with more and more limits on funding, training is very much in-house – often based on so-called ‘cascade training’ to ensure maximum return. But what happens now that we’re all working remotely? We need to think of other ways to come together.

The Zone

On Friday my husband dialled into a virtual cycle ride, with six of his cycling friends with whom he has explored the South Downs for over 25 years. The attendees included…

  1. The host: knows all about the technology and wants to enable it for all
  2. The hesitant techie: wants to take part but doesn’t really know how
  3. The safe pair of hands: relaxed, knowledgeable and confident that something will come of this
  4. The efficient one: always keen to get some outcomes
  5. The silent one: smiles and nods and is just pleased to be listening and gaining an insight into the views of others
  6. The desperate one: at home alone and finds himself very keen to connect with others in any way, shape or form
  7. The busy one: must keep going off to do something else, but keeps coming back.

Sound familiar? It occurred to me that this list could so easily reflect a staffroom. (Which one are you?) While we’re all stuck at home, with schools closed, we need to find new ways to connect – like my husband and his cycling friends did. That’s where webinars come in!


At Renaissance, we’ve actually been hosting webinars for a while now – even in normal circumstances, they’re a quick, easy way to reach a lot of people without the stress and cost of travelling. Over the years, they’ve covered a myriad of topics and have been attended by thousands of people. We always find webinars give rise to additional questions as people quickly realise that they didn’t know what they didn’t know! They’re easy to attend: you’re sent a link and just click through! No fuss, no cost and at the moment, a great way to beat the barriers to ‘meeting up’ we are currently facing. Another unexpected bonus is the ability to record them and play them back later – so you can get involved even if you couldn’t join us live.

The World Next Door

As you might expect, we’ve upped our webinar offering recently! Since schools closed, we’ve hosted several for different audiences.

  • 80 people attended our Renaissance at Home webinar, where I shared how families and children can access over 7,000 books (no log-in required) while schools are closed. The recording is available here.
  • Over 1,000 people either attended or since listened to a storytelling for children in China. Parents are very keen for their children to learn English and what a great way to do this!

Look out for the following topics in webinars over the coming weeks!

  • More sessions on using the Renaissance solution at home and accessing limited free version of myON during school closures, with 7,000 ebooks available!
  • Maximising the use of Accelerated Reader during school closures
  • Live drop-in sessions about the ‘hidden treasures’ of our solutions, where you can drop in and ask any questions you might have
  • Support with utilising the full version of myON for home use
  • An introduction to our Partner School programme
  • Inviting schools within a MAT to share ideas

You’ll find links to all our webinars on our events page, so make sure you’re keeping an eye on here – you’ll find recording of past webinars on there too. You should also follow our social media pages for updates!

The Starship Enterprise

And so as we juggle working from home, taking care of our families, schools’ expectations, and who-even-knows what else, now’s the time to boldly go where you’ve never gone before: into the world of webinars! (And on a final note: technology can be temperamental: so if it fails, don’t be put off. We have FAQs about joining webinars via the platform we use, Zoom, here.)


The Twilight Zone and Star Trek both occupy a special place in history with a surprising amount of crossover between the two shows: Star Trek actors crossing over from The Twilight Zone and four of the writers and directors being common to both.

Margaret Allen
Strategic Education Manager

Margaret Allen is Strategic Education Manager for Primary schools at Renaissance Learning. She uses practical experience from her time teaching in primary classrooms to help teachers across the UK to get the most out of Accelerated Reader.

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