The dreaded training day season looms. But the event doesn’t have to be awful as it frequently is.Read More
I am firmly of the belief that an ed tech leader is only as good as the team they're leading, and that good in-service training plays a large part in improving teachers' skills, knowledge and understanding.
Let's take that phrase 'good in-service training': what does 'good' mean? What is 'in-service training'?
The meaning of 'good'
I think in-service training is good if it enables the teacher to do something s/he couldn't do before, or to be able to do it better. I'm using the word 'do' in a very broad sense. It could be that, having attended a course, you have a greater understanding of a particular issue than you did before, without necessarily having to actually do anything with your new-found knowledge.
(I'll explore this in another post, but I believe very strongly that there needs to be time and space set aside for teachers to explore issues as an intellectual endeavour, and not merely so that some pre-defined 'output' measure can be improved. But that's for another day.)
Ideally, in-service training should be useful for the individual teacher, the ICT team and the school as a whole.
Teachers should have a huge say into what training they will experience. I've seen instances of where teachers are sent on courses they don't want to attend, and denied permission to go on courses they do. That's a ridiculous way of trying to get the best out of your staff. Admittedly, there may be some things which everyone has to attend, such s information about a new curriculum, but there has to be give and take.
As far as what is good for the ICT team is concerned, that should be discussed by the ICT team. As team leader you will need to take some decisions, but they need to take into account your colleaues' concerns and ideas too.
Types of in-service training for ed tech specialists
But what is in-service training? Traditionally, it's a course. However, it could take a number of forms, such as:
- Attending a course.
- Running a training session.
- Attending a conference.
- Trying out something different.
- Writing a unit of work.
- Scrutinising students' work (not your own students, someone else's).
- Spending time reading.
- Spending time in discussion forums, Twitter and so on.
- Attending training sessions in bite-sized chunks, such as after school, and highly focused, eg Advanced Photoshop or Using Assessment for Learning techniques in ICT.
- Attending great team meetings.
Types of in-service training for non-specialists
Bear in mind that one of your jobs might be to organise training for non-specialist staff. Ideas that come to mind include:
- As you don't know what colleagues know or don't know, I'd suggest conducting a survey to find out what sort of things they would like training on.
- Running a regular ICT surgery. I'll be covering this in more depth soon.
- Running specific training for teaching assistants who help out in ICT lessons. I've always thought it best for all concerned for them to have at least a basic level of competence in using technology.
- Encouraging colleagues from other subjects to invite you to their team meetings to help them discover how technology could be used in their lessons.
- Making a video of the ICT going on around the school, and showing it at a staff meeting. (Students can take this on as a project.)
Your task for today
There's a lot to think about there, but here are a few issues which you might like to consider in your 15 minutes today:
- Who is going to deliver the training? It doesn't have to be you or an outside expert. One of your colleagues might be able and willing to do so. I've had pupils giving training, and the teachers loved it because it was so effective for them.
- Does training always have to take place as an extra-curricular activity? Doesn't that discriminate against colleagues who are paid by the hour? Since the training they enjoy will benefit the school (one hopes), should they not be paid to attend it?
- Does training always have to take place after school? After all, that discriminates against colleagues with family commitments. How about lunchtime sessions as well? I don't think there is an ideal time for training or a foolproof answer to this type of concern, but I think it's important to try and be as flexible as possible.
- Does all training have to take place 'live'? If you were to video your training sessions, the recordings could be made available on the school's VLE for colleagues to access in their own time.
- The same goes for screencasts. Why not create a series of short screencasts to cover the basic aspects of applications which are commonly used in the school?
- Does training have to take place in school or a teacher development centre? How about a team visit to an exhibition? I have organised some great visits for teachers to work places where technology is used.If such days are planned and organised well, they can be really effective professional development.
- Does all training or professional development have to be organised? What about taking part in online discussions? What about making the technology available and allowing people to use it how they see fit, or simply to explore it?
- Looking at your team as a whole (or yourself if you don't have a team), what are your most pressing training needs? Where are the gaps in your knowledge or skill set? How and when can you start to address this?
You may also find the following articles useful:
A message from Doug Dickinson reminded me of the OU Vital Community. OU Vital is a recently-established online professional development community for ICT educators. Run as a collaboration between the Open University and e-Skills, it is providing a range of free professional development opportunities, both offline and online.
One thing it does which is especially relevant here is provide a range of 15-minute CPD activities -- ideal for the busy teacher (if they happen to be at the right time, of course).
I also mentioned, in the comments, a forthcomin article about managing meetings. It has now been published here.
Does part of your job involve planning and running professional development days for the ICT Co-ordinators (known as Technology Co-ordinators in some parts of the world) in your area? If so, you may find these twenty activity suggestions useful.
The activities are not mutually exclusive. The idea of this list is to use a pick-‘n’-mix approach to selecting a few activities that you could run in a single day.
A separate article to be published on Thursday morning will look in more detail at making the day a success, but for now there is one important thing to bear in mind: vary the nature of the activities in terms of what attendees will be doing. I have attended conferences where the only “activity” consisted of listening to a presenter, with the occasional 5 minute break for a table discussion. That sort of menu is ultimately not very useful for people, as they struggle to maintain their concentration after several hours of doing very little. Make your conference different.
Book an expert speaker
ie someone who is an expert in a particular area, such as assessing students’ attainment in ICT, or government requirements.
It’s a bonus if the speaker is prepared to run a break-out session or workshop to follow on from their main talk.
Book an inspirational speaker
It can be very useful to get someone in who can get people fired up. However, a lot of one-day conference organisers make the mistake of getting in two such speakers. That is too much: people like to be inspired, but then they also want to know how to translate their new-found enthusiasm in their lesson tomorrow morning.
Book a product demonstration
Schools may be thinking about buying a particular product, or a particular type of product. Getting in someone to give a demonstration, especially if it would be difficult for a school to evaluate it on its own (such as a VLE) can be quite useful.
However, if the aim of the exercise is to decide as a whole group which product to buy for all schools, you will probably need to go through a more formal process in which would-be suppliers are invited to demonstrate their wares.
Book a product training session
If schools have recently been given or have recently purchased a particular product, a training session may be quite useful. You may wish to organise a couple of parallel sessions, so that people can choose whether to go to the basic or the advanced “course”.
If there are quite a few attendees, some of whom may not need any training session, give a couple of further choices for them.
Write your ICT Strategy
Nobody in school has enough time to do things like write their ICT Strategy. You could provide them with an opportunity to do so, in a situation in which they will have access to your and their colleagues’ expertise and experience, and access to all the official documentation they need.
Write your e-Safety Strategy
As above, but for an e-Safety Strategy.
Observe a lesson, via video
Watch a video, and then discuss with others what were the good points and what the not-so-good points about the lesson (or extract from the lesson). You may want the group to focus on a particular aspect of the lesson. In fact, you might ask different groups to look at different aspects.
Obviously, you should get the video clips from a source that is in the public domain, or make sure you have the teachers’ permission to use it.
Observe a scenario, using actors
There are actors’ companies who visit schools and other organisations for educational purposes. If there are particular issues that need to be addressed, especially where relationships and choices are concerned, they will work with you to devise a semi-improvised scenario that brings out the points you want to address.
Be an inspector
Disseminate the relevant inspection framework, and a case study (anonymised or made up) and invite participants to “inspect” the school or department. What lessons can they learn to apply to their own situation?
Be an evaluator
As for an inspector, but perhaps a lighter touch, less formal or focusing on specific aspects of a school’s ICT provision.
Be a moderator
Disseminate examples of students’ work (anonymised), along with Level descriptions of the set of standards you go by, and ask participants to assess the students’ attainment, and come to an agreement with each other about it.
Be a data analyst
Disseminate some statistics pertaining to ICT attainment for one or two anonymised schools. Which students have shown the greatest attainment and improvement? Which are the areas that need to be addressed?
Be a trouble-shooter
Disseminate a case study of a situation in which several things are going wrong, and invite participants to identify the issues and suggest solutions. I used this approach to address problems being experienced in several of the schools represented at the event, and the outcome was very useful to all concerned.
Create a resource in a day
As already stated, people lack time in school. If you have 20 participants, and they get into pairs and create 10 resources by the end of the day (or the morning), everyone will have an extra ten resources they can use straight away, or which they can customise.
Share good practice, unconference style
Invite participants to take turns sharing good ideas with each other, or resources they’ve discovered, or things they have tried out in their own classroom.
Have a mini-exhibition
Bring in vendors to display their wares around the room or hall. Invite participants to provide examples of work they’ve been doing. Then allow time in the day for people to wander around looking talking.
Have a primary-secondary (elementary-high) school get-together
These two phases of education often do not know what the other one does. Getting them in the same room to discuss what they’ve been up to can be quite revelatory.
Collaborate with a partner school
If some schools are in partnership with a neighbouring school, or for a particular project, make time available in which they can have a meeting to progress some issues.
Collaborate with cluster schools
As above, but involving schools in a cluster, which may be geographically-based or based on a different criterion, such as participation in a government-funded project.
Plan your district’s policy
An ICT Co-ordinators’ Day is a good opportunity to thrash out issues such as the local area’s internet safety policy, or other issues of general local interest.
Have an away-day
This works best with a relatively small number of people, but can be very useful. For example, I once arranged a visit to a major software and hardware supplier. They gave us a tour, showed us products in development, a training session on an existing product and a nice lunch!
One day conferences do not need to be boring, or follow the same old tired format of a couple of keynote presenters and a workshop. Be imaginative!
If you have any other suggestions, please let us know in the comments section below.