I recently came across a blog by a Head of English in a school. It’s interesting to hear the views of a non-ICT specialist about what works or might work in getting teachers engaged. There are some very useful points made in the post entitled Professional Development in Schools:
Listening to staff after PD, their number one complaint is about not getting time to play and make stuff with what they just learned
This is absolutely correct in my experience. In fact, one of the most successful training sessions I ever ran was one where I allowed the teachers to spend three hours playing and experimenting, with myself and a technician on hand to give advice and guidance when asked. Teachers often think that they have to be doing and speaking all the time. You don’t.
Make sure the project is based on something that can actually be used in the classroom (not just an excuse to try new tools) following a sound curriculum planning process.
Something which ought not need to be said, but it’s all too often the case that people fall into the trap of pursuing gadgets and widgets for their own sake. The key question to ask about anything in education is “So what?”. If you can’t answer that question truthfully and convincingly in terms of students learning outcomes, then why are you undertaking that activity?
Another idea is that of “Lunch and Learns”, taken from Bianca Hewes’ blog. The idea is that you run short lunchtime sessions which teachers may attend in order to refresh their knowledge of, or be introduced to, an application. I have to say that although I can see the attractiveness of this, I have an ambivalence towards it, for the following reasons.
Firstly, I have come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the best thing to do at lunchtime is have lunch, followed by doing the crossword, chatting with friends, going for a walk or staring into space. I can’t see how working at lunchtime can be effective or even healthy – which is why for the past eight years I have eschewed breakfast meetings whenever possible.
On the other hand, I can see that lunch and learns are an attractive alternative to twilights and learns. Perhaps the important thing is to experiment and find out what appeals most to your colleagues.
The author of the blog, M Giddins, surprised me by saying that she avidly followed my 31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader series -- “surprised” because I’d written the series for ed tech leaders rather than other subject leaders, and it hadn’t occurred to me that others might find it useful. I put this to her, and she responded by saying:
I think now that any leader in education also falls into the role of educational technology leader in some ways. I have a faculty that need to be guided in their quest for technology integration and I need to be both the one who models, leads and inspires as well as the solver of the practical problems sometimes inherent in the integration of technology. Your series was very clear about the WHY behind the practical solutions that you offered, which made it possible to apply different solutions to suit my situation.
Finally, there is a link to a list of tools which is definitely worth exploring. The ones I know about already have a rightful place on the list, and I’m looking forward to exploring the others.
This précis of the article hardly does it justice, so do take the time to read the original, which is as inspiring as it is engagingly written.
Other articles you may find useful
31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader: Are You REALLY an Ed Tech Leader (ictineducation.org)
What are the big issues facing ed tech leaders today?
Please take five minutes to complete a survey about this:
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.