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.
Neil Howie describes this course and how it differs from the one it is often confused with, the European Computer Driving Licence, and discusses its potential usefulness for the ICT teacher.
I have started to undertake the European Pedagogical ICT licence (EPICT) course, and am finding it very useful in bringing back to the fore things that I should be using in my teaching yet, for one reason or another, don’t always.
There is a series of modules that are aimed at assisting teachers to develop their pedagogical approach to using ICT within the classroom. It is not about developing one’s skills with software or keeping up to date with the latest happenings in the hardware or software market. Too often, once we’re in the job we focus on what’s the newest piece of kit and how to stay abreast of what’s going on in the real world and bring this to the classroom. Whilst this is important, (for example, my article in this issue of Computers in Classrooms, ‘Learning new software – Adobe CS4’ demonstrates some of the techniques that I use for this), it’s the pedagogical use of these new innovations that we often don’t take time to consider.
This is why this course is both excellent and different. I’ve been told that it can be confused with the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), presumably because two words are the same and they both relate to ICT. They are however completely different. Having passed all the ECDL a few years ago in one day, it is a skills based course in the likes of word processing, spreadsheets and databases that I would see as now aimed at good KS3 students, weak KS4 students, or those adults who are just starting out with computers. The EPICT is aimed at educational professionals who wish to further develop (or if you are an ICT teacher, re-visit) their approach to using ICT in a classroom setting.
For those in the UK they can register through a provider with a list at the EPICT UK website . Being in international education I am using a newly formed organisation ‘your WITS’, run by an experienced and very qualified ICT teacher, Peter Napthine from his base in Brazil. YourWITS has set up fifteen EPICT modules using a moodle based system, from which registered users can access all the materials needed for the course, as well as forums for each module (and general forums).
What I think is great, and often is forgotten when using any online course, is the response time, and appropriateness of the response. Whilst it is great to be able to access materials over the internet whenever one wishes, the real value of such a course is when the tutor/facilitator (and other course members if appropriate) gives prompt and useful advice and/or positive criticism. This is certainly the case with yourWITS, and makes taking the courses feel that one is both learning/re-learning, as well enjoying the experience of it.
To highlight what is on offer here is a list of the modules available through yourWITS:
- Locating and Incorporating On-line Resources
- Electronic Communication & Collaboration
- Creating and Using Interactive Resources
- ICT and Special Needs; Effective Use of VLEs
- E-Assessment; Presentation Technology, IWBs and Interactivity
- Literacy and ICT; Numeracy and ICT; ICT and Creativity
- Publishing on the Web; Digital Images
- Spreadsheet Models
- Games and Edutainment; and ICT and Strategic Innovation.
The first three, and last are compulsory for the Gold Award, with the remaining optional. In order to attain the Bronze award one has to complete 3 modules (including at least one compulsory module), the Silver award if after completing 6 modules (with at least 2 compulsory) and the full EPICT licence (Gold Award) is achieved after successfully completing 8 modules (4 compulsory and 4 optional).
As an ICT teacher I have started this course in order to both directly facilitate non-ICT teachers with their use of ICT, and act as support for them should they wish to further develop their ICT skills.. Whilst this is still the overall aim, I have been pleasantly surprised at how it has made me think about the pedagogical aspects of my lessons, which I may have taken my knowledge for granted for too long. If you have the opportunity then studying for the EPICT is I feel a worthwhile investment of one’s time and money.
http://www.epict.co.uk – EPICT in the UK
http://www.yourwits.com – EPICT for the British International Schools market
Neil Howie is Deputy Principal at the British International School, Belgrade, Serbia. He has been teaching ICT for over ten years in the UK, Nigeria, Serbia and Austria. He is an Adobe Education Leader, Microsoft Master Instructor, and Member of the Institute of IT Training. His latest blog is at http://nhowie.co.uk; he can be contacted via greenmars (at) g (dot) ho (dot) st.
This article originally appeared in Computers in Classrooms, the free ezine.