For those enthusiastic staff, the challenge of using technology is embraced, and many schools have trailblazers of staff who really enjoy experimenting with using devices. Well, splendid for them - but what about your average classroom teacher who has a basic knowledge of technology and already feels time pressured, and so 'doesn't have time' to sit and play within and become more familiar? And what about the teacher whose classroom practice is good and supporting good pupil outcomes?
This piece looks at six ways that you can encourage staff to move from consideration of how and when devices can be used though to building their confidence in using technology and develop their practice in lessons to support student learning.
1. Give the reason they need to learn a context.
Teachers, on the most part respond well if you can demonstrate the why they need to learn something new. The best reason you can give them is that will improve their students performance, attainment and therefore impact on improved life chances. In fact, find me a teacher who doesn't want this, and I will show you someone who needs to move to different profession. With that in mind, some staff respond well to being engaged with the educational research about the impact of the use of technology. You might like to share snippets of the NAACE report on the impact of iPads at Longfield academy.
You might also like to show teachers an infographic of the SAMR model, which shows how technology can be used to really impact learning. Whatever route you chose to take, show staff the benefits are for the learners, and while staff need to be comfortable with the technology, it is the students who will be using it. You might like to make posters for each department to remind them, but remember the SAMR model is not an OFSTED judgement. If staff are working at a substitution level they need to be supported to move beyond it, not judged for their use of technology. Nurture their progress, don't judge.
2. Make staff support and flexible as possible.
A whole day of INSET dedicated to IT training would be a slow death for even the most enthusiastic tech-savvy teachers. Short, sharp blasts are much better. Run evening and lunchtime twilight sessions on different days so that teachers with duties still have the opportunity to attend. Alongside this, it really helps to have a member of staff who can support teachers in lessons. Running your first NearPod can be scary, so try and have someone who is free to do some supportive handholding or evening lurking in lessons. Be available to offer department and 1:1 support. Everyone is learning at their own pace, and will need different types of support to succeed. Basically, treat your staff like you would a very differentiated classroom and be ready with all types of support, as well as catering for emergencies when they arise.
There is no panic on earth like a lesson totally tanking because the IT isn’t working. Been there, done that, and I have the T-shirt. It really helps to let staff know the IT won't always work and that they should have a plan B. If all else fails, they should know it won't kill anyone if the kids use paper that lesson instead of blogging, for example. So, be flexible in the support you offer and be prepared to take the learning to the staff, rather than sitting there and waiting for them to come to you.
3. Drip-feed inspiration.
You know how it is when you come back from an awesome training day or a TeachMeet, all buzzy with ideas? Well, I still manage to forget most of them. Teachers during the day-to-day routine of their classrooms stand even less chance of remembering that awesome they were shown during training, no matter how great it was. You just can't compete with the pressures of reports/CP issues/inspections/marking and all the other stuff that keeps teachers’ brains busy.
I have found it really useful to send a very short (50 word max) email every day with an IT teaching and learning tip, with an image to attract the eye. I also post these to a blog so that teachers can look them up later if required. The impact of this has far surpassed my expectations, and I am often stopped in the corridor at work to be told that staff had tried using a tool recommended in the email. A quick walk down the corridor often reveals teachers using the ideas from the email, even though they never mentioned to me they they did so. This slow drip feed of information has had real impact, more so than a whole day INSET. A great forum for drip-feeding inspiration might also by a weekly teaching and learning briefing. This gives opportunity for both digital learning leads to demonstrate key tools as well as inviting staff who have had success to share their experience with staff. Presentations by students and digital leaders are also particularly powerful.
4. Embed the use of technology into the best practice framework for your school.
Some schools are using an action research model to more objectively consider the impact of a particular teaching and learning strategy. Through considered and deliberate practice, more objective reflection and data can be made to showcase exactly what digital learning strategy was used, why it was used, how it was used and developed and refined, what benefits to learning it brought about, as well as consideration of both quantitative and qualitative data cross referenced with lesson study style observations from colleagues. By putting this forward for peer review within staff body, it enables the learning gains to be considered in a more reflective and professional way. This also makes the process of showing impact take place over a longer time rather than just a handful of lessons.
5. RiskIT (and other national schemes).
The NAACE-sponsored RiskIT campaign, which has been running since 2012, can be an effective wrap-around to encourage staff to try out new ideas in safe format. Originally started by Mr A Benjeddi from Northfleet School, this programme looks to integrate positive feedback, encouragement, teaching and learning support, technical support, digital leaders. This helps both staff and students to create an environment where, for a fortnight, every teacher in the school tries to implement at least one strategy successfully in the hope and belief that it will be sustained.
6. Build the use of IT into crucial pedagogical functions, such as assessment for learning.
Digital learning tools such as Socrative, Kahoot and Quick Key enable teachers to check what has been learnt and how well in a responsive, fast and efficient way. They can also allow for assessments to be easily shared and the data compared to see what is happening within year groups and between groups. The creation of these data files can prove so useful for real just in time formative assessment through a combination of multiple choice, true/false or text based questions. They can easily become a department’s assessment tool of choice as long as careful thought goes into the question design and option choice for students. Using IT to build upon key pedagogical areas, such as assessment, is a fundamental way to show staff that it has a meaningful place in school.
These are six stories, six ways that have encouraged, enabled and supported staff to consider the benefits to learning and their practice, that informed and considered use of digital learning technology can bring. Understanding the needs of staff and how best to support staff as either individuals or as department members is critical in determining what support and learning process you choose to offer to your colleagues. Crucially, remember, you can’t win them all. Some staff will take absolute delight in refusing to engage with technology at all (using an iPad as a bookmark is one memorable episode here).
All you can do is continue to chip away, positively role modeling why the technology is useful, as well as involving their department, who might well show them some subject-based reasons for using the technology. Remember to capture success and share them it via the mechanisms described above or other ways, such as an iTunes U course or video log, which will maintain momentum with staff and help to really deepen the quality of practice.
How do you tackle tech-engagement in your school? Let us know in the comments.
This article was co-written by:
Daniel is a teacher, digital leader and National Space Centre lead educator based in the West Midlands.