The scandalous lack of technology CPD support for schools dawned on me some years ago at one of our EdTech Expos in Yorkshire. A colleague was demonstrating a new touchscreen to some delegates and a lady approached, clutching her phone with the camera switched on. She was filming the demo with a look of awe and wonder on her face.
‘Great!’ I thought, ‘we’re generating interest and we have a possible customer to talk to!’ The demonstration concluded and I asked her what she thought. She was a Deputy Headteacher, and she told me she’d heard about how SMART Boards can link to pupil tablet devices to assign learning activities, but she’d never seen it live.
‘Great!’ I thought again. For a supplier to have such a conversation with a school we don’t know is a rare moment of glory!
But then the penny dropped, and her face fell, when I told her the make and model of what she was looking at. Her school had purchased seven of these some months back, and they come included with a one-year licence of SMART Learning Suite software. Knowing the process as it was then, she would have received seven licence activations shortly after install.
She had arguably the most effective lesson-delivery software globally, but no one had told her she had it, let alone how to use it.
Her IT company who supplied them perhaps didn’t know either – why would they? Teaching and learning technology is not their expertise.
She’d purchased the equivalent of a shiny new Ferrari, loved it, but had been driving around in first gear.
In the interim, in both my role with edtech supplier Elementary Technology and on the board at Naace, the edtech charity, I’ve come across several similar heartbreaking stories. Poorly informed purchasing decisions are being made, and then followed up with poor ongoing support.
The EdTech Insights Research I conducted at Elementary Technology highlights that one in three teachers have never had training on their teaching technology, and 51% of teachers say they only use the basic tools available to them. This means that thousands of teachers and countless pupils are missing out. Poor technology CPD is acting as a barrier to learning.
Why is there a gap in technology CPD provision?
- The majority of suppliers don’t themselves have the knowledge to pass on
- There’s no accountability – no one is checking up on suppliers to up their game
- Schools don’t understand what they’re missing out on, and so don’t demand higher standards
- Budgets are so tight, that paying for important yet non-urgent technology CPD has been an early casualty
- CPD takes time. Schools don’t have the spare time or staffing capacity to upskill. The demand isn’t there.
“Explaining where the HDMI ports are and how to draw a circle on the screen, which is what many suppliers constitute as training, does not help schools improve outcomes”
What can we do to address this?
- Schools raise their expectations and insist on higher standards. Supply should improve to match
- Procurement frameworks such as Crown Commercial Service RM6103 insist on teacher-focused CPD provision, above their current main priority of supplying at minimum cost
- Initiatives such as Edtech Demonstrator Schools expand in capacity, and are better supported with funded CPD programmes. These over-stretched schools should be more the conduit for quality CPD as well as the creators and deliverers
- Schools provided with funded access to the growing number of quality platforms, such as Tablet Academy
- As is happening with success with the Welsh Hwb platform, technology is streamlined and standardised. CPD becomes more efficient, less fragmented and more easily accessed.
CPD needs to become an expectation or even an assumption, just as a school wouldn’t purchase technology without a power cable.
More broadly speaking, COVID-19 has forced our hand online – and that’s good news. Platforms such as the Elementary Technology Get Set Go CPD platform allow teachers to upskill in their own time. And as this issue of ET goes to print we’ll be holding our first Trust-wide EdTech CPD session online.
CPD – such a short acronym with such far-reaching potential – must be teacher-focused though, and lead with pedagogy. Explaining where the HDMI ports are and how to draw a circle on the screen, which is what many suppliers constitute as training, does not help schools improve outcomes.
Taking this to the next stage and demonstrating how to use this circle tool to teach pupils part-part-whole in maths is better. Hosting a lesson and using a visualiser to teacher letter formation is also better. Working with the school to bring EdTech CPD into their digital strategy is better still.
Access to the latest edtech is not the end game. It’s the start. Ferraris are shiny, sleek and fabulous. Let’s make sure they’re supplied with the ignition key, fuel and a long-term dose of advice and expertise on how to drive like a legend.
You might also like: Promethean’s State of Technology report explores school budgets and CPD