Vikki Liogier is head of learning technologies at the Education and Training Foundation
What are teachers looking for when it comes to edtech training?
This will depend on teachers’ experience of using technology to develop their practice, so training needs to be pitched at different levels accordingly.
The Digital Teaching Professional Framework developed by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) for teachers, trainers and assessors provides a structure for mapping professional development using technology around three stages – exploring, adopting and leading.
It will also depend on whether teachers seek to address a particular issue – how to record a teaching session, for example – or to develop a broader understanding. Increasingly, there is a just-in-time mentality, particularly when it comes to anything to do with technology, following the approach of looking up ‘how-to’ videos from the internet.
Ease of access to tech training is therefore a key consideration, with short, bite-sized interventions that can be used on a self-serve basis. Even where a bigger topic is of interest, breaking it down into short, bite-sized chunks to build understanding can be more attractive and accessible. This type of ‘as needed’ training can also be less intimidating than booking onto a classroom-based course where levels of existing knowledge will be exposed.
Lastly, teachers are more likely to be looking for training focused on pedagogy rather than technology – showing how technology can enhance their professional practice, rather than reducing their role to that of mere facilitators.
What training is available for free, and how effective is it?
There are now lots of sources of free training available for teachers/trainers, largely focused on proprietary technology tools. For example, Microsoft has a wide range of free courses, or there is Google for Education using Google tools with two levels of certification. Adobe offers the Adobe Education Exchange, while Apple has Apple Teacher and Apple Professional Learning. In addition, there are free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) for teachers/trainers on the university-backed Futurelearn platform. On the whole, these industry and MOOC courses are reasonably substantial. Some have a certificate or accreditation for completion.
The ETF launched a free edtech online training service for teachers, trainers and assessors in the FE and training sector in January 2019, with a different, bite-sized learning approach. The ETF’s Enhance Digital Teaching Platform offers a selection of short online training modules, typically five to six minutes in length, with digital badges linked to completion. Users are not required to register in order to keep the service ‘friction free’, but over 800 of the nearly 4,500 visitors to the website so far have registered and so far over 1,000 digital badges have been gained. Feedback left by users has also been very positive. A formal evaluation of impact has not yet been completed.
Edtech encourages a more collaborative approach to teaching. The digital divide and exclusion are, however, not a myth.
Can educators access online training? How does this work with their teaching schedule?
The growth in online courses for teachers/trainers, and the take-up of the ETF’s Enhance Digital Teaching Platform, suggests that many educators are able to access online training. However, there can be significant barriers, of which time in the teaching schedule is only one. A report for ETF published in April 2018 looked at barriers and enablers to embedding learning technologies in the further education sector, which identified a requirement for just-in-time training for convenience around teaching schedules.
These barriers include unreliable IT infrastructure; problems caused by classroom and building design; lack of staff confidence in their digital skills; difficulties in accessing digital resources and lack of opportunities to share good practice; lack of time for digital content creation; communication issues within colleges; patchy training for staff and lack of mentoring; and incompatibility of some pieces of kit with internal IT systems.
Enablers were the reverse of the above, but also availability of just-in-time training at appropriate times; reward and recognition systems for staff; use of tools and materials from external organisations; staff-student partnerships; and specific examples of software and hardware.
Where are teachers currently getting their training? From their institution, from tech suppliers, or from their own independent research?
The ETF performed a national training needs analysis for the FE sector that covers some aspects of the question, and a digital training needs analysis report has been extracted from the main Training Needs Analysis [see links at end of feature].
How would you sum up the current state of teachers’ edtech competencies? And how much edtech is currently untapped, as teachers aren’t getting the training to use it?
The ETF has just published two research reports into teachers’ and learners’ attitudes towards digital technologies in the classroom, their current usage and aspirations for their use in the future. The reports conclude that the use of technology in teaching and learning in further education is widespread, but that its full potential is yet to be realised.
A report on digital skills based on research in autumn 2018 showed that, whilst a minority of institutions were content with the digital skills of their staff, a majority noted that the pace of change in digital technologies and/or the introduction of new systems and equipment generated a demand for continuous or future updating of relevant skills.
How should teachers’ edtech training vary between, say, a primary school and a secondary school? What competencies will be key in each case?
It’s difficult to generalise. There is often an assumption that younger generations are digital natives and acquire basic digital skills from a very young age, while the mature students may be less spontaneous and less agile in their use. Edtech training should be aligned to a learning outcome and any chosen digital tool should enhance a specific pedagogical approach. Teachers are used to differentiation, and there will always be some learners, whatever their age, who need more support than others.
One of the advantages of edtech is that it promotes, in the words of Chandra Orrill, “a shift from thinking about teaching as providing information, to thinking of learning and creating learning environments”. This in turn creates a relationship shift between teachers and learners, as the teacher is no longer the sole information holder and promotes an “evolution toward inquiry-based learning and toward the development of a learner-centred environment”. Edtech encourages a more collaborative approach to teaching. The digital divide and exclusion are, however, not a myth and we are in the process of designing CPD training to support staff in developing the “essential digital skills” of adult learners.
Similarly, how will edtech needs, and training, vary across different departments within the same school?
With the challenges ahead posed by automation, all learners should learn how to remain safe online, collaborate and communicate digitally, create a blog, build a website and interact with online content, as most of them will at some point work as sole traders or freelancers whatever the industry they intend to join. We are training students to become career surfers who will ride the digital wave and embrace the digital disruption with multiple jobs and a portfolio of careers.
Are any UK schools leading the way in edtech CPD for their teachers?
Each year the Times Educational Supplement awards education institutions for their performance, including effective use of technology. Although the award does not always reflect on edtech CPD for their teachers, the awarded institutions value the use of edtech and this reflects the organisations’ culture. Bolton College, Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education and Preston’s College all received the Effective use of Technology in Further Education Award (Jisc). Elsewhere, 50 schools in the UK have been awarded the 2019 Edtech School status.
We are also currently piloting the Enhanced Digital Teaching Management Dashboard, and Waltham Forest is demonstrating an effective support framework and rollout model for this.
The Digital Teaching Professional Framework: et-foundation.co.uk/supporting-practitioners
Microsoft free courses: education.microsoft.com/courses
Google for Education: teachercenter.withgoogle.com
Adobe Education Exchange: edex.adobe.com
Apple Teacher/Apple Professional Learning: apple.com/education
Futurelearn MOOCs: futurelearn.com/courses
Education and Training Foundation (ETF) Enhance Digital Teaching Platform: enhance.etfoundation.co.uk
ETF report on barriers to edtech adoption: et-foundation.co.uk/research
2019 EdTech Schools: ednfoundation.org/EDTECH50
European Schoolnet: eun.org
Enhance Digital Teaching Management Dashboard: