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wkyoung.net is a collection of thoughts, reflections and opinions of its author on the role of technology in education, with a focus on mobile technology. Drawing on Keith Young’s professional and academic practice this website will examine current research, technological challenges, ongoing projects and future trends in ICT in education.

Supporting your teachers’ confidence and competence with technology

It is both an exciting and challenging time in education; the opportunities presented by technological innovations and the new Junior Cycle Programme (JCP) also come with implementation challenges. The requirement for new classroom practices and pedagogies highlights the need for school leaders to support teachers in developing confidence and competence with technology-enhanced learning. In a busy academic year and the frenetic environment of a school it is not an easy job to make time, find space and devote resources to this task; nonetheless we must find a way.

An early consideration is whether professional development should be conducted in-house or with external trainers or facilitators? In previous research, teachers report that the number one influence on their teaching practice is other teachers (Diamond 2007). That means that if you really want to make substantial improvements in the experience of students in classrooms, you have to help teachers have meaningful conversations about pedagogy with one another. The role of the external facilitator has to be seen in another light; they work with school leaders to customise a professional development programme that is both in-house and external; they often work as a technology steward to kickstart a new initiative and provide periodic refreshment. Ultimately it will be communities of teachers, well supported by school leaders, that will lead the way to better practice.

The new JCP is a potential catalyst for revived CPD programmes and reinvigorated teaching practices. Groups of teachers can work collaboratively to design and develop JCP short courses, or even just new resources in established subjects. These Teacher Design Teams (TDTs) can have broad benefits to the practice of teaching, whether by revitalising subject knowledge or demonstrating the role of technology in creating a wealth of new digital resources. They are not new in Ireland; in 1973 the Integrated Science Curriculum Project used Teacher Design Teams to empower teachers to create a new syllabus and teaching resources.

The TDT concept provides teachers with a creative space to reconsider the teaching of their subject, the intellectual stimulus of working together and the challenge to move the thinking forward. In this way, teachers are invited to become curriculum makers (Simmie 2007).

While constructing these resources, teachers maintain a keen focus on the content, the technology and the teaching methods, all the time increasing their own competence and confidence in using technology; a process we call Learning by Design. These complimentary approaches allow teachers to work collaboratively to create resources in contexts that honour the rich connections between technology, the subject content and pedagogy. Collaboration between teachers is just the beginning; teachers will be able to support and challenge students in their own discovery of subject matter through all the tools that have available to them.

To effectively support teachers on this journey, school leaders should look at a variety of approaches, incentives and structures. Articulating a shared vision for revitalised teaching and learning amongst and entire school community is the first step. Developing a sense of community allows for an honest discussion of teachers’ fears, anxieties and needs; in the process creating an agenda for professional development. Making time and space for a continuing and sustained programme of professional development, both externally facilitated by a technology steward and peer-led, allows teachers to overcome fears, develop skills and in doing so, develop the classroom practices that are needed for a changing teaching and learning environment.

This article was written for the Wriggle Newsletter Vol. 1 Issue 03 and the  content is based on an earlier piece that is attached here: Strategies for ICT Professional Development.

 

 

References

Diamond, J. B. (2007). Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Rethinking the Connection Between High- Stakes Testing Policy and Classroom Instruction. Sociology Of Education, 80(4), 285-313.

Koehler, M. J. and P. Mishra (2005). What happens when teachers design educational technology? The development of technological pedagogical content knowledge. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 32(2): 131-152.

Simmie, G. M. (2007). Teacher Design Teams (TDTs) building capacity for innovation, learning and curriculum implementation in the continuing professional development of in-career teachers. Irish Educational Studies, 26(2): 163-176.