One of the main barriers to successful implementation of technology within schools is a lack of staff development to support this. If schools invest in technology in the classroom without investing time in staff development the best result they can expect is technology in the classroom which does little to enhance outcomes or at worst technology left in boxes or store rooms. Staff will not use technology effectively if they do not feel confident in its use or see it as adding little benefit to the outcomes of their learners.
All members of staff need to be involved in contributing to the vision for technology within the school. A top down approach will not work as it makes it hard for staff to see what is in it for them and the youngsters they teach.
We planted the seeds for our 1:1 rollout of iPads at our annual staff conference. We encouraged staff to be creative in ideas on how these devices could enhance our practice and improve learning dispositions. This helped the school create a vision for the technology before the technology was even procured and implemented.
It’s important to revisit this vision and ensure it still meets the needs of the school. Our vision for technology is very different now to how it was when we started our 1:1 journey over five years ago.
I have seen many examples where a significant amount of technology is brought into schools without any staff development invested prior to this. My advice would be to try and build momentum before large amounts of equipment is purchased.
At Honywood we launched the idea for a 1:1 rollout at our annual staff conference. We had purchased a small number of devices to create a single class set that were used for the remainder of that year for staff to develop confidence and capability in using the devices in their learning sessions and to redesign learning where they felt the technology could add value. One mistake I feel we made was not to allocate all staff with a device themselves at this time and I think this limited the exposure to the technology that staff had.
The benefit of this initial period of experimentation meant that we could build momentum around using the technology in a manageable way without a huge investment until we were sure the devices would add value. This ultimately led to our full 1:1 deployment of 1060 devices the following year.
Technology will not succeed in schools where staff do not feel they are able to take risks. This requires a culture around staff development that extends beyond the use of technology. Failure can be a great catalyst for learning and staff need to feel it is OK to get things wrong and have a mindset that facing failure will lead to future success. We have had a number of failures both at the macro and micro level; however each failure has driven improved practice. Schools need to carefully think about what they value when observing learning and how risk taking is valued as part of staff performance management.
Any staff learning around technology needs to start with pedagogy first. Consider what you wish to achieve and how technology can help you realise this. There are a number of ways to have this pedagogy focus while implementing technology.
One method is through the use of the SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition) developed by Ruben Puentedura. The SAMR model allows teachers to evaluate where their current technology use is and for projecting it where they want it to be. This video An Introduction to the SAMR model provides a useful starting point.
The SAMR model also has links to Blooms taxonomy and can really support higher level learning that may not have been possible without the use of technology.
Schools may find it useful to incorporate SAMR into staff development around learning design. This can really help to imbed the technology as part of normal practice instead of acting as a ‘bolt-on’.
With over 3 million apps between the Google Play and Apple App Store and a plethora of other non-mobile technology available to schools it can be overwhelming for staff to select the best tools for the job and even harder for staff and learners to be supported in their. Its important at least initially to really focus staff development on core workflows. If using mobile technology, this can be a set of three or four apps working together that are easy to use and can enhance learning quite quickly.
An example of a popular workflow:
Book creator (for evidencing learning) -> Explain everything to demonstrate understanding -> Showbie (for guidance and feedback)
Using target technology to deliver staff learning
A great way to enhance the development of staff is to incorporate the technology you are targeting into the delivery of the staff learning programme itself.
At Honywood we have had a large focus on a workflow that incorporates ‘Book Creator’ and our learning platform. As a result we have delivered our learning programme through the learning platform and asked staff to showcase their learning using ‘Book Creator’.
This has allowed staff to experience the technology as a learner while also developing their practice in using it as a teacher. I’ve seen other schools take similar approaches where they use things like iTunes U to deliver their iTunes U development programme.
A common practice that can be successful in schools is to establish a team of digital leaders. These are members of staff who volunteer to spearhead the use of technology within their own subject areas.
This is something that we have introduced at Honywood School for the first time this year; however I have seen it bring benefits in other schools. These people are often passionate about their subject and technology and provide opportunities at the grassroots level which feeds upwards.
Our digital team meet regularly to examine the use of our technology, experiment with new technology and develop approaches to incorporate technology into our pedagogy.
Sharing good practice
Often in schools there is untapped expertise amongst staff that simply needs recognising as good practice. Schools need to be cautious in sharing all practice as not all practice is good.
Think about your vision and your core workflows. What practice supports this and are there people in the school that could benefit from the development opportunity of sharing practice with other staff without adding significantly to their workload.
We’ve used various methods of sharing good practice from marketplace showcase events to short video vignettes which focussed on one aspect of our practice using technology, what we wanted to achieve, video of that technique being used in the classroom followed by feedback from the teacher and the learners in the session. These vignettes have provided good starting points for discussion around improving our practice.
Research and development
There’s a great wealth of resources outside of schools around the use of technology. Studies carried out by charities such as Techknowledge for Schools, published material, blogs and Twitter demonstrate current thinking and practice on the use of technology.
No school is an island and it can be beneficial to give staff time to research what is happening in the wider world, see how that practice fits the school’s context and develop an approach to trialling new strategies and developing them for use in the school.
Most of my development this year has not been through original thought, but through distillation of things I have seen or read elsewhere. This also has the benefit of engaging staff in educational research which may bleed past the focus of technology and bring additional benefits to the schools growth.
Written by Marc White, Subject Leader Computing Science, Honywood Community Science School