According to a Teacher Voice Omnibus Survey report published by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), a third of teachers struggle to use the technology schools are equipped with and want more support and training.
Since the survey is a measure of the opinion of teachers, it isn't possible to disagree with the report findings, however, I have raised the issue before of the time (18 months to 2 years) it takes for a teacher to become competent at a new technology. Andrew Pinder the Chair of Becta commented recently about technophobe teachers.
What support and training do they want? My guess is that they don't really know, and my experience is that there is tons of ideas and support already available through Teachers TV and many other sources; teachers are just not pro-active in using them.
Reliability is imprtant and its about getting technical support right. Training is a sensitive issue, and perhaps we are trying to impose a model of training and CPD that just doesn't work where technology is concerned.
So, is training teachers in the use of technology value for money? Does it make a measurable difference to effective practice? I have compared below some 'school approaches' with 'home approaches'.
Typical School training approaches:
- Inset days - limited number each year, crowded agenda and mostly groups of teachers.
- Twilight sessions – end of day, staff tired, go home, have glass of wine, back to school, forgotten within a week. It is the experience of most network managers and Heads of ICT that when they offer ICT training, few bother to attend unless its compulsory.
- 3rd Part Training - Cover provided for release of staff to attend a course. Considered by teachers as the gold standard; teacher is out of the classroom to concentrate on the matter in hand. Often a box-ticking exercise in CPD than changing the way teachers teach, and needs to be followed up with opportunities to practice? If you run these courses you will know that teachers are often keen to get away early!
On the other hand, when we buy home technology …
- Resources: You have the kit because you chose it (and paid for it).
- Motivation: You want to demonstrate your proficiency and impress your family and friends. Its fun and interesting or does something useful.
- Time: You make sure you spend time playing with it, exploring features and testing its potential.
In learning at home the following information may be referred to:
- Read the instructions (females only!!?)
- Research features on the web.
- Ask a friend / family member who already has one.
- Sit with family and friends and work it out together.
- Try it out and learn by mistakes until its figured out.
Contrast the way that we learn technology at home and in our practice. What should we learn from this? Social networks are important!
I’ve been picking up innovative approaches from various sources. The most impressive is that of Ewan McIntosh.
I think ...
- Popular technology must be simple to use and intuitive.
- Where technology is not intuitive or is complex it ends up being rapidly 'binned' and/or used only by enthusiasts.
- Online / On demand services are more accessible than those where local server installation and configuration are required.
- Massive improvements in connectivity are shifting applications and services from local servers to the web. As Sun Microsystems would say, "... the computer is the network".
- The motivation to learn and try new technology is a personal attribute - Many teachers don't have it!.
- Time to play with technology is more important than formal training.
- Formal training may be a waste of money.
- Learning technology MUST be a hands-on experience.
- Its often cheaper to give teachers free kit for personal use than pay for the training.
- Give every teacher a laptop. The cost per year should be no more than £170 per year or around 0.6% of their salary.
- The availability of knowledgable friends and on-demand resources has more value.
- If it isn't reliable, it will fail.
- If it isn't intuitive, it will fail.
- Teachers want to impress (but want quick wins) but don't want to spend hours learning something new so use intuitive applications.
Original NFER survey