Alicia Wallace, Digital Learning Manager
At GC we believe that Online learning is a hugely important part of what our students do. It enables them to experience a work-type environment with tasks directed by another individual that they are then expected to complete by themselves, using all the research and professional skills we have taught them.
We work with our teams in various ways to facilitate this process, including level specific Study Skills packs, digital student inductions, clear digital learning expectations for all academic staff and as much training and support as individual teachers need.
One of the key messages we have heard is that while many teachers are in agreement about the value of using technology, they don’t personally feel that they are equipped to use it. After many conversations we were able to discern that the teachers we were working with had always been presented with “Teaching and Learning” as one aspect of their work lives, and “Digital Technologies” as another.
Any training provided for use of a digital system tended to focus on the specific technology and not the teacher’s options for integrating it into their teaching process.
In order to address this, we began to cater our training to task-based or outcome focused sessions. We’d address a specific problem – for example, a teacher would be approached to discuss how they ensured their students weren’t plagiarising and this would segue into using a similarity checking tool on the VLE.
This process is a very effective one, although it can be slow at times, and it helped us see the much larger mindset issue prevalent in teaching and learning.
One of the indicators we saw was that experienced teachers were more comfortable taking risks and using technology to deliver an activity, whereas a new teacher would typically prefer to use only the tools they had been trained on in their teaching qualification. This is not an issue of digital literacy, precisely. Instead, it is an expression of confidence. The experienced teacher knows that if their digital activity falls flat then, just like they would with any other activity, they would replace it with an alternative. They have the confidence in their own abilities to be flexible.
Newer teachers are still learning their craft so they stick to the tools that they have been explicitly instructed in the use of, and where they have been provided with examples of how to teach well with them.
This mentality is crucial – the teaching teams we work with need to be supported to view digital tools through the lens of pedagogy, and steered away from the idea that the digital side and the teaching side are separate.
In order to address this, we at Gloucestershire College worked with Hartpury and Wiltshire Colleges to bid for some ETF funding to develop a training package which would train teachers to return to the basics of teaching, and look at digital activities as a natural extension of this.
As a result we have now produced this training programme which is being completed by all teachers around Gloucestershire College and is free to all to download and try. The programme has been demonstrated at regional and national events and is being very well received – we hope you find as much value in it!
EDIT: In a joyful addendum to the above, we attended a project dissemination day at which we were awarded a prize in recognition of our excellent work and impact! We’re all very proud and hope you find value in this project too.
— GC DigiTech Team (@GCDigiTech) July 10, 2017