e-Learning lead teacher, John O'Regan describes professional development for building teacher capability in using digital technologies at Hampden Street School. Their focus is on using e-learning tools to support learning. John says that one of the keys for them is having, "people who are really good at certain things then you can build that capacity up through that rather than having to have one or two people who know everything about it."
One of the things we really stress, and it’s part of our vision, is empowering students. We’re the same with the teachers. We want to empower them to use these tools. With teachers who are really struggling maybe to see where they’re going, one thing we try to do is not get them to shift too much at a time. Small increments is, can be a big thing for some teachers and giving them those next steps. Eventually they start to build that capacity.
One of the things we started out with as a bit of a focus across the school was class blogs. Something that we saw lined up with what we valued as a school was communicating with parents, with showing what we were doing in the classroom. And we stressed that it was quite important that all classrooms would have blogs. There was an element of we need to build that capacity. There were times when would do, whole group sessions on that as a staff. One thing we did, was we paired different people up and we’d have a little bit of a buddy system going and that worked for a while and we found that was quite effective but we sort of evolved from that a bit as we got into Google Apps.
We’ve invested a bit of money in PD around that and we’ve sent two thirds of the staff down to the GAFE summit. The area of digital technology is so vast. That to be an expert is quite difficult across the board. You can have people who are really good at certain things then you can build that capacity up through that rather than having to have one or two people who know everything about it. There is a bit of an expectation that people do try new things and that’s part of our appraisal is, how are we using these digital tools in our classroom to enhance learning? As far as Teacher Inquiry goes, this year we’ve moved to having three main focuses in the school and the focuses have been pedagogy, maths, and literacy. In those groups we’ve worked together as teams to conduct our inquiry and go through that process. Digital technology has come into that through what we’ve discovered through how we can best use the digital technology tools that we’ve got to enhance the learning in our classes.
Throughout the year we’ve had constant feedback and constant reflection. So we’ll break off into our groups, do a bit of research on what we’re doing, and then three or four weeks later we’ll all come back and just do a bit of a sharing time. Through that, teachers are getting ownership of the change that is happening. It avoids the resistance to it and so we’re committed to it. We’ve got that commitment to it, to this change. We got this commitment to the way that we do things. So once teachers have that understanding of what that vision is, then it’s a lot easier to make the links between that and the practical things of what we’re going to do day-to-day in our class.
In everything we do we should always go back and ask, is this coming from our vision? Is this coming from what we’re trying to achieve here? Moving the focus away from teaching ICT and more into here’s the learning we want to do, ICT can be a tool to use to help with that learning and that’s really helped to build teachers having more confidence to use and take risks with the technology that we’ve got and take away the focus from being, “I’m going to teach ICT”, to now, “I’m going to use these e-learning tools to help with learning in my class”.