Pakuranga College principal, Michael Williams talks about how to build staff capacity when introducing digital technologies. Michael says, "I think schools often make a mistake that they put the biggest technical expert in charge of telling everyone else how to do it and they’re talking different languages". He explains the research and development role they have introduced, which helps to bridge this gap.
One of the key aspects of a successful programme is about building staff capacity and that’s around professional learning. It’s about how you bring everyone’s capacity up, and that’s ideally the strong teachers, people with really strong pedagogy. They come on board and they start talking about how they’re using this to improve the learning in their classrooms. I think schools often make a mistake that they put the biggest technical expert in charge of telling everyone else how to do it and they’re talking different languages. There’s a huge divide there. Those innovators need to talk to someone else who can then talk to the rest of the staff and that’s the process. That gap’s too big, they’re not the right people to change teachers’ practice.
Don’t neglect your high flyers, you’ve got to keep them excited. It’s part of where we have a small position called research and development. Where is the person who is going out looking for the new technologies that could have a really powerful application in the school? Our R and D position which was an idea that I saw in California. Their brief is around taking some technology and bridging that gap so everyone can use it. So, the two steps where that’s been successful, they’ve taken an idea, they’ve written, if you like, the technical manual, where do you plug this, and what do you do, and what button do you push? And beside that sits the pedagogical manual which shows you, if you use in the class, you can do these strategies and the students learning will change like this and those two things together, plus sitting by the teacher the first time, ensuring you install the app for them and holding their hand, being there or making sure a student or someone’s there with them the first time they trial it, that takes a bit of technology into commonplace teaching practice. And so that’s been an important step, one that for our context that’s working.