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What might effective professional learning in e-learning look like?

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Duration: 3:20

Using technologies appropriately requires deep engagement because it is part of effective teaching and learning practice. e-Learning consultant Karen Melhuish Spencer outlines the key components for effective professional e-learning. e-Learning must:

  • be seen as part of a teacher's whole practice, not an add-on
  • be grounded in inquiry, superficial/informal learning should complement deeper reflection
  • have inclusion and cultural responsiveness as foundations.

Karen comments, "Knowing how to use an app on an iPad is very different to knowing how and why to select and integrate it into effective learning in Social Sciences." 

So, what might effective professional learning that is focussed around e-learning look like? Well, in many ways effective professional learning that is focussed on e-learning looks the same as effective professional learning that is focussed on any aspect of teaching, and the Best Evidence Synthesis around this has highlighted for us aspects that we know are most effective. Now while there are places for things like un-conferences, and conversations on social networks, and exchanging information around particular technologies, it needs to be part of a planned and effective approach to professional learning so that teachers get a chance to think about their own practice.

Now effective professional development might look very similar to when we’re thinking about effective learning for our students. Professional learning for teachers needs to be culturally responsive in the way we design our activities, and it needs to make sure that we can set our own goals and have a flexible approach and different pathways. We might choose to engage in synchronous, non-synchronous modes of learning, but whatever we choose, it must be tailored to what our students need.

Now there may be professional development for e-learning that is focussed on quite superficial thinking around information and skills that we need for particular software, but the professional learning that will make an impact invites us to think about our values and beliefs around why we teach the way we do, and then the role of technologies within that. So for example, knowing how to use an app on an iPad is very different to knowing how to integrate it into an effective social sciences experience for our students.

So, effective professional learning needs to focus on how we learn. When we’re designing professional learning activities, we need to think about laying the foundations and queuing up what we already know. We need to design activities that allow us to unpack our practice and talk about why we do what we do. And when we’re introducing new thinking around e-learning, it’s useful to hang it on a framework such as TPAC (technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge) something like that. It doesn’t matter really what the technology is that we’re looking at, we know that we can explore our practice in ways that makes sense to us. So for example, if your school were to be introducing bring your own device or one-to-one laptops, ask yourself how often do teachers get a chance to think about their own practice in relation to that. For example, to think about inclusion or differentiation for those kind of programmes when students have increased access to professional learning.

It’s useful for us to think about the inquiry framework and to ask ourselves what’s important for our students in terms of their strengths and needs? What kinds of learning, therefore, do I need that will help support my students? When we trial things in the classroom, our professional learning should allow us to come back and to think about what was the impact and what do I need to adjust or change as a result.