Outstanding TLA Digital Projects

Empower staff to use digital technologies

December 2018 Newsletter

Who are we?

Four providers (Bishop Auckland College, Darlington College, Darlington Borough Council and South West Durham Training) worked together to address inconsistencies of staff using digital technologies to support and enhance teaching, learning and assessment. A variety of approaches attempted to improve staff knowledge, skills and confidence to plan and use suitable digital technologies to improve learners’ experiences, skill development and positive outcomes.

What did we do?

Initially, we disseminated a questionnaire to gauge staff skills and confidence when using digital technologies within their practice. This gave a clear starting point, to enable us to establish current variations in staff skill levels, and tailor CPD activities to match their individual needs. (We decided to offer the questionnaire digitally and in a paper-based version to try not to exclude staff with low confidence in their digital capabilities from the start of the project.) We also asked staff to complete the OTLA baseline questionnaire to ascertain current achievement of the Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers. These responses enabled us to further analyse common trends to help design a structured plan for CPD.

Each organisation identified ‘Digital Leads’ from various vocational subject areas, to act as initial experts. It was intended that the ‘Digital Leads’ would remain as a role to ensure continued dissemination of knowledge and skills as a legacy of the project. Digital Leads promoted and facilitated mini action research projects within teams, supported by a research mentor from the College teaching and learning team. This gave staff the autonomy to research and trial digital technologies available that were better suited to their subject and learners. They reviewed and summarised outcomes that were shared across their own and partner organisations

Each practitioner that has taken part in the project was encouraged to write up their own, individual piece of research. Some practitioners were again uncomfortable to write academically or use academic references in their research write-up. This was either because it had been a long period of time since they had done this or that they had never written up research previously.

From the outset of the project we agreed that it was imperative to ensure that staff were made to feel comfortable. Without doubt, this assisted in getting the quantity and quality of research evaluations. We think as a project group that staff would not have bought into the project if they had not been given allocated time to carry out the given project tasks due to general workload in the Further Education sector.

As a project group we held two large dissemination events for all staff in all four organisations. These events proved very popular with all staff that attended.

November 2018 dissemination event

There was real buzz at the event. We had a Twitter wall set up and encouraged attendees to tweet about the event. We used Wakelet to gather together the responses.

Click on the button below to see the collection.

Big picture

What did we learn?

  • Encouraging staff to take a period of time to experiment with various methods of digital technology before having to decide on their method that they will trial with their learners would have been additionally helpful.

  • Offering a training session to staff of how to write up their research projects as some staff struggled with the process. I think we assumed that all staff would be comfortable with writing up their findings.

  • It was the intention that staff would be encouraged to work in similar subject groups collaboratively across the partners. This didn’t really happen towards the end of the project but we didn’t see this as a major problem, as this encouraged the sharing of digital experiences across a wider area.

  • As a project group we held two larger dissemination events for all staff in all four organisations. These events proved very popular with all staff that attended. If we were to run another project we would have more of these events spread evenly across the timescale of the project.

  • The allocation of dedicated time to allow practitioners to experiment in a relaxed environment was also a big positive of the project. Practitioner feedback stated on numerous occasions that teachers had tended not to experiment with digital technologies because of the fear of negative feedback or the technology not working in taught sessions.

  • Encouraging staff to collaborate and share ideas in a relaxed environment has probably been the one of the major positives of our project.

Action research

Staff have produced some very detailed action research reports during the period of the project. Some of the project partners have even changed their model of CPD to include more autonomy and more opportunity for practitioner research. You can read some of the research reports in our case study on the Excellence Gateway (see below).

Presentation to the OTLA (North East & Cumbria) final dissemination event

We produced a video for the OTLA final dissemination event at Ramside Hall, Durham in December 2018. In the video participants (and some of their students) talk about their experiences of working on the project. To watch the video click on the button below.

For further information about this project

You can read more about this project on the Excellence Gateway at https://www.excellencegateway.org.uk/content/etf2935