Engaging Staff with Digital Tech

An ETF-funded OTLA Digital Project

Who are we?

Now lovingly deemed the 'Have a go' project, our collaborative project involved three local authorities: Gateshead, Northumberland and Durham.

As local authority adult learning providers, we all have a range of different learners across many curriculum areas. Across the three providers, we have Vocational Learning, Traineeship learners on programmes of study, Community-based learning (e.g. dressmaking), Employability, Family Learning, Skills for Life (maths, English and ESOL), LDD & SEN provision and more.

Use and embedding of digital technologies in a relevant and engaging way across teaching, learning and assessment was identified as a recurring development area across OTLAs for Gateshead Council learningSkills, Durham County Council Adult Learning, and Northumberland County Council Adult Learning.

This project promoted a collaborative approach to engagement strategies for staff to use digital technologies in teaching, learning and assessment, with a focussed, problem-solving approach to enhancing current practice, ultimately impacting learner experience and engagement.

What did we do?

  • Self-assessment survey was carried out across all 3 organisations to capture starting points in terms of digital skills and measure staff progress against these, completed by 94 staff across all organisations, 42 from Gateshead Council, 29 from Northumberland Council and 23 from Durham Council. The results of the survey were particularly useful in identifying key specific barriers to engaging staff with digital technologies.
  • 8 key themes for workshops identified which included (but were not restricted to): Padlet, Mentimeter, Plickers, DuoLingo, Socrative, Kahoot, Nearpod, Edmodo
  • A team of 12 ‘digital champions’ identified across all 3 organisations. Digital champions are practitioners who have been observed as successfully and competently using specific, relevant digital technologies within their teaching, learning and assessment previously.
  • Digital champions delivered workshops for a practitioner-led approach to digital skills
  • Workshop reflection documents were completed by all attendees to consider how digital technologies could then be implemented into TLA and whether they felt this would be relevant to their learners
  • Mini-intervention tutor individual reflection documents were used to measure impact of digital technologies in TLA on specific groups of learners (see Appendixes attached, also available on Padlet)
  • Focussed walk throughs, OTLA and Ofsted feedback obtained to measure impact of quality of teaching, learning and assessment

Digital Champions

  • A team of ‘digital champions’ were identified across all 3 organisations. Digital champions are practitioners who have been observed as successfully and competently using specific, relevant digital technologies within their teaching, learning and assessment previously.
  • The digital champions were highly successful in driving engagement and have been instrumental in the project’s success.
  • Many digital champions also engaged with Gateshead College’s project, undertaking the Level 4 Digital Educators programme - this enhanced our project hugely.
  • Tutors were signposted to digital champions if they were identified as having developmental points in their observations of teaching, learning and assessment. Peer observations took place to enhance TLA and identify where 'problems' could be solved in TLA with digital technologies.
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Workshops were key in driving engagement, as they were delivered by practitioners (our digital champions in many cases, but not all), for practitioners. This really encouraged the 'Have a go' attitude.

At workshops, technologies were showcased and discussed from a teaching, learning and assessment point of view, so the impact on the learner was always at the heart of the 'sell'.

At workshops we asked practitioners:

  • What were the main things you have learnt today?
  • How will this be useful to your learners?
  • How will this be useful to you? What differences will it make in your teaching practices?
  • How are you going to practice/implement this learning over the next month?
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What changed in our TLA?

Changes in staff practice have been evident through session plans and planning for learning has significantly improved as through workshop reflections, practitioners have been encouraged to consider how they will implement a digital technology into their sessions within the next month.

Individual tutor reflections have also evidenced significant changes within teaching, learning and assessment practices, with tutors completing pre-session and post-session sections answering the questions:

  • What is the problem that you are trying to solve within your teaching, learning and assessment using digital technologies?
  • What digital technology are you going to use and why
  • How do you expect that this will impact your learners?
  • How confident do you feel about using this digital technology? (Measurable scale from 0-10?)
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So what did we learn?

This project has found that, even in a short period of time, digital technologies can contribute to outstanding teaching, learning and assessment if used in the right way. We have seen the beginnings of some significant shifts in attitudes, behaviours and beliefs from tutors who have been part of this project.

The project provides many examples of practitioners across all organisations successfully adopting digital technologies with a problem-solving approach, which is learner-centred:

  • Confidence with using technology has increased, evidenced through individual tutor reflections
  • Where digital technologies might not be successful the first time, the ‘have a go’ reflective approach has meant that tutors are evaluating and re-trying the same technology in a different way to assess the impact over a period of time
  • Peer observations in Durham and Northumberland have proved to be successful in seeing technologies in action and have been a highly effective engagement tool which has impacted on teaching, learning and assessment strategies
  • A large factor in the success of this project was practitioner enthusiasm and the uptake of the workshops. Communication of these workshops was vital to get the ‘buy-in’ required and it was found that the ‘sell’ was much easier when these were non-technical, practitioner-led CPD opportunities.
  • Staff are engaged with workshops which are delivered by practitioners
  • Workshops could have occurred earlier in the project, to assess the impact of 2 sets of workshops.

Collaborative Working

  • Organisations took different approaches depending on what worked best for them in terms of engaging staff – workshop format, CPD days, reflections etc.
  • Northumberland County Council held a tutor conference in October with the theme of ‘Engaging Learners with Digital Technologies. ’
  • Different technologies were selected depending on learners, rather than This increased collaboration as it meant we could learn from one another and progress the project
  • Findings from Durham’s digital walk throughs encouraged signposting tutors to digital champions to help solve problems digitally, this then informed and enhanced Gateshead’s approach
  • Durham & Northumberland had staff complete peer observations as part of the process of engagement which were highly successful, as a result Gateshead will take this practice forward with the digital skills strategy

For further information about this project

You can read more about this project on the Excellence Gateway at https://www.excellencegateway.org.uk/content/etf2937