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How to develop new teachers’ and trainees’ digital skills?

The demand for teachers to have a competent (or even advanced) level of digital skills has accelerated over the past year. There’s more expectation on trainee teachers and new teachers to have digital skills to support face-to-face and online learning. With this expectation there is also a need for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers to educate and model good practice within this area. In fact, Ofsted recently stated, “The move to remote teaching has stimulated deeper and more connected thinking about the ITE curriculum.”


However, this is at odds with the new Early Career Framework, which comes into effect from September 2021 for all new qualified school teachers and has no mention of digital or technology skills. Therefore the responsibility has been placed on individual schools, MATs and colleges to support and develop their trainees’ and new teachers’ digital skills.


I have worked in teacher development and ITE at Suffolk New College for the past 5 years and during that time I have developed a range of methods throughout our ITE programme and new teacher programme to support digital skills development. The four key methods we use are: introducing, developing, modelling and these are all underpinned by our fourth method, coaching.


Diagram representing how introducing, developing and modelling is supported by coaching.

Coaching

Coaching can happen at any point whilst supporting a new (or experienced) teacher or it can underpin the whole process. Coaching supports a new teacher to develop their practice and find new solutions to problems they face. There are several coaching models and structures you can follow.


One effective coaching structure is the challenge-based coaching model supported by the Google Certified Coach Program. This 5-step model supports a teacher to find a challenge that is relevant to them, identify a technology-based solution and implement that solution in their practice.


Whichever approach you choose, the important aspect is to offer tailored individual support for a new teacher. For teacher training, this coaching could be done through a trainee’s mentor or with a digital specialist who coaches several trainees.



Introducing

There are so many options for edtech tools you can use in and out of the classroom. When supporting or coaching a new teacher, it is important not to overwhelm them with too many choices. Consider what the key fundamental digital tools are that your school or college use on a daily basis and introduce these tools first. At Suffolk New College, we use Google Workspace for Education tools to support teaching and learning - therefore we start with Drive, Classroom, Docs and Sheets as our initial focus.


Once a new teacher is confident in using your essential tools then build opportunities to introduce them to wider digital tools, perhaps Flipgrid, Wakelet or Padlet to name a few. Try to customise the introduction of wider tools for each new teacher, for example by their subject area, their interest or by a problem they are trying to solve. This can be done through coaching.



Developing Digital Skills

With regular coaching over a number of weeks, you can support a trainee or new teacher to develop competence in a digital tool or technique and reflect on the impact on the learning of their students or their workload.


However, one problem with coaching is that it can take a lot of time to support all new teachers, especially if you have a number of them across your school or college. There are a number of ways you can support developing digital skills in an asynchronous way. Canopy’s Workspace Skills provides a number of interactive tutorials on a large range of Google Workspace apps. Once a new teacher completes a tutorial, they are awarded a digital badge to demonstrate the skill or tool they have just learnt. Workspace Skills is not just for new teachers, it can also support teachers that have used Google products for a long time by giving them updated skills, for example, new keyboard shortcuts to complete tasks faster and more efficiently.

Workspace Skills Badges

Another approach could be to set a competence achievement level for all teachers. This could be setting the target for new teachers to complete their Workspace Skills passport, or achieving Google Certified Educator Level 1 and 2 for example. For this approach, think about which benchmark is right for your setting and what that achievement will mean for your teachers. Also, build in a way of celebrating the success of your teachers when they achieve these standards.



Modelling

Whenever you are delivering a teacher trainee lesson or a professional development session, you should model best practice not only in teaching and learning strategies but also digital tools and techniques to support learning.

This will demonstrate to new teachers how to implement a tool effectively in their practice. Also if the tool or technique is new to the teacher then they get to experience it as a student first. This gives them the empathy to understand how their students might feel using the tool, but also the benefits it could have to learning.


When using a tool or technique, take time after the activity to reflect on how teachers felt as students and explain how you implemented it during the activity. This gives the trainee or new teacher an opportunity to see how they can set up a similar activity in their teaching.


Also when coaching a teacher, the coach can support modelling the practice in the teacher’s classroom with their students. This supports the teacher to observe the impact of the digital tool or technique with their learners and build confidence in integrating it within their practice.



Next Steps

If you are considering how you support your trainees’ or new teachers’ digital skills I would start with these initial questions:

  • What is the digital strategy for the school or college?

This could be a larger conversation, but try to have this focused around pedagogy-driven rather than technology-driven.

  • What are the essential digital tools that all staff use?

This will give you a priority list of the applications everyone needs to know.

  • What support structure will you implement?

You might have a structure around coaching or you might use asynchronous systems like Workspace Skills.

  • What benchmark or standard do you want teachers to be at?

This could be certifications, ebadges or success stories which you are able to publicise.



Good luck developing your approach to developing new teachers and trainees digital skills. For any questions, you can find me on Twitter @Simons_Darren.



Darren headshot

Darren is Head of TEL and Innovation at Suffolk New College, he is also the course leader for the initial teacher training FE programme at the college. His role is to lead on integrating technology enhanced learning into the curriculum and develop teachers and students’ digital skills. He is a Google Certified Trainer and Innovator. Darren creates and develops CPD programmes for staff and students at all levels focusing on technology and educational research. He also specialises in data analysis and using data to demonstrate trends and improvement. Darren has previously worked in the media industry for the BBC and commercial radio before moving into education as a media lecturer.

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