The 4 Hallmarks of Successful Professional Learning for Teachers

By Anita L’Enfant

Australian principals, pay attention: More than half of teachers wanted more professional development than they’d received in the last 18 months, according to Creating Effective Teaching and Learning Environments: First Results from TALIS.Whilst this is no surprise, it is interesting to note teachers in Australia especially suffered, falling below the global average for professional development days each year —the majority took fewer than six.

It is well-known that having enough of and the right type of professional learning is crucial to ensure educators are equipped with the right knowledge and tools to drive effective educational outcomes. When it comes to new technology programs such as 1:1 rollouts, it’s especially vital that teachers feel ready to use these new tools and devices to foster individual learning for students. Here are some of the hallmarks of effective professional learning that can help set up your technology program for success.

Tip 1: Ensure professional learning opportunities meet the needs and goals of the teacher

Differentiation is not just for students. Tailoring professional learning to individual teachers leverages their own learning and instruction style to impart techniques they can apply in the classroom. When it comes to technology, your teaching staff will have different skill levels. Being able to identify strengths and weaknesses in technology gives each teacher their own individual path to growth. Elements such as small group professional learning, teacher mentoring, lesson modelling and online progress tracking help ensure the individual teacher doesn’t get lost in a world of new technology — or in a sea of other educators.

Tip: 2 Keep professional learning a continual process that occurs informally as well as formally

Whilst having dedicated, formal professional learning sessions is customary, working out a way to extend these teachings into a continual process of optimisation is where teachers — and your entire school — will see real benefits. An article in Australia’s Capital Magazine pointed out that about 70 per cent of all learning activity happens informally.Having regular discussions about development and offering access to online learning materials are ways to foster this ongoing process. These tools also help teachers address their own unexpected learning needs, which are bound to come up when it comes to navigating new technology programs and devices. The goal of professional learning should not just be to inspire but also to implement change. Teachers should have the opportunity to learn with and from each other as well as their students, particularly in the realm of technology.

Tip 3: Build in accountability to every professional learning opportunity

To demonstrate success, you must track progress. Using a performance management system to give reviews on a term, semester or annual basis is one formal way to hold teachers accountable for transforming their professional learning takeaways into actions that use technology to positively affect student learning. Informal discussions can also help by allowing you to check in with teachers on a more regular basis to see if they have questions, concerns or challenges related to their professional learning action items. Consider utilising an external professional learning facilitator to plan a term-, semester- or year-long professional learning technology strategy for your school that includes built-in progress tracking.

Tip 4: Use professional learning to create a school culture of learning and extend learning to everyone including parents and the wider community

Professional learning for teachers should not occur in a vacuum. Collaboration amongst all the school stakeholder populations will put everyone on the same page to achieve a common vision to which everyone is committed when it comes to your technology implementation. This type of collaboration includes sharing successes and mistakes about lessons, curriculum and procedures, an agreement on broad educational values and allowing teachers to act as independent leaders to choose and adapt specific pedagogical strategies that spur educational outcomes. Professional Learning at Datacom is built on these good learning principles.

Make sure to join our webinar on Nov. 27 from 4 to 5 EDST with Anita and two representatives from Mount Sinai College to learn how to use planned professional learning and ICT support for a successful 1:1 rollout. 

Establishing the national Professional Learning Services team at XciteLogic in 2009, Anita brings over 20 years teaching experience to Datacom’s Education services. She has taught most age groups — from kindergarten through to university lecturing — and has also assumed specialist teaching roles. Her previous teaching and consultancy roles, and current role with Datacom, has seen her work throughout Australia and internationally, teaching students, educating teachers and working at systems levels to help implement learning initiatives where teachers learn alongside their students in a technology-rich environment.

7 Questions to Ask When Planning a 1:1 Technology Rollout in Your School

By Anita L’Enfant

If you’re beginning a 1:1 student laptop program in the next school year, now is the time to start planning. You will already have a clear vision of the program — the next step is to look at the logistics and support needed to achieve your goals. There are questions you can ask internal stakeholders now to learn which technology-related needs and concerns your school has. Once you’ve surveyed your stakeholders, you can work with an education services provider to tailor a 1:1 technology strategy using a holistic approach to meet your goals.

1. Do you currently have full-time IT support staff in your school?

Even in the most successful 1:1 technology rollouts, there are bound to be questions on device use and how to connect to the network. If you don’t have any IT support, teachers might approach more tech-savvy colleagues to solve their technology problems, costing these teachers time and productivity.

2. Are there policies for handling IT-related issues?

If you do have IT staff support or plan to hire some either internally or through an outsourced relationship, they can’t devote all their time to supporting technology in the classroom. Map out how much time and cost should be allocated to this type of support and describe in detail how both students and teachers can address any 1:1 technology issues.

3. Are there policies for using the devices inside and outside of school?

If there are already policies in place for using the Internet, computers and social media in your school, you can build off them to craft guidelines for new 1:1 technology in the classroom. Components can include appropriate use of technology in the classroom and outside it, protecting against cyber security issues and what to do in cases of device downtime inside the classroom.

4. How do you plan to integrate 1:1 technology into your curriculum?

Issuing 1:1 devices to students and teachers without providing learning around how educators can use the technology in the classroom, is a recipe for disaster. Discuss the needs, concerns and ideas of your teaching staff and engage an outside education services consultant for assistance in fully integrating 1:1 technology in the classroom.

5. Will you have a document workflow strategy with security, privacy and archiving procedures?

You’re about to have a lot more data flowing through your school with a 1:1 program. This includes both data stored and shared between devices and data printed on school printers. Security parameters and privacy controls must be in place so data isn’t compromised or accessed by the wrong individuals. For instance, you might want to impose a rule that teachers and students can’t use personal email on their devices when using the technology in the classroom. Also consider how you will store data that must be retained for a number of years and the costs of potential solutions.

6. How will you track performance on your technology investment?

Having metrics and a reporting structure in place is crucial to demonstrating the ROI of your 1:1 technology program. But even more important is actually knowing what you want to track from the beginning of the program. Are you looking to increase overall education outcomes, reading ability or math scores by using technology in the classroom? You’ll be able to find these answers by surveying all your internal stakeholders, including administrators and teachers.

7. How will you identify areas for improvement around technology within your school?

Your new 1:1 rollout should never be a Band-Aid for your school. The program will continually need to be optimised to produce the most successful use of technology in the classroom possible. Come up with a schedule and process for how often you will assess how your different 1:1 program components are performing for your school.

Establishing the national Professional Learning Services team at XciteLogic in 2009, Anita brings over 20 years teaching experience to Datacom’s Education services. She has taught most age groups — from kindergarten through to university lecturing — and has also assumed specialist teaching roles. Her previous teaching and consultancy roles, and current role with Datacom, has seen her work throughout Australia and internationally, teaching students, educating teachers and working at systems levels to help implement learning initiatives where teachers learn alongside their students in a technology-rich environment.

The Evolution of Technology in the Classroom: A Q&A with Datacom Education Specialist Anita L’Enfant Part 2

This is Part 2 of our Q&A with Datacom Education Specialist Anita L’Enfant on the evolution of technology in education in Australia.

1. In your experience, what contributes to teachers being successful in using technology in the classroom?

It is really important for teachers to be successful in their changes when implementing a technology-enabled learning program. We always recommend taking small steps and implementing a workflow and system that embeds technology in the classroom rather than just adding in games and activities to use the device. For this to happen, there needs to be good technology choices at appropriate times in the learning experience and ongoing professional learning that supports teachers in the pedagogical changes they need to make — not just in knowing how to work the device. Teachers need time to explore, play and experiment with technology in the classroom, just like all learners.

2. What are some of the ways we measure the effectiveness of technology in the classroom?

There are many ways to measure the effectiveness of technology in the classroom because it depends on the learning outcomes you aim to enhance. In almost all studies into technology-enabled learning, the level of student engagement increases dramatically. This is shown both in the amount of time students spend actively engaged in learning at school but also in drops in absentee rates.

One of the world’s earliest “Learning with Laptops” trials in the U.S. measured literacy achievement and showed significant increases in writing achievement by using laptop technology in the classroom. These results have since been replicated all over the world. The Victorian iPad trial in 2011 also reports improvements in student learning outcomes, increases in independent learning and improvement in parental engagement. In measuring the effectiveness of the use of technology in the classroom, schools must also ensure they plan and implement a change in teacher practice.

3. Can you give some examples of how you’ve seen successful outcomes with technology in the classroom?

One of the most effective ways to use technology in the classroom is to duplicate the teacher. The teacher puts a whole unit of work online — video instructions, screencast lectures, links to websites and explicit tasks —, and students are then able to work through the unit at their own pace. This means students can spend more time on a particular concept if they need to or move ahead if they are able using this technology in the classroom. Having all the tasks and resources easily accessible frees up the teacher during class time to support students individually or in small groups without having to waste time keeping a whole class on task.

Other examples where students are involved in using technology in the classroom include creating something that demonstrates their understanding. For example, students might use a music creation app to create a song about sustainable water use or a stop-motion animation to demonstrate how the digestive system works.

Students are also using augmented reality tools to link the learning process to a final product. This allows them to video the process they went through in a learning project, with their reflections and observations, and link this to an image of the final product, which could be a robotics machine or a piece of artwork or a chemistry project. All of these uses of technology in the classroom encourage reflective learning, which we know enhances the learning process.

4. In your opinion, how has use of technology in the classroom evolved in Australia and where do you see it heading next?

The revolution is that technology in the classroom in Australia is now in the hands of the learners — all of them, whenever they need it. Device availability, affordability and mobility mean technology has become just another tool for learning like pens, pencils and paper. The focus is no longer on the technology but on the learning. I see educators in Australia using technology in the classroom as more of a connection tool in the future — allowing teachers and students to connect with knowledge experts from around the world, with communities that have similar or completely different needs andenhancing the links between student, school and home with the individual learners’ needs. Everything we know about learning is that it is enhanced when there is a strong partnership between these three entities. In that way, the best use of technology in the classroom will continue to enhance and support what we have always known about good learning practices.

The Evolution of Technology in the Classroom: A Q&A with Datacom Education Specialist Anita L’Enfant Part 1

In classrooms all over Australia, blackboards and chalk have given way to tablets and touchscreens. This shift toward incorporating more technology in the classroom is allowing students to be more collaborative and learn in a way that suits them individually. Technology in the classroom is also presenting new and exciting opportunities for teachers, who are no longer bound to print worksheets and textbooks in their lessons.

To properly implement technology in the classroom, schools must embrace the necessary cultural change that will affect students, teachers, parents, IT and administrators. We spoke to Datacom Education Specialist Anita L’Enfant on the shift toward a more digital learning environment and how educators can learn how to use these tools in the classroom.

1. When in Australia did we really begin seeing a move toward a teaching approach focused more on the individual student and providing a 24/7 learning opportunity involving technology in the classroom?

Education has been stuck in a 19th century model of teacher-centric learning that we’re all familiar with, but there have been movements towards a focus on the individual child and his or her learning style since the 1970s. Educational research into learning styles, learning through collaboration and how the brain constructs knowledge demonstrates the need for education to be learner-centred and owned, which has involved into more use of technology in the classroom.

2. What have been the catalysts that have led to this increased focus on technology in the classroom?

During the last five years, mobile technology has developed in leaps and bounds, allowing accessible technology in the classroom. The affordability and availability of mobile technology has provided students with the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in many different ways, including using technology in the classroom, and for teachers to provide learning experiences to students beyond what they can see in their classroom. Technology in the classroom, in a sense, has bridged the gaps amongst different ways of learning and interacting in the classroom.

3. What are some of the main components that make up this type of “21st century learning” prioritising technology in the classroom?

Choice is the biggest change for 21st century learning and technology in the classroom. With technology tools that allow for the creation of multimedia, connection to the world’s experts and a world-wide platform for a student’s voice, teachers have a great deal of choice in the type of authentic learning experiences they can provide for their students using technology in the classroom. Students can be creative with words, sounds and images to explain processes and knowledge they have learned. While this type of student-centred learning is not new, technology in the classroom makes it so much easier and quicker for students to achieve.

4. With the younger generations having grown up with computers, mobile technology and social networking, it must be a bit daunting for some teachers to adapt to this new way of using technology in the classroom. How can teachers get comfortable with using technology in the classroom so they are on the same page with their students?

It certainly can be daunting for teachers who often feel they play catch-up with students in terms of technology in the classroom, but the best teachers are learners. The most successful schools that have implemented learning programs using technology in the classroom are those that embrace and celebrate student capabilities in technology in the classroom and allow for the students to share this with the teachers. We support many schools in developing programs where students are the technology coaches for the teachers. Not only is this supporting teachers in their learning but it also provides a sense of purpose and ownership for those students prepared to use technology in the classroom. Successful schools aim to create a learning community using technology in the classroom where everyone is both teacher and learner.

Stay tuned for Part II of our interview with Anita.