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Why Continuing Professional Development Matters in the Age of Technology

How to enhance the potential of your teaching staff without doubling their workload. 

Written by Mandi Jackson, Education & Training Lead, Computeam

Why CPD is essential for education in the age of technology

Technology has become an integral part of education, both in and out of the classroom. Students and teachers alike use various digital tools and platforms to access information, communicate, collaborate, create, and share their learning. Technology can also enhance teaching and learning by providing personalised, engaging, and interactive experiences that cater to diverse needs and preferences. However, technology is not a magic wand that can automatically improve education outcomes. It requires teachers who are confident, competent, and creative in using it effectively and appropriately for their pedagogical purposes. This is where CPD (Continuing Professional Development) comes in.

CPD is not a new concept for teachers, the term ‘teacher training day’ is a common cultural term in British society. But studies suggest that often CPD for educators is reactive, rather than proactive. CPD is often planned in advance of the academic year, focused on policy and procedure. A recent Teacher Tapp study in January 2024 reported that only 40% of teachers “considered the last INSET day they attended to be ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ useful.” Similarly, Claire Stoneman has been blogging about the ‘novelty effect’ for years, referencing the idea of dropping one off sessions into a CPD calendar to hit a quota. And CPD should not be about gathering the whole school body into a school hall for 90 minutes of ‘death by PowerPoint’, to tick a box of a topic covered.

So, what does good CPD look like?

Of course, CPD can take many forms through formal and informal learning opportunities, such as formal courses, workshops, webinars, mentoring, coaching, peer collaboration, and self-directed study. CPD can help teachers improve their subject knowledge, pedagogical skills, classroom management, assessment strategies, and more. 

There is a misassumption when we refer to Technology related CPD that we focus on a series of short-sighted ‘how-to’ goals; how to insert a Google Slide, how to share a document from OneDrive, how to communicate with parents digitally, how to create a digital EHCP etc. However, good technology CPD integrates pedagogy and working practice through the core of the training proposal and is often referred to as a ‘Pedtech’ approach. 

Just like classroom learning, good Pedtech CPD is varied, to support learners in their retrieval of new information. 

  • Content should be recorded, or shared as a follow up resource, so that teachers can return to the concepts as and when needed in their professional development journey. 

  • Concepts should be structured and built on, like we do with schemes of work and learning concepts with children. 

  • There should be opportunities and time built in to play with new technology and teaching and learning tools. Time built for experiential learning, feedback and to question concepts. 

  • Staff voice should be threaded through the CPD programme, ensuring that the software and applications used are best suited to the teaching objectives, context and style. 

  • CPD should be held to account, questioned and course corrected as needed. What impact has this training had on pupil outcomes, staff wellbeing, workload, safeguarding measures in the short and long term? How is the investment of CPD time being measured?

The risk of doing nothing

One might wonder, what is the harm of doing nothing when it comes to teacher training on education technology? After all, teachers have been teaching for centuries without the aid of digital devices and platforms. However, doing nothing means ignoring the reality of the 21st century, where technology is ubiquitous and essential for communication, collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving. Doing nothing means missing out on the opportunities of technology enhanced learning, to engage and motivate students, and to prepare them for their future careers and lives. Doing nothing means falling behind the expectations and demands of parents, employers, and society, who value digital skills and competencies. Doing nothing means risking the quality and relevance of education, and ultimately, the outcomes and wellbeing of teachers and students. Therefore, doing nothing is not an option. Teachers need to embrace and integrate technology into their pedagogy, and they need adequate and effective training to do so.

Envisioning and Digital Transformation

Before embarking on any old training session, school and trust leaders will usually have an end goal in mind. For us, this can start with prompting education leaders to ask themselves some questions such as: 

  • What are the current needs of your staff and pupils? What are your pain points, the reoccurring problems on those SLT (Senior Leadership Team) meeting agendas?

  • What are the ambitions of your School/Trust?  Where do you visualise your future growth and progress?

  • What are your current barriers to technology adoption? Is it competence? Confidence? Commitment?

  • What kind of cultural shift are you hoping to achieve through technology implementation?

These might seem like big, challenging, audacious questions, but if the big picture is not consulted then the small picture often doesn’t have the traction or improvement desired. 

A key factor of all this is identifying, measuring and evaluating your chosen transformation targets.

 These targets can come in all shapes and sizes:

  • Financial: Reduced admin expense.

  •  Academic: Narrowing the GAP (e.g. Pupil Premium, Gender) 

  • Wellbeing: staff retention rates

  •  Efficiency: Reduced lesson planning time 

  • Future proofing: Supporting Gatsby Benchmarks. 

  •  Behaviours: Reduced digital safeguarding concerns. 

The important aspect is that these are bespoke to your School/Trust and therefore the Technology implemented is made to work hard for you in these specific targeted areas and the CPD is designed and delivered to be impactful to the cause. 

Evaluation and Effectiveness

For key stakeholders and financial decision-makers, another pressing concern is “How can we monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and impact of CPD on your teachers and pupils?” Similarly, with teaching staff evidence shows that 87% of educators are more likely to embrace new technology in the classroom, and in their admin and planning duties if they had proof that it worked.

Therefore, evidence informed research supporting the CPD is essential to move forwards. Using research models from companies like EdTech Impact, Education Endowment Foundation, Sutton Trust and Visible Learning, are important to build confidence and traction in new concepts. But going a step further than this and constructing your own research model in your school/Trust will really create momentum and self-assurance in staff. Staff voice audits are vital to this, as is collecting data specific to your aims – maybe from your MIS, Assessment systems, financial records, Microsoft Admin centre, Google Partner Portal, NEET figures, HR records. We would strongly recommend setting up a Transformation dashboard to track your data, proving that the implemented initiatives and CPD are having a profound impact in the targeted areas. 

Power BI is one effective tool to do this, ensuring that this data tracking does not become another admin task, adding to the workload. The live data is accessible to all and provides that clear picture of progress and improvement. 

To conclude, investing in CPD that is tailored to your specific needs and goals can have a significant impact on your staff and pupils. By using technology to enhance teaching and learning, as well as reducing workload and safeguarding concerns, you can create a positive and productive environment for everyone. 

Moreover, by using evidence-based research and data-driven evaluation, you can monitor and measure the effectiveness and impact of your CPD initiatives and ensure that they are aligned with your vision and values.

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