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CPD: Get on board with interactive technology

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By Matthew GingellGroup Training Manager, Promethean

Discover how interactive-technology training can help create inspiring and collaborative classrooms, while fulfilling CPD requirements

Using interactive whiteboards

Interactive technologies have the potential to transform teaching and learning by encouraging collaboration, contribution and increased learner motivation. However, critical to the effective use of technologies in the classroom, and more importantly the realisation of these benefits, is comprehensive teacher training. Fortunately, as interactive technologies have evolved, the types and availability of training have, too. This means it is easier for teachers to get to grips with the latest solutions and use them to inspire and engage learners.

Peer-to-peer training

Group provider-led training from specialists, such as Promethean, is undoubtedly the most comprehensive and effective method for delivering in-depth sessions. Available as a full or half day to suit school timetables, or as part of an INSET day, these sessions include hands-on demonstrations of software features and tools. They also include top time-saving tips and lesson ideas that can be readily applied in the classroom. In addition, as this type of training is designed to be wholly collaborative, sessions provide an opportunity for peer-to-peer interaction, support and sharing best practice. Sessions can also be specifically tailored, for example to a special education needs audience, enabling teachers to make the most of training.

Often led by ex-teachers that understand the day-to-day pressures of the learning environment, sessions are designed to equip teachers with the essential skills to start using the technology in the classroom. Furthermore, provider-led training will ensure all teachers, and even those who are completely new to the technology, have the confidence to use it as more than just a point-and-click facilitator.

The virtual learner

Understanding that due to budgetary and time constraints, a comprehensive in-school training scheme is not always immediately achievable, interactive technology providers such as Promethean have developed a vast array of alternative options. Catering for a variety of pre-existing knowledge and skill levels, and designed to fit in with the teacher’s busy working schedule, these training programmes are an excellent way to complement and enhance personal training delivery.

The virtual learning environment is one training option that is an ideal supplement to more formal training delivery. Online training websites or portals, such as Promethean Learning, for example, offer a range of courses from free foundation programmes through to trainer level options for more experienced technology users. Completed online, and at the teacher’s own pace, these accredited training programmes are also eligible as evidence of CPD. Online courses are recognised by the General Teaching Council (GTC), and content developer courses are valued in terms of ECAT points and therefore contribute towards Masters-level qualifications.

Introductory courses

As foundation skills courses may be accessed by teachers at any time – even at home – they offer an efficient way for teachers to virtually familiarise themselves with interactive technology prior to initial implementation or scheduled provider training. For instance, if a teacher knows that they will begin a term or academic year with a new suite of interactive learning tools at their disposal, they could complete a foundation course over the holiday period and start back at school primed with a fundamental understanding. Regularly updated with new courses, teachers can also use training portals to refresh their skills or get to grips with the new or updated versions of interactive whiteboard software.

Taking a proactive approach to interactive- technology training is critical in creating classrooms that will engage today’s learners

As well as courses for the interactive whiteboard, online training is also available for other collaborative learning solutions such as learner response systems. While, as with interactive whiteboards, personal provider training is always recommended, online training enables teachers to obtain support quickly, easily and cost effectively. This is perfect for occasions when a Learner Response System (interactive voting pads) is being trialed by a single class prior to whole-school implementation, or if the teacher is looking for a way to get started with this new technology.

Video tutorials and top tips

Further training support is available in the form of video tutorials that, again, are designed to supplement personal training. Accessed online, for example via Promethean Planet), these video tutorials last in the region of three to ten minutes and provide a quick and easy introduction to using different types of technology. From basic guidance, such as how to set up a Learner Response System, to more detailed videos on using different types of interactive software packages, these tutorials make it easy for the teacher to access training support exactly when they need it.

On a more informal level, Promethean has developed top tips for using interactive whiteboards and software that are less training focused and more towards inspiring teachers to discover more about what they can achieve with the technology in lessons. Developed by educational technology experts, these top tips (found in the ‘Tips & Tricks’ section of www.prometheanplanet.com) are particularly useful for giving teachers, new to interactive technology, a vision of how the interactive whiteboard can be used, and encourage them to see it as more than a point-and-click facilitator from day one.

Online communities

In addition to training portals, online teaching communities, such as Promethean Planet and Scholastic Education PLUS (www.scholastic.co.uk/magazines), provide further support for teachers. These online communities feature literally thousands of interactive teaching resources that help teachers in their lesson preparation and act as a catalyst for new ideas. Furthermore, as teaching communities, these sites are an ideal source for sharing best practice and can greatly assist users in resource development.

Many online communities allow users to download provider-created resources, as well as lesson material developed by fellow teachers. This enables teachers to explore and discover new features and capabilities, and ways interactive software can be used to encourage collaborative learning. In turn, this will motivate them to actively seek out the knowledge to replicate these ideas in their own resource development, and ensure that this interactive software is used to its full potential.

Beyond resources, online communities provide a vehicle for teachers to share practical advice on using collaborative technologies with teachers around the world. Online forums, for instance, are one way that users can quickly access guidance on a specific topic, or ask like-minded users for suggestions.

Skills for the future

Taking a proactive approach to interactive- technology training is critical in creating classrooms that will engage today’s learners. This is particularly true for the primary school teacher who, in educating the young generation of digital natives, must ensure that their lessons appeal to children and capture their imaginations. By becoming confident users of collaborative learning solutions, teachers will be equipped to develop creative and inspiring lessons, as well as benefit from time-saving planning skills and the competitive edge when it comes to career progression.

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