The Staffroom: How teaching can stay ahead of the curve on technology

The key to upskilling our teaching workforce to keep pace with rapid changes in classroom and workplace technology is to get everyone sharing, says Amy Hollier

The key to upskilling our teaching workforce to keep pace with rapid changes in classroom and workplace technology is to get everyone sharing, says Amy Hollier

27 Mar 2023, 5:00

My career to date has been largely unplanned, hugely fulfilling, and has brought fantastic opportunities I could never have imagined. I’m a dual professional who entered further education as a hospitality lecturer 16 years ago after a career in industry and who remains a passionate advocate for continuous lifelong learning through CPD, expecially when it comes to technology.

From a food and wine pairing app in 2012 (one of the first smartphone apps to be produced in education with over 30,000 downloads) to student analytic dashboards, and from the ‘Listening Project’ student voice conference to a teaching and learning strategy underpinned by digital development, my focus has always been on supporting quality improvement in technical teaching and training.

I now manage the national Blended Learning Consortium of 164 colleges, co-creating contextualised digital learning resources with teachers, trainers and employers to support flexible modes of delivery. I was fortunate to lead the DfE EdTech Demonstrator Programme on behalf of my college during the pandemic, and, though I am now a leader, a member of the BETT UK advisory board and the DfE digital technology and standards working group for the FE sector, I am still very much a teacher with the same focus on classroom practice I had 16 years ago.

So it was a huge honour to have recently been awarded an ETF and Royal Commission Technical Teaching Fellowship for my work in technical teaching. Through it, I aim to keep that focus by supporting teachers and trainers locally, regionally and nationally to raise their awareness of new and emerging technologies that are shaping industry practices, give them confidence to use these technologies and help them to consider how they can be used in their settings.

Challenges ahead

Often, vocational teachers do not have remission to research how technology shapes current working practices, and this Fellowship will enable me to research specific sectors to identify these new technologies, such as wearable tech in health or thermal imaging drones in construction, and how to deploy them in education.

It’s also the case that technological changes often advance more rapidly than curriculum development. It is therefore vital for teachers to be upskilled and utilising the most advanced practices in their industry sector to lead curricular development.

The use of virtual reality in subjects such as science, health and social care and public services is already allowing learners to experience real-life scenarios they wouldn’t normally be exposed to. Such scenario-based learning develops learners’ wider skills and improves knowledge retention. More than that, it prepares them for a rapidly evolving workplace. It is vital that the benefits of relevant technologies are shared with all learners across every sector.

Getting started

My project will include gathering information and consolidating it into material that can be shared widely across FE. Its dissemination will support the inclusion of the most current and emerging technologies, professional standards and practices.

The key to its success will be to get educators excited about how their industry is evolving and ensure that they are well placed to share that excitement with an emerging technical workforce.

But there’s no need to wait. There are great educators already sharing best practice and innovation in using digital tools online. These range from simple ideas like asking learners who struggle with writing to take pictures of what inspires them to more complex solutions like Dan Fitzpatrick’s ‘PREP’ approach to using AI tools. A teacher with Education Partnership North East, Fitzpatrick’s generously shared and innovative model aims to help teachers get the best results when using AI to lessen their workload.

Professional social media networks can also helpful. We got involved in a Bodyswaps pilot which has provided us with Meta Quest VR headsets and a licence to trial scenario-based learning software that builds interview and public speaking skills. Our learners love it.

With so many developments, we must grow our profession’s confidence to experiment with digital tools to enhance teaching and learning. The key to staying ahead of the curve on edtech is to share our challenges as well as our solutions.

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