15 Feb 2011

The INSET is excellent, but where's the impact?

Schools spend lots of money and teachers give up a lot of time to get involved and go to training events.  Our performance management process involve an opportunity for us as teachers to request training and support in areas that we (or others) feel needs developing.  The right course or conference is important, as one should go in with questions or dilemmas, and yet come out with answers, and a sense of enthusiasm, motivation, and after a tiring winter term a rejuvenated determination.  We often attend CPD events seeking inspiration, which is more often than not forthcoming, but how often are we met with a numbing realisation that the wonderful things we hear people doing are the same things that are not actually ever going to happen in our school?

Having just come back from the ICT Links into Languages Conference in Southampton, I did ask myself that very question.  Innovative, thought provoking sessions, stimulating conversation and much sharing of ideas.  A definite feeling that, whether you are in a forward thinking school, or in an old fashioned establishment, whether you are in a big department, or on your own, a networked community has been established full of languages teachers who are practising what they preach, and changing how we teach our youngsters.

Joe Dale opened the conference with a talk recounting the evolution of technology in modern language teaching, and made it clear that he believed that we were at tipping point regarding the acceptance and implementation of technology in MFL teaching.  Whilst I agree with this to a point, I also have experienced schools and departments that hold on to their overhead projectors like some overheating security blanket.  I have given presentations myself extolling the virtues of this application, or that piece of software, only then to be told that using powerpoint still causes nightmares.  So whilst the number of teachers who are embracing technology steadily rises, I am also enormously encouraged by the numbers of trainee teachers who are entering the profession clued up about Web 2.0, many of whom were in Southampton, and as time progresses, the emphasis will no doubt shift away from telling teachers what exists to how we can best use the tools to enhance the learning experience of students.

The difference about this conference compared to others was the fact that there was a 'reality' about the presentations - the sense that people were talking about tried and tested methods, that those who attended sessions were encouraged to offer their own suggestions, and that everyone was sharing, and not being talked/preached at.  

Since returning home, I have taken the time to go through some of the presentations and talks that have been made available.  Isabelle Jones' presentation on developing the use of ICT in an MFL department struck me as a great starting point for someone trying to make an impact in their school. I have also watched online Chris Harte's presentation on his ideas for the future of language teaching, and in the next few days I shall pour over the other sessions so that I don't feel that I missed anything!

The emphasis now moves on to impact, and how you measure the success of such an event.  The low cost of the event, the vast variety of speakers, the number of delegates, the people I met and the conversations and laughs we had contributed to the impact of the training.  The feeling of positivity was there for all to see.  My personal challenge is to try and implement some of the things I learned.

Even if you didn't attend, seek out the presentations that are (or soon will be) available online.

Take some of the ideas and try to get them into your teaching, because they do work.

Don't be discouraged.


Talk to colleagues, both real and virtual!

Get on twitter!

It took me 7 years to work on my own department, so I know the pitfalls that exist, but I also know hundreds of people in the same boat as me, who have made it work, who have made a difference, and who are always just an email (or a tweet) away.


Graham Davies said...

It's been a long, uphill struggle, Alex, convincing teachers at the chalkface that ICT is worthwhile - and also, of course, convincing those who hold the purse-strings that it's a good investment. I started out on this mission way back in the early 1980s when the BBC Micro was introduced into schools. This was a period when ICT definitely had an impact.

Thinking back, I recall the 1980s and 1990s as a period of great optimism and enthusiasm - quite different from today in many respects. I think teachers may be a bit lukewarm about ICT these days. It's no longer a novelty and they have far too many pressures to contend with. I hope the impact of the Links conference is maintained, but I don't think it will be easy.

I took a nostalgic look back to the 1980s and 1990s in my EUROCALL 2010 keynote, which may be of interest. The video is here:
And the PPT slideshow is here:


IC Jones said...

Hi Alex
Thanks a lot for your kind mention!I would say that more than actual ICT specific skills,the most important ingredients are TRUST and support. ICT is evolving constantly and teams must be encouraged to trial new things without the fear of failure/being judged...