Education Scotland’s DigiLearn team are always happy to provide their digital expertise and support to practitioners. In October 2020 the team took part in Shetland Islands Council’s two in-service days for practitioners, which for the first time were held on-line. The DigiLearn team provided a wide range of sessions for staff on everything from digital pedagogy skills to unleashing creativity using digital tools. In this Q&A Jacqueline Casey, Workforce Development Advisor at the time, and James Johnston, Quality Improvement Officer, from Shetland Islands Council, and Tracy Langley, Operational Lead For Remote Teaching for Shetland and Depute e-Sgoil, discuss the sessions.
Why are in-service days important for your staff?
The October In-service days are two dedicated days per year that are focussed on professional learning for our staff, therefore ensuring a varied yet appropriate programme for them each year is vital. Usually our programme is planned and compiled based on the wants, needs and feedback from our frontline staff and management and also any national themes and focus at the time. The opportunity for professional learning is very important for staff development and practice, and also contributes to staff being able to positively influence the lives and experiences of the children and young people they work with in Shetland.
- This was the first time Shetland’s in-service Day has been held on-line. How did you find this compared to previous years?
At the start of COVID-19 we had started our planning, including contacting external trainers from across Britain on the premise that they would be physically visiting us in October. So when we went into lockdown and realised eventually that it wasn’t going to be a short term thing, a quick decision had to be made as to if and how we were going to be able to deliver the programme. It was decided that we would push on to try to organise a fully virtual programme, thinking that it would be far smaller than our usual offering. We also decided on four themes to try to make things a bit more focussed – Health and Wellbeing (for pupils and staff), Digital Skills, Literacy and Numeracy. These themes were decided both based on national themes but also on a reflection of what the year had been like for our staff, and where priorities had needed to shift so rapidly in response to COVID-19.
The actual programme itself went really well, and the feedback we got from our follow up survey was really positive. We were delighted that we could provide such a large and varied programme and of course that the technology all worked on the day!
- What topics were you looking for Education Scotland’s DigiLearn team to cover as part of the in-service days?
We have worked with Education Scotland for digital input for a few years now, and in conjunction with our Digital Skills Lead here in Shetland, to contribute to and build on our Digital Strategy. So we were really happy to be guided by the digital team for our in-service programme – particularly where we were aware that remote teaching and learning had rocketed to the front focus of how teachers and pupils were now living and working. We wanted this theme to be about the delivery of blended teaching and learning, but also about making the best use of the technology available to our staff. Therefore the courses that Susan and her colleagues delivered were:
- Flipped Learning to Support Blended / Mixed Delivery Model
- Digital Tools for Assessment & Feedback
- Digital Pedagogy Skills
- Using Digital Tools to Capture, Create and Share Outdoor Learning Experiences
- Unleashing Creativity Using Digital Tools
- Why did you think these topics in particular would be of interest to practitioners?
The themes of literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing and digital are present in each year of the October In-Service programme but are usually supplemented by a broad range of other professional learning opportunities. Central Officers, in conjunction with workforce development colleagues took the decision to narrow the focus in 2020 across these core areas in respect of the following considerations:
Manageability – in terms of the online nature of the programme and practitioners skills and knowledge to access learning from remote locations
Alignment – ensuring professional learning supported our strategic priorities with regards to recovery and renewal and reflected our local authority messaging around minimising the number of school improvement priorities
Relevance – understanding the needs of staff and learners and providing a meaningful and motivating programme to meet these needs
Capacity – giving consideration to teachers’ and practitioners’ own ability to consume and implement new learning in the context of the pandemic
Readiness – supporting staff to be confident in delivering within their school’s approach to blended and/or remote learning
The digital skills aspect of the programme stood out by itself but also supported innovation and creativity relevant to the other three areas.
- How do you think practitioners will use the information provided in these sessions?
The October In-Service creates an opportunity to collectively ‘pause and upskill’ but is just one aspect of a cyclical, year round offer of high quality professional learning opportunities. Teachers will use the learning in a number of ways depending on where they are at in their learning journey but broadly speaking the digital approach to professional learning is driving more engagement and collaboration:
Engagement Building on the success of approaches to remote learning in term four of 2020, sharing coursework and homework on digital platformsand engaging with pupils and parents in a more digitally agile way. Monitoring learner engagement and participation and identifying where more support is required.
Collaboration – using digital platforms to collaborate at many levels. For example, withinschools, across departments andlocal authorities as well as engagement at RIC level and participation in national conversations, regional improvement collaboratives and nationally. The ability to share knowledge and practice with colleagues and gather insight and information from national partners has been strengthened.
- Looking to the future – what digital topics do you think will be useful for your practitioners to learn about?
Practitioners will need time to embed new skills and ways of working and so the pace of change needs to be managed effectively. It is important to create the right conditions to ensure that people feel confident, competent and supported in working in a digitally agile way. We have paused the development of a digital and teaching strategy in order to understand and evaluate this period of rapid change and, given the period of significant change within the digital learning and teaching landscapesince March 2020 , revisit some of the consultation questions which were shaping the strategy prior to lockdown. This will ensure we are moving in the right direction, investing our resources and time in the right way and building a digital education workforce where nobody is left behind. In the meantime, for the remainder of this school year, we will take advantage of the range of professional learning opportunities to support our current position and listen to what our teachers need next.
Going forward digital skills training for the use of the Glow platform and Teams, SharePoint, PowerPoint, One Note Class Notebook and the Promethean interactive panels are to be made our standard offering. Our digital skills support package is updated throughout the year to direct all staff to these online courses which they can do at a time that suits them best. One off sessions delivered by Ian Stuart at Microsoft and the Education Scotland team can also be offered as and when needed throughout the year. These can complement each other and also allow for staff to revisit online courses andtutorials if needed.
Local authorities – if you would like advice or support from Education Scotland’s DigiLearn team please contact – Kirsty McFaul via email at Kirsty.McFaul@educationscotland.gov.scot