One of the challenges that many educational institutions face is setting measurable professional development goals for teaching faculty in the area of eLearning. Many schools have opted for using various inquiry models, whereby teachers actively inquire into their own practice and how newly acquired research or knowledge can be integrated into their classroom teaching.
This is well and good, however often there is a core base level competency that is required before teachers can actually attempt the usage of some technologies and this is where using existing training tools can be highly effective for up-skilling teaching faculty. Some schools have attempted to develop their own digital literacy passports for students and staff to increase the minimum knowledge of various technologies used by the school. I see this as an effective, albeit time consuming, approach for schools to undertake.
This is where the Microsoft Innovative Innovative Educator Programs can help.
The blurb on the website describes these programs as:
The Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) programs recognize global educator visionaries who are using technology to pave the way for their peers for better learning and student outcomes. These are a variety of programs to help both educators who are just beginning this journey, as well as programs for educators who are leaders in innovative education.
For Office365 schools this makes tremendous sense as not only does it teach staff how to use the staple tools of O365 such as OneNote, Sway and Skype, it also provides real-world contexts on scenarios this would be useful and effective. The dual nature of this approach means that teachers can be released to be self starters in their own professional development with eLearning tools and management or eLearning leaders can track the progress and development of the staff through their completion of the numerous courses available.
An example of the practical nature of some of these courses that is likely to appeal to teachers is one called “Increasing Instructional Time, Decreasing Administrative Tasks.” I’ve completed this course myself and I like the fact that it shows how to use the technology and when this would benefit the teacher through:
- Excel Surveys: using these to collect data and information from parents on students in the classroom
- Sway: Embedding student content stored in OneDrive into the Sway to promote an event or celebrate learning in the classroom
- OneNote: whilst this has a wide range of uses in a classroom, in the context of decreasing administrative tasks this tutorial shows how you can save an email from a parent directly into a OneNote section where all parent communications are stored
Most teachers are keen to learn ways to become more efficient and utilize technology to assist in this process. Again, the benefit of these is that they are truly a guided learning pathway that mixes interactive and passive teaching techniques:
Instructions for this Learning Path:
- Watch the facilitated presentation.
- Follow along in the click-through tutorial for further instruction. If you do not need further instruction, use the slider at the bottom of the video to slide to the end. Otherwise you will not get credit for completing the task.
- Click on all hyperlinks to get credit for completing the task.
- Complete the assessment at the end.
It is #2 that is important from my perspective: teachers doing the course actually have to click the bubble that pops up alongside the real button in the app they are learning about to be able to proceed with the tutorial – kinesthetic learning, where they are shadowing or mirroring the actual steps required within an application:
In addition to the interactive demonstrations there are videos from a Microsoft Innovative Expert providing real world context for these tools:
Once a teacher has gone through the instructional process they sit a multi-choice quiz which they must score over 80% in to be credited with the points from the course. These questions are sometimes basic and intuitive, others are linked to material taught explicitly in the above videos and interactive guides:
Whilst the goal is the overall improvement in skills for a teacher using these tools, along with their increased confidence in using them in a wider range of settings, having the ability to see if they have passed the test at the end of the assessment is an added benefit for schools. It allows them to set goals for their staff e.g. over the next 18 months we aim to have 75% of our staff recognised as Microsoft Innovative Educators. To achieve this, a staff member must gain over 1000 points from completing the quizzes for a number of programs. Depending on the starting competency of the teacher, the courses they choose to complete, as well as how thorough they are watching the content, this would usually take around 8-10hours to obtain 1000 points.
This sort of time frame, along with the competencies gained through completing the courses, makes this an incredibly useful and realistic tool for school leaders to consider using when assisting staff with setting eLearning related goals for their appraisal:
- The content is pre-built and ready to go, there is no need for a school to develop their own digital passport system
- If the school already uses Offiec365 it is highly relevant and teaches the tools in real world contexts, not some abstracted scenario
- It is measurable, both in terms of time spent and outcomes achieved and may even lead to some friendly competition between teachers and departments
- It is scalable: whether this is a goal for an individual teacher, a department or a whole school to increase the amount of MIE
As someone that has led various forms of eLearning for teachers in schools for nearly a decade, the above bullet points are exciting as it streamlines the delivery of content and accelerates the learning for teachers towards becoming more confident in their use of technology in (and out of) the classroom. All schools need are faced with the challenge of the technology adoption curve and the aim for mos is to get the early/late majority moving forward to embrace the new technologies in a timely fashion. I see the MIE courses as a way of achieving this and, once more teachers are comfortable with the tool sets, allowing deeper diving into the SAMR mode: