'It's time to become part of the education revolution'

5th October 2016 at 16:57
The disparity in digital literacy levels amongst college staff needs to be addressed, writes Sky Caves

I am a digital leader apprentice at Basingstoke College of Technology. My job is somewhat difficult to explain. This is not, thankfully, because I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s more down to the fact that the list of things the job demands grows and changes every day – and the variation is remarkable.

Primarily, my job entails working with teachers to develop content for their learners’ blended learning, which is now delivered in an hour-long, timetabled session for all learners in full-time courses. Over the course of one day, I can go between exploring innovative augmented reality technology to teaching somebody how to use Facebook. Interestingly, the latter is by far the most challenging.

How do I...Facebook?

Recently, I was asked to create a Facebook account for a member of staff and teach them how to use it. I thought it would be the easiest thing I’ve ever done – after all, I know Facebook inside-out. However, as it transpired, the process of teaching something which you were, seemingly, born knowing how to do is surprisingly challenging. The conversation went a little like this:

Me: "OK, so this is your News Feed."

Staff member: "What on earth is a News Feed?"

Me: "It’s where your friends’ posts appear."

Staff member: "Posts?"

Me: "Yes, when they post a status it’ll appear in your News Feed."

Staff member: "Right, their status. As in, social status? Professional status? And who exactly are they posting it to?"

Me: "Right, yeah, no. Let’s start again."

You get the gist.

This disparity in digital literacy levels amongst staff – even just across one college – was the most remarkable realisation for me. Whilst some teachers already seamlessly integrate technology into their lessons, others are not even confident in using technology for personal use, let alone as an instrument for teaching.

To paraphrase the old English proverb, a bad teacher always blames their resources. But ed tech tools are out there. They’re abundantly available across multiple platforms, and many of them are free or of very low cost. Therefore, schools and colleges can recruit the best teachers from across the country, but until a standard is set for all staff to access and utilise these tools and resources it will be extremely difficult to ensure equality in the standard of education learners receive.

'We're all still learning'

I am passionate about learning. At the age of 17, I went to college to study creative media production. I was extremely lucky to find myself with the inspirational Scott Hayden as a tutor, who was already utilising technology in his teaching brilliantly at Basingstoke College of Technology. Online multimedia resources, such as Zaption videos, enabled me to learn at my own pace, review topics I wanted to deepen my understanding of and test my knowledge to gain confidence in my ability.

Most importantly, this was a model of learning which fitted around me, played to my strengths and was adaptable for my individual learning style. I was baffled as to why this type of learning experience was not available to young people like myself college-wide, let alone country-wide. I was eager to find a way to play my part in making this vision a reality.

The most challenging, yet stimulating, part of working with technology is that it is constantly developing and evolving. Every day, teams across the globe from both renowned technological organisations and start-ups alike are working on refining and pioneering ed tech tools to improve user experience and maximise scope for learning. Above all else, this is the message I wish to communicate to educators – the tech whizzes and newcomers alike: we are all still learning.

The prodigious growth in the availability and variety of ed tech tools we’ve seen in recent years is in equal parts invigorating and overwhelming for educators, who find their time already stretched thin in immeasurable directions. This is where roles such as mine come into play.

I’m exceptionally lucky to work with such inspiring and dedicated individuals. Something amazing happens when you get a group of people with a shared passion working together, and I am incredibly excited to be a part of the education revolution.

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