Two years on, as the initial participants spread good practice to others, Raymond Ross reports on its success so far
The Masterclass programme that was launched two years ago to support education authorities and schools in developing the use of information and communications technology appears to be having a catalytic effect.
An evaluation of the initiative, by George Street Research for the Scottish Executive Education Department, reported in July that the main impact to date has been an increase in the introduction and use of new equipment, while benefits to individual participants include improvements in ICT skills, opportunities of networking, sharing good practice and championing ICT within schools or local authorities.
Bernard McLearly, chief executive of Learning and Teaching Scotland, says he is delighted to see that 90 per cent of participants think that Masterclass has helped to improve their ICT skills and their confidence.
"The report has also demonstrated that Masterclass has had a beneficial effect even on non-participating teachers and schools, as Masterclassers have sought to pass on their new-found skills and ideas," he adds.
The programme was launched in September 2002 with around 600 participants drawn from classrooms, senior management, local authorities and teacher education institutions. It aimed to establish a shared vision among educationists of the potential of technology in learning at all levels and to encourage change in the use of technology in learning, teaching and management.
Eighty-eight per cent of Masterclass participants said they had a chance to share good practice and 65 per cent said the opportunities for this are increasing. Eighty-three per cent felt that they would like others to have the chance to take part in Masterclass.
Ollie Bray, a geography teacher at Knox Academy, in East Lothian, who took part in the 13th Masterclass, says: "I knew little about the programme before attending the four-day induction at Stirling Management Centre, where I was given ample opportunity to learn new skills and share ideas and best practice.
"The main strengths of the programme were spending four days with like-minded people and the opportunities for networking between different subject areas and education authorities.
"It has had an instant impact on my learning and teaching. In particular, I've made more use of the interactive whiteboard and we're about to start work on an interactive video project based around safe routes to school."
Over the next year Mr Bray will be offering training opportunities for staff on the use of interactive whiteboards, presentation software and digital video and he has been approached to run some in-service training in other authorities on the use of digital maps and mapping in geography.
"I would definitely recommend Masterclass to other teachers. The formation of the Masterclass on-line community should also help to keep members in touch and to continue to share ideas and areas of good practice," he says.
Marilyn Ross, who teaches at Croftfoot Primary in Glasgow, found the initial training at Stirling daunting, but she was soon impressed. "I now use digital video to enhance the curriculum and promote the school. The multi-sensory nature of ICT has proved to be beneficial for children with learning difficulties and underachievers. ICT gives children skills for lifelong learning while making them more independent learners."
She adds: "The strength lies in the members. Masterclassers are motivators.
I'm delighted to be part of the network, whose ties are strengthened by recall days and the annual SETT conference.
"Resources must be allocated for the continuation and wider participation in these events."
Aileen Monaghan, principal teacher of music at King's Park Secondary in Glasgow, says: "Research has shown the benefit of a child-centred buddy system, so why not a teacher-centered one?"
Masterclass has been "tremendous" for her, she says. "I now use digital video for exemplars, so that pupils can see how they look when they are playing.
"It's also useful for presentations and parents' evenings.
"With a grant from the city we now have a digital recording studio which can be used to support enterprise education. It can be used for portfolio work for Advanced Higher, for pupils to produce their own CDs if they've done good work and to make backing tracks for their peers."
Phase two of Masterclass is now underway. It aims to consolidate and expand the programme and LT Scotland hopes to use the research to improve it further.
The programme co-ordinator, Marie Dougan, says: "We're pleased that the research has revealed such positive outcomes, outcomes which we can build upon to give Scottish teachers even better professional opportunities in the future as far as integrating ICT into learning and teaching is concerned."