FE staff urged to learn from the Facebook age

4th December 2009 at 00:00
Students can tutor teachers about the Twittering classes, says skills body chairman

Teachers need to ask themselves who is learning from whom in the race to keep up with technological change and students' learning expectations, according to further education's skills body.

Sir David Melville, chairman of Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK), warned that technological development is so rapid that FE teachers risk falling behind students when it comes to using networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as part of the learning process.

Sir David, who is due to address LLUK's annual conference on Tuesday, said face-to-face teaching was still highly valued but that practitioners need time and resources to help adapt their pedagogic practice.

"Perhaps it requires a re-think of who teaches who," Sir David said. "The whole business of using new technologies in a college could be seen as an opportunity for students keeping up to speed with each other and teachers learning about new developments from the students.

"In the past we have thought about colleges and teachers owning information that they push to learners. But technological developments have changed the way people expect to learn and this has huge implications for teachers in terms of their own knowledge and the way they teach."

Sir David said research showed that 60 per cent of 13-year-olds now had a web presence - a level of online activity that just two years ago was typical of 16-year-olds.

Colleges are responding to the challenge of technology, Sir David said. But he added that the picture was patchy and that FE teachers need more support to help them adapt to the changes.

"It puts the focus on the way we train teachers in FE and also the statutory requirement for continuing professional development (CPD)," he said. "At the moment there is a bit of uncertainty about the way CPD is developing. I think having some clear indications about how to embrace these issues of technology would provide a focus for continuing professional development."

Jane Williams, executive director for FE and 14-19 at the Government's technology and learning body Becta, said that around 35 per cent of colleges are making effective use of technological developments for teaching and learning, while a quarter are lagging.

"We know that year on year the basic information and communication technologies (ICT) competence of teachers is improving," Ms Williams said. "However, there are still too many who have not yet developed the deeper and more demanding capabilities of using ICT to support learning."

She added that next year Becta and the Learning and Skills Improvement Service will launch a new online prospectus of continuing professional development opportunities for everyone who wants to extend their ICT skills.

Toni Fazaeli, chief executive of the Institute for Learning (IfL), which oversees training and professional development across further education, said: "Our 2009 membership survey showed that a third of teachers and trainers are not confident of using IT in their teaching, so we have a challenge and an opportunity across the sector."

Ms Fazaeli said the IfL was circulating good practice and guidance on new technology to FE teachers, but that setting targets for professional development would be impractical, given the different needs of staff.

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