The New Opportunities training for all teachers, starting this month, brings a new style of staff development into schools. Teachers will sign up with a provider who will offer a mix of face-to-face training with paper-based, CD-Rom and web resources. Less than 20 per cent of teachers have used supported self-study materials to develop their own skills, so how will the profession react to this new experience?
Initial Teacher Training (ITT) is already showing how the scheme may work. From September last year all new teachers were required to meet new standards for information and communications technology (ICT) in subject teaching. Student teachers approach ICT with a range of emotions from expert to terrified. To meet the needs of such a diverse group of people in a relatively short space of time, ITT institutions are developing supported self-study resources which will soon be familiar to teachers.
Canterbury Christ Church College has spent three years developing its PGCE Intranet site to provide tutorials and resources where student teachers can extract what they need, when they need it.
From the first week of the course, students are encouraged to access the college Intranet pages for the course. Handbooks, assessment pro formas and support for assessed elements can all be downloaded.
Students audit their ICT capability throughout the course using a web-based audit tool that gives them a report on their progress. To meet the new standards for ICT, all student teachers have to complete a range of tasks, some of which are related to their professional use of ICT, while others relate to classroom practice.
All tasks are set online, and if student teachers need to develop their basic skills to complete a particular assignment they can select from more than 50 online tutorials on the major applications. Each subject has its own section of the site that provides a rich mix of subject-focused resources which are usually linked to taught sessions.
This approach to developing ICT competences has produced encouraging results. School mentors have reported an increase in confidence and desire to use ICT in the classroom. Students say they are well prepared to make the best of school resources and, in many cases, to take a lead.
As someone who manages the scheme for the education faculty, I believe that "the medium is the message". The web is easy to use even for those who are "terrified" of it, and provides instant rewards from the outset of the course. Internet confidence quickly follows into other applications, like downloading templates and guidance material from the web links into desktop publishing documents and spreadsheets. Even the database work is web-enabled and linked to school audits.
A number of new technologies have been added to enhance the students' experience. Using Access 97 as a web-enabled database, students and mentors can submit lesson plans and useful web addresses into the site. The databases can be searched via a web page. This technique is creating a growing archive which can be shared throughout the 200 partnership schools.
To enhance the continuity of professional dialogue a new web-conferencing system, using web-board software, and web-based email has been introduced to enable student teachers to keep in touch with each other as well as their tutors while out in schools.
Professional dialogue, which new web technology now makes possible, should be one of the major gains of the New Opportunities Fund training initiative. The college is anxious to exploit the communication possibilities of having all its partnership schools online this year as a result of learning grid funding for connectivity.
The experience and resources developed for the PGCE course have made possible the college's successful bid to be a NOF-accredited training provider for teachers in Kent and, nationally, for school librarians in partnership with the Library Association.
Some of the resources mentioned in this article can be viewed on www.cant.ac.uksecpgce Phil Poole heads IT for the education faculty and manages the TITLE Unit (Technology in Teaching and Learning) Unit at Canterbury Christ Church College