This week I had an interesting discussion about professional development for teachers with James Brown, Business Development Manager at Affinity Teaching School Alliance.
James talked about a disturbing trend in education in the UK, namely the decline in professional opportunities for teachers. As a teaching school alliance, Affinity is responsible for sharing best practice among its 66 partner schools - primary schools located in central England. Teachers in the network needed to be able to share expertise and materials.
Professional development goes digital
Here was the crux of James' problem - how could he arrange training for these teachers who were separated by geography. Most schools were a one-hour drive from each other. Sure, he could hire an external company to train the teachers. But he did not like that option because one-off training sessions do not usually stimulate the discussions and reflection needed to affect change. Suddenly, he realised the answer to how to connect the Affinity teachers was under his nose the whole time.
Online courses serve as sharing hubs
If he couldn't connect the teachers physically he could connect them digitally using the itslearning platform. Affinity’s specialized teachers set about creating courses on itslearning that would serve as hubs for information exchange. The courses in turn spurned blogs and discussions on the platform.
"itslearning became an online resource library for our teachers. They could log in to the platform and find the content they needed. The platform becomes the hub for conversations about subjects. itslearning has allowed us to build our own professional development network. I do not know how else we would build such a valuable tool for staff-to-staff sharing," James explains.
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Posted on Thu, January 16, 2014
by Mark Macdonald