Quality teaching impacts on student achievement. Karen Melhuish Spencer, e-learning consultant, explains professional learning must be grounded in what works best for our learners. e-Learning professional learning is focused on using an appropriate blend of curriculum, pedagogy, and technologies. The development of digital technologies and their affordances offers opportunities for us to review what is possible in terms of content and pedagogical knowledge.
So when we think about professional learning in e-learning what are we talking about? What do we think it looks like? When we think about effective e-learning professional learning we’re actually not talking about anything different to other kinds of professional learning that we might be planning for our teachers in schools.
Why is professional learning important though when we’re thinking about integrating technologies in our schools? Well there are four key ideas that we might bear in mind. The first thing is that we know that quality teaching impacts on student achievement more than any other factor. In fact teaching is the greatest influence on what happens for our young people. And we also know that because teaching isn’t static there’s a need for us to stay abreast of ever changing knowledge bases. Teachers need opportunities and repeated opportunities to deepen their understanding and to refine their skills. And when we think about the development of digital technologies and the opportunities that they offer, what we’re talking about is creating professional learning so we can review our content knowledge and our pedagogical knowledge. It’s not just about the technology. In the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa the focus is on young people being global critical thinkers, makers, and creators of knowledge. So that’s our goal when we’re thinking about professional learning for teachers.
A key thing to bear in mind is that e-learning is learning and teaching that is facilitated by the appropriate use of information technologies. Whatever the technology that we’re learning about it’s the learning that’s the vital element. e-Learning isn’t simply associated with modes of delivery or the functionality of a particular technology. It’s actually about making a conscious choice and about designing appropriate ways for effective learning to happen in the classroom.
So when we’re designing e-learning professional learning activities in our schools, for our teachers, for ourselves the most important question that we need to ask is, to what extent are we offering our young people the best opportunities available for them to engage with the curriculum and to develop their competencies in ways that prepare them for, and reflect the modern world that they are in? If we ask that key question then e-learning professional learning will invite us to explore our current practice. It might invite us to think about our values and beliefs about learning. There may be some skill-based exploration but the most important focus will be around the learning that we are trying to create for our young people.
If you go to Enabling e-Learning on TKI you’ll see that there is a section dedicated to designing professional learning in your school. So when your school has done a school review around the way technologies are being integrated across the school and when it comes to thinking about designing professional learning that is focused around the curriculum and around your students needs, have a look at that section on Enabling e-Learning to get you started with resources and Community discussions on this particular issue.