'Teacher training key to improving technology in schools'

Tech and computing products are of no use unless teachers understand them, says The Tablet Academy
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Schools must place a greater focus on making sure their teachers understand new tech, says the boss of a UK school workshop provider.

Mark Yorke (pictured), MD of The Tablet Academy, was speaking at one of its teacher and student tech workshops at St Norbert's Catholic Primary School, sponsored by Ebuyer and Microsoft.

"The biggest gap in the industry at the moment is a lot of schools are investing in IT, but they haven’t invested in CPD (Continuing Professional Development) training for their staff," he told PCR.

"So new technologies are introduced into lessons like tablets, but teachers are just using them for browsing the web because they haven’t been given support or training in how to utilise them in a different way such as Augmented Reality (AR) or QR codes or anything like that.

"You don’t have to worry about students learning how to use the IT anymore as we don’t teach the IT. The IT is part of the curriculum lessons and doesn’t need to be taught separately.

"Students pick up technology really easily and once teachers are confident with having tech in the classroom, then you can excel the learning because they have access to the internet or their own word processors, rather than waiting and sharing."

India Whyles, IT subject leader at St Norbert's, added that the CPD training for staff was scary for some teachers when it was first introduced just over a year ago, ahead of the coding-focused curriculum which also came into force last year.

"It was what we call ‘debugging’ the curriculum," she added. "I think it was the terminology that scared a lot of people because it became a lot less user friendly compared to the old curriculum, however a lot of the objectives haven’t changed at all – it just sounded a lot scarier.

"We’re quite strong with our e-safety and going through the 360-degree safe audits and the progression with that - we’ve stayed very up to date with the specialist training for staff."

Headteacher Louise Yarnell says that St Norbert's has been quick to get on board with the changes, and is working on its e-safety and Digital Leader initiatives. The latter of which will come into play next year, allowing certain kids to apply to be a Digital Leader, take interviews for the role and eventually help fellow pupils out with anything digital and tech-related.

It seems the curriculum won't be changing that drastically this year, either. 

Louise Yarnell commented: "No we’ve not had any news that anything is changing. I think some schools haven’t run as fast as the new curriculum that we did. We’ve done it just over 12 months ago so this year has been quite exciting.

"There’s been a lot of technology work in schools but also outdoor learning has been a big push for us this year. And we’ve seen all the devices going outside – that’s been a big push for us. Our collaboration with other schools is strong as well.

"I think that collaboration and thinking about all children being upskilled in what they need for the world is really important."

Read more in PCR's special back to school issue which arrives in August

India Whyles, IT subject leader (left) and headteacher Louise Yarnell (right) with pupils at St Norbert's Catholic Primary School

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