Idea 14: Empower teachers with proper technology training

Everyone of my age (28) has a minor horror story of classrooms being fitted with electronic whiteboards only for the systems to either lay dormant or be simply used as conventional whiteboards by teachers who didn't feel comfortable with the technology at all or certainly didn't understand and embrace its full potential. 

Yet nowadays if you were to visit a school anywhere across England (and i'm sure Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland too) you'd be sure to find innovative and exciting uses of these whiteboards and all sorts other technologies. Visit the free annual teaching tech exhibition, BETT, each January to be cast spellbound by the sheer array of new software and hardware available to schools - some are expensive duds, some could be truly groundbreaking and much of it is now an essential part of a modern school.

Unfortunately the myth persists that Labour threw money are fancy new technologies for schools that is left moribund by teachers longing for the return to chalkboards, an example of perceived wastefulness with public spending. Firstly, the party should be challenging this by talking up the many fantastic examples of modern teaching being delivered in schools as a result of Labour investment but we must also learn an important lesson for ourselves too. Teachers - even young, fresh recruits to the profession - desperately need help to properly take advantage of new technologies. 

One development in particular could be transformational: Flipped learning.

Flipped learning changes the concept of homework so that teachers devise interesting lecture-style lessons for the pupils to read, watch or listen to and make notes at home then at school the classwork is much more 'homework' style but the teachers are on hand to be able to help out whenever a pupil gets stuck on a particular problem or wants to explore a topic in greater depth to burnish their understanding. Flipped learning could seriously address the issue of pupils falling behind and (if done right) could also make school time more fun and enjoyable for pupils - imagine doing more actual acting in Drama, or more playing sports in PE because you did watched the video or read up the content off-site for homework in preparation (and the teacher can check you've logged on and done it too!).

The technology is readily available already for this new era of teaching. What is missing is teachers who feel comfortable with the tech. I mean no disrespect for teachers (my mum is a teaching assistant, many friends are teachers and I have huge respect to all who enter the profession and a gratitude to the many great teachers I had during my school years) and I also don't believe teachers are to blame for not embracing the technology. I put blame squarely on the Government who haven't made learning about new learning technologies are much more significant part of teacher training and certainly haven't made time and financial resources available for teachers to undertake comprehensive CPD to explore the opportunities technology could provide for them to develop their teaching. 

So I propose that it should be Labour policy to actively encourage the adoption of flipped learning through fully-funded mandatory CPD for all teachers that helps them understand how to use the technology and discuss its possibilities for their subject or age group. I honestly think it could make teaching more exciting too, as lesson planning becomes much more creative and with a much more structured output (a video lecture with clips of explanatory content interspersed, for example) and the actual 'lesson' time would be much more about helping ensure everyone understands the work they've been set.

I don't think flipped learning should be used every time for every lesson and I don't think it will solve all problems in education but I do think it has massive potential to improve teaching and learning and thus should be a hugely valuable part of the toolkit for all teachers. We need to learn from the past - introduce the new technology but match it with a huge national CPD effort to support teachers to embrace it to its full potential.