Being a creative practitioner

Good curriculum design has to consider inclusivity, accessibility, flexibility and usability.  The trouble is that so much teacher training, and CPD is often delivered as a perfect example of how not to do things.  If you consider these things then the typically trickier considerations such as differentiation and utilising technology can become a lot easier.  I refer you back to my previous post on the culture change required.

As well as training adult volunteers I’m also a beaver scout leader (the youngest scouting section at 6- to 8-years-old). As part of a space themed sleepover we’d planned to go stargazing. The good old British weather is not the most reliable for planning these type of things, so utilising a small bank of old donated android tablets (Motorola Xooms) loaded with the Google Skymaps app we went out on our walk to the park and played a running around game to burn off some energy. Then sharing the tablets, one between four, the adults showed the Beavers how to use the app. Between us our combined knowledge of astronomy was look at the moon, the twinkly things are stars. Within a short frame of time, this was a group of small excited children with short attention spans, they were identifying the trajectory of the sun, differentiating between planets and stars and constellations and coming up with their own names for the constellations. Lady Luck was with us and the beautifully clear night meant that they were translating what they saw on the tablet to what they could see in the sky without any prompting from the adults. This had become self-directed learning at its most rewarding. All I had to do to facilitate it was ensure the tablets were charged, switched on and occasionally help them find the app again if they accidentally came out of it. The following week, out our usual meeting, the Beavers who’d been on the sleepover demonstrated to those who hadn’t how to use the app and what they’d learnt. Unprompted peer teaching happening in mostly 6-year-olds. This is blended learning with technology at its best. The technology enhanced the learning, the Beavers learnt far more about astronomy that I could teach them, they were engaged and immediately transferred the knowledge from the augmented reality to the real world. The social constructivism is strong and the example robust. We were in a playing field, with no internet access participating in a very traditional scouting activity and yet blended learning just snuck in there without anyone noticing.

When delivering training to staff I often use quite subversive techniques  and would embed the tech that would benefit them into the training. Support them to use the tech and coach them to make the leap to see how they can apply it in their context. Here are some examples:

  • Training art tutors to use Moodle I would show them how they could use video to demonstrate techniques, and ways that they could capture and use video in Moodle.  I wasn’t telling them to do that, just showing them how easy it was to use and coaching them to make the leap into the use of video.
  • Word walls, such as Poll Everywhere and Mentimeter to anonymously create session groundrules.
  • Creating a back channel using Todaysmeet or Padlet so that learners can discuss what they do and don’t understand.

The trick is not to overwhelm staff, but consistently drip feed new ideas, unless you awaken a latent innovator or early adopter who is just going to run with it anyway.  Drip feed those ideas and encourage a culture of experimentation.  Support those later adopters with peer mentoring from their more proactive colleagues.  Start simple, and as I keep saying we all have to start somewhere.  Not everyone is going to leap off a 30 metre platform to learn how to swim, some are going to want to just dip their toe until they build their confidence.

That’s the start of the journey to being a creative practitioner.  The tech is just an enabler that opens up worlds to us and our learners.

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