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The pros and cons of in-school and externally-supplied teacher ICT training

High-quality tech training is vital for today’s teachers, but who is best to deliver it? An internal IT champion, or an external expert?

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Digital literacy is essential to thrive in our tech-enabled society, and today’s teachers need to be more than just competent when it comes to technology use. They need to lead by example.

The good news is that teachers are increasingly digitally-minded, as reported in The State of Technology in Education Report 2018/19. Over 83% state they know the same or more about edtech than their students. What’s more, almost all educators (94%) now recognise that edtech can improve engagement levels, and the majority (72%) think that behaviour could be improved with technology.

However, under 5% of teachers believe that they receive full training and support on new school technologies, and confidence in school training is declining. Under 36% of teachers believe their training is adequate; down 5% from 2017 and 14% from the year before.

Finding ways to maximise teacher training in this area is now vital. But how can you maximise ICT training in your school?

In-school ICT training

A lack of funds is thought to be the main reason for insufficient ICT training. Worryingly, even where teachers are comfortable using existing technology, against a backdrop of enforced cost savings they are concerned that, without regular upskilling, they could soon fall behind. So, finding an ICT champion (or an IT manager in the case of MATs) to train your educators is a cost-effective answer to this challenge.

But price isn’t the only benefit of using an in-house coach.

If you use an existing employee for ICT teacher training, it is not difficult to deliver the tuition at the required pace and level of detail – being able to work around workloads and internal schedules, whilst meeting the needs of the trainees. When relying on an internal employee however it can be all too easy to make ICT training a lower priority than it should be. This makes the training more likely to be cancelled if something more “urgent” comes up.

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
Stephen R. Covey

The real benefit of an internal trainer is their knowledge of your school, its wider strategy, curriculum and objectives. This means they should also find it easy to tailor any training to your specific needs. There’s little risk that the training will waste time on anything that’s not relevant. Crucially, an internal ICT champion will also be familiar with your school systems and equipment. So, training can not only be designed to your specific needs, but also your existing technology.

However, there are downsides to using an in-school trainer. Technology is quick to evolve, and with a limited perspective of how it is being used outside of your school environment, this approach relies on the strength of the ICT champion’s knowledge and opinions alone.

Externally supplied teacher ICT training

Sometimes, a school will bring in external trainers because something has already gone wrong internally, or because they could benefit from a fresh perspective. More often than not, an external expert will be able to provide valuable insight and opportunities for improvement and innovation.

While an outside trainer will not be as well-versed in your school’s particular needs, objectives, equipment, curriculum, etc. any reputable provider will spend some time familiarising themselves before conducting the ICT training sessions.

Where there is an agreed training schedule, it is far less likely that this will be cancelled at the last minute. This is particularly important as, according to the Department for Education’s school snapshot survey report , nine in 10 teachers feel blocked from CPD opportunities, with time (or lack thereof) being a primary reason for this. So, it is essential that school leaders make sure that training actually happens.

It can also be motivating for teachers to work with professional trainers. Not least because these external experts will be up to speed with the latest techniques and the use of technology in training. Because external trainers are coaches by trade, their content and delivery should also be more engaging and more charismatic. For example, they may be more willing to use role-playing and team-building exercises.

A change of setting (where appropriate) can be motivating as it offers a distraction-free environment designed to suit ICT courses for teachers.

Of course, using an external trainer is more costly than going down the DIY route. But doing things in-house will take people away from their day-to-day tasks. So, if there is something more productive that your digital champion could be doing, any cost-savings could soon disappear when you weigh up the value of that time.

The verdict

When it comes to meeting the needs of your pupils, failing to provide ICT training to help your staff keep up with the evolution of technology is massively counterproductive.

As with all professional development for teachers, it is essential to maximise the benefits, results and return on investment – of both time and budget. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Neither way is right or wrong. Instead, the best option for your school will depend entirely on your budget, objectives, and the ICT proficiency of your staff.