Building teachers’ digital skills sparks creativity in ākonga

Issue: Volume 102, Number 9

Posted: 13 July 2023
Reference #: 1HAaht

The positive impact of professional learning and development (PLD) is being highlighted at Avonside Girls’ High School in Ōtautahi Christchurch, where teachers’ commitment to upskilling in digital technology is inspiring ākonga. The mahi contributes to the transformation of learning, teaching, assessment, and research.

Building teachers’ digital skills is sparking imagination in learners at Avonside Girls’ High School.

Building teachers’ digital skills is sparking imagination in learners at Avonside Girls’ High School.

Avonside Girls’ High School e-learning integrator Ginni Orr knows that in a world where technology is constantly changing, professional learning and development is vital to stay ahead, and to inspire ākonga to see digital technology as a potential career pathway.

“It’s really important to me to be able to tap into lots of professional development and network within the digital technology industry so that I am aware of what’s going on and gain new knowledge, new ideas and stories that I can take back to the students I teach,”
she says.

Ginni’s background is originally in health and physical education, but as a lifelong learner, she has always been excited about digital technology and saw an opportunity to grow her passion into new professional skills. 

In 2017 Ginni graduated with a Master of Education followed by a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (digital technologies) in 2020, and in 2022 did further study to receive a New Zealand Certificate in Information Technology. In addition to this she has undertaken numerous PLD courses and has been a member of the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert community since 2018.

While constantly upskilling herself, she also works alongside students and teachers to help them do the same. The aim is to make digital technology less intimidating and more exciting.

“Digital technology is changing so fast, so it’s really important as teachers that we keep up and that means we can create learning activities for our students that really light the flame and get them thinking about what they can do for the future with tech,” she says.

Wilj Dekkers, impactEd, reinforcing the importance of professional learning and development to increase teachers’ digital skills.

Wilj Dekkers, impactEd, reinforcing the importance of professional learning and development to increase teachers’ digital skills.

Wilj Dekkers, professional learning and development facilitator for impactED,  says it’s important to have teachers who are confident to deliver digital technology.

“We talk a lot in education about developing lifelong learners with our students, but to develop lifelong learners we need our teachers to also be lifelong learners and that’s why upskilling and professional development continues to be so important for us as professionals.”

Avonside Girls’ High School students Zoe, Renee and Trinity say it’s “really beneficial” having teachers who can help them with digital technology.

“We can communicate with them and ask them questions about technology which is new and changing all the time,” says Zoe.

“Digital technology is used in day-to-day life and just the fact you can create those things really inspires me,” says Renee.

Maximising  capability 

One of the six areas of mahi prioritised in Connected Ako, New Zealand education agencies’ new digital and data strategy, is maximising teacher and learner capability, a focus evident at Avonside Girls’ High School.

Last year the school was involved with Shark Tank, where industry professionals and education consultants came together in a high-impact experience for kaiako and ākonga in a collaborative event organised by impactED. 

Students were challenged to solve the problem: How can we make school better using digital technology?

Renee, Trinity, and Zoe focused on the problem of toilet availability in the school, identified by the students as a real issue, and designed an app which showed when toilets were free or in use. 

“What drove us to coming up with the idea is whenever we’d go to the bathroom there’d always be people there and it would take us forever to find a stall,” says Renee.

“We started off thinking of an app because that’s something based around what we use day to day so most students would be able to know how to navigate through apps,” adds Zoe. 

The students got to present their app on stage at Shark Tank to other schools, tech leaders and mentors from the business industry, which was exciting for them. 

“When we got up on that stage, I just felt excited. We got to share our idea to this whole audience of people,” says Trinity.

Students presenting the app they developed for the Shark Tank event.

Students presenting the app they developed for the Shark Tank event.

The bigger picture is the future

Wilj says the conversations about solving the toilet availability issue inside school opened the door for students to look at how this technology could be utilised in industry.

“We’re at a point, not just in education but in industry, where they’re beginning to meld more which creates the most exciting opportunities for teachers to actually be able to grab,” he says.

Simon Brown, co-CEO of Banqer and Ed Tech industry mentor, says it’s important for industry to connect with learners at this level.

Ginni is keen to harness these connections for her students to bring the subject to life and allow students to see what working in the industry can involve, and how they can be part of it.

“At the end of the day I think it’s a two-way relationship. We can communicate the opportunities that we see going forward and what the workforce of the future needs to look like from an industry perspective,” she says.

The involvement of industry experts in designing education events, alongside teachers and former teachers, offers a fresh perspective and exposes possibilities beyond traditional classroom settings.

“In terms of getting more women into tech, I think it’s important to focus on what that opportunity is and ensuring we’re providing that context so women and young girls have an understanding of what a future in tech could look like.”

The Avonside Girls’ High School motto is “Ko Hine-Titama koe nānā I puta ki te whai ao ki te ao mārama: Educating and empowering young women to achieve now and in the future” which aligns with Ginni’s vision for digital technology at the school. 

She says experienced teachers who have developed their professional skill sets will inspire students and may end up producing some of the next generation’s biggest innovators.

“I want to encourage students to be a part of digital technology as a subject, to see that they can have fun, be inventive and imaginative to create solutions to issues that can impact lots of people, and consequently see a place for themselves within the industry. I want young people to see that digital technology is an exciting place to be!”

Watch the video story showing how building teachers’ digital skills sparks imagination in learners at Avonside Girls' High School(external link).

Students at Shark Tank were challenged to solve the problem: how can we make school better using digital technologies?

Students at Shark Tank were challenged to solve the problem: how can we make school better using digital technologies? 

Transformed learning, teaching, assessment and research

Learning, teaching, assessment and research can be transformed by digital and data to lift wellbeing, maximise capability and improve learning outcomes.

Learning, teaching, assessment and research at all levels can be enhanced by appropriate best use of digital and data approaches. 

Education agencies are working to ensure education includes the skills learners need to thrive in the digital world. This includes approaches to safety and wellbeing, curriculum, assessment and research and building the capability of educators. 

There is a rich and evolving digital strand to all these areas of work, including: 

Workforce capability

Growing digital competence, literacy, fluency and agency are now required for learning, living and participating in society.

This also means designing learning to ensure inclusion of those who face diverse challenges such as disability, neurodiversity, language, socioeconomic and age barriers. 

The involvement of industry experts acting as mentors helped guide and inspire students in the Shark Tank event.

The involvement of industry experts acting as mentors helped guide and inspire students in the Shark Tank event.

The education workforce requires skills and knowledge to support learners. There are well-developed international and local models about what constitutes high-quality digitally enabled inclusive pedagogy. Educators need time to engage with these resources and approaches.

Education agencies will encourage training for educators to maximise their knowledge and skills in digital environments.

A dynamic framework such as the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA), the global skills and competency framework for the digital world, could provide a visible and measurable way of education outcomes aligning with real world needs.

Investing in the future through PLD

Coralanne Child, director of education for Canterbury and Chatham Islands, discusses how the Ministry of Education and Te Mahau is prioritising the development of teachers and leaders to deliver a rich and engaging curriculum in Canterbury.

“Professional learning and development (PLD) supports the idea that our whole system, and everyone in it, is on a journey of continuous improvement. 

“A strong culture of ongoing PLD is positively associated with good-practice classroom strategies and practices and is associated with teachers reporting more positive experiences of their work. Critical to any PLD is not only learning that is personal but learning that is experienced as a team. 

“Our investment into a regional digital PLD programme emerged from a call for support from teachers who felt less confident about the digital technology learning areas introduced in 2017, and from learners who were looking to digital technology as a career path and would benefit from working with industry professionals and be challenged by their thinking. 

“Our work since with a range of industry partners, teachers, parents and students has focused on digital technologies integration through local curriculum. Our local initiatives are designed to build an understanding of how to successfully build digital technologies through local curriculum with hands-on opportunities and the creation of a suite of Canterbury-wide resources integrating narrative and digital technologies. 

“We’ve recently established an alliance of PLD expertise to develop a framework to support kāhui ako to develop a more sustainable approach to implementing digital technologies integrated across the curriculum. Based on learning from work over the last two years, kāhui ako have access to a funded programme to develop this digital technologies framework in their context, a Poutama for learning from early learning through to Year 10, a kāhui-wide context for delivery of digital technologies, and supporting material to go with it. 

“The agencies in the collective have been working with the Ministry on a number of projects including the roll-out of Kia Takatu, supporting Māori learners, engaging students in digital pathways and a number of other projects. 

“Kāhui ako that do engage come away with a clear understanding of where their teacher capabilities and confidence sit in relation to the rest of the region. They can then choose what next steps they take through regional PLD support available.”

Introducing Te Puna Kōrero:
Celebrating stories of digital success in education

In the coming months Education Gazette is offering a series of articles highlighting digital success stories from across the education sector.

Digitally themed stories, like this one about up-skilling teachers in tech, are being regularly showcased. We will introduce you to students and educators from early childhood, compulsory schooling, alternative education, and tertiary. 

You will meet Ngakau (who is learning to drive through virtual reality simulation at Waimate College), Amethyst (who’s developing a student-led Maker Space for the Manurewa community through Te Ara Poutama Alternative Education Centre), Romana from Digimatua (who is building digital skills for Pacific families to be able to better support their children’s education), and many others.

Watch all the videos at link).

All articles will be available online at link) 

 Celebrating stories of digital sucess

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:34 am, 13 July 2023

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