Digital literacy, competency and CPD

Written by: Osi Ejiofor | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

We cannot assume that everyone working in our school has basic digital literacy and competency. Osi Ejiofor considers how schools can develop digital literacy skills through self-directed CPD and offers a free, downloadable digital literacy audit tool

Those of us who have been in education for long enough will remember the transition from hand-written planning, filed neatly within punch pockets in a lever-arch folder, to using a word processor to plan, saving it on multiple locations on the school system.

Those who were not digitally literate voiced their opinions and some held on to their methods of planning for as long as they could, despite the changing landscape.

From notices on the whiteboard in the staffroom to email notices, from hand-written end-of-year reports to word-processed reports, from paper letters home to parental emails, the landscape has continued to change and this of course reached a peak during the pandemic. This leads me to ask some basic questions:

  • Have teachers been given enough time to develop their digital skills?
  • Are schools aware of the digital competences of their staff?
  • Have these changes without proper support forced good practitioners out of the profession?

In this article I will outline some practical ways in which school leaders can facilitate effective self-directed CPD to develop digital literacy skills.

Audit staff competency

The journey towards effectively facilitating self-directed CPD for digital literacy begins with understanding what the key components of digital competence are.

Below is a short list of some of the key skills that I believe are important for the effective functioning of a teacher in their daily practice. I outline the area of digital literacy and the skills that could be used within each area. Feel free to take this list and use as you see fit (a link to an online Google Documents version is below).

Essential Digital Skills for Teachers: Competency checklist

The checklist above should be useful in helping to identify where staff are regarding their competency in digital skills each of for these areas. There are plenty of online resources that can be accessed for free to fill in these knowledge gaps.

Leaders can collate weblinks for resources that develop each skill then all that would be required is for teachers to be given the time to engage with these.

The development of these skills should lead to an increase in productivity and time saved in preparation and planning. With increased competence comes higher confidence and a willingness to use technology more creatively within lessons, too.

The skills listed are not bound to any specific interface or program and therefore should be transferable and usable throughout their career.

School vision and pedagogy

The school's vision, as set out in the development/improvement plan, should underpin the importance placed on digital competency among staff.

Should we be allowing teachers more opportunities to “take responsibility for improving teaching through appropriate professional development” (Teachers’ Standards) in the area of developing digital literacy?

All schools should have development plans that incorporate a “fit for purpose” digital strategy. This should include time given for staff to develop their digital skills, beginning with the foundational activities outlined in the checklist above. This can then lead on to more site-specific skills that utilise a specific set of tools as effectively as possible.

Questions that could be asked and answered to help track the effectiveness of self-directed digital literacy training include:

  • How long do you usually spend planning lessons? Could technology and improved digital skills help to cut planning time?
  • What are the main digital sticking points you encounter when planning lessons? Identifying these sticking points will help to eliminate them through skills development.
  • Are you able to plan collaboratively (and asynchronously if required)?
  • What is the most time-consuming task in your lesson preparation? Can technology or digital skills offer a solution?
  • What is the most valuable digital skill you use as a teacher? Building on strengths is important and leads to sharing of good practice. Is there potential for in-house CPD?
  • How have you recently used digital skills in the classroom? Identifying attempted use of digital skills and lessons learned provides an opportunity to celebrate progress as well as reflect and review (in-house CPD).

Online training

There are many effective pedagogical practices that can be used to facilitate new digital skills in classrooms. I have previously written about the SAMR and TPACK models but there are many more that can be used to help students think creatively, critically and work collaboratively.

There are also a number of tools that can be accessed for free to develop teachers' knowledge in MS, Google, Apple, and Adobe tools. There are micro-accreditations that come along with most courses and often lesson resources and plans are created as part of the course requirements. It would be beneficial to ensure that staff complete certain courses if you are using these tools in your classrooms, including:

  • Microsoft Innovative Educator
  • Adobe Creative Educator
  • Google Certified Educator
  • Apple Teacher

Improving digital skills among teachers will substantially improve the quality of lessons and subsequently student outcomes. Planning time for teachers to be able to identify gaps in their digital skills as well as time to up-skill will lead to increased teacher confidence and competence. This can be done through self-directed CPD in the area of digital literacy.

Finally, your plans to up-skill teaching staff do not have to end there. Can you open them up to non-teaching staff, parents, and governors too? Such plans will help to improve digital literacy in our communities and help bridge the digital poverty divide.

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