4 Training and professional development
Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy
This is the text of the report presented to the New Zealand Parliament in December 2012
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When considering the skills, knowledge, and understanding that will be required of a future teacher, it is important that the approach is open-minded. We understand that technology is rapidly changing, and so the skills required of a teacher cannot be fully anticipated. In assessing the role of the teacher, the changing environment needs to be taken into account. Some submitters have proposed skills that may be more appropriate in the 21st century. The Government has a significant interest and role in ensuring teachers are equipped with the right skills.
We heard from a number of submitters that the current initial teacher training does not equip teachers adequately for a 21st century learning environment. Some submitters suggested that an important first step would be to require all student teachers to demonstrate proficiency in ICT before they can be approved as teachers. We also heard that for 21st century learning, it will be more important for teachers to be lifelong learners, particularly in relation to digital technologies, and be given greater opportunities for professional learning and development. We heard a number of suggested ways that this could be achieved, such as allowing teachers to select a day per month that they could dedicate to professional learning. Other submitters suggested that teachers be encouraged to undertake professional learning and development in collaborative clusters.
We heard calls for change in initial teacher training. There are a range of skills, knowledge, and understanding to consider, both in terms of the future role of a teacher, and in terms of students in the 21st century. They may cover basic ICT skills, e-learning pedagogy, and specialist discipline knowledge in areas such as computer science and programming. We heard from submitters that teachers are not currently required to meet a basic standard of ICT competency, and are not required to take ICT papers or to understand adequately the pedagogy of digital learning in their training. We believe that these skills will become more important in teaching and learning, and all aspects of the economy and society.
We heard that it is important for the professional development of teachers and initial teacher training to reflect the dynamic nature of the changing digital environment. We heard that on-going professional development is essential for principals and heads of departments. Some submitters feel that all principals should be qualified in digital literacy, and should be required to undertake in-service training to build and maintain these skills. These submitters feel that schools need to be led by principals who understand the importance of digital technology, and can provide leadership in the delivery of blended learning in support of 21st century learning. We consider that boards of trustees should also understand the importance of digital technology, so that they can also provide governance leadership in this area.
Some submitters said that the professional development of teachers should use blended learning, with a combination of online and face-to-face learning, making e-learning and multimedia an integral part of their learning experience. We consider that teacher training could include the development of skills such as accessing high-quality online material, the judgement to integrate international and New Zealand resources to deliver high-quality learning, and the capability to develop students’ information literacy and critical thinking capacities in a digital context.
The digital environment creates many more opportunities for teachers to be innovative. There is an increasing trend in classrooms to move content delivery to collaborative production and problem solving. For example, we heard from a submitter who is creating his own educational podcasts, which he publishes online. This teacher started by making videos for his class, and this has grown almost by accident, so that his videos are now used by students across the country. This has created a large workload, and the teacher has volunteered his time to continue updating the resource. Another example of innovation was given by a science teacher who asked his students to find a way to analyse data in less than the 48 hours taken by a local blood centre. A student in his class developed a method that took only 50 minutes. The blood centre has adopted this method, and dramatically increased its productivity.
We heard that due to the online environment, there are changes occurring in when and how students have access to teachers. We heard this could have implications for teaching time and the sharing of resources.
We heard that librarians have important skills to locate and assess information online. A number of submitters emphasised the increasing importance of this skill for young people in the future.
We heard that for major transformational change to succeed, it is important that there be a focus on both investing in people and technology. Substantial technology investments are being made in the education sector at the moment, such as the rollout of ultra-fast broadband and the Network for Learning. We heard that it is equally important to invest in up-skilling people for 21st century learning. The changes in the way teachers operate will require a sustained investment and commitment by all stakeholders in the education sector. We received advice that the cultural change required could take several decades. We are optimistic that with the right commitment across government, the education sector, and New Zealand society, this could be effected much more quickly. New Zealand needs to ensure we have political consensus on both the vision and commitment to make this change deliver better educational outcomes for our students, now and in the future.
8. We recommend that the Government consider requiring all New Zealand teachers to demonstrate a defined standard of digital literacy and to undertake professional learning and development to maintain their digital literacy skills, knowledge, and understanding.
9. We recommend that the Government consider requiring appropriate school leaders to demonstrate a defined standard of digital literacy, and to undertake professional learning and development to maintain their digital literacy skills, knowledge, and understanding.
10. We recommend that the Government consider measuring and evaluating teacher training institutions on the quality of their digital literacy training.
11. We recommend that the Government, in consultation with the education sector, consider whether there need to be any policy changes to take into account potential workload changes as a result of online learning.