From education to employment

First steps to digital enlightenment for non-natives

All businesses have to utilise technology in order to survive. The expectation that an employee must be able to use and utilise technology is as high as expecting them to be able to read, write and perform basic mathematical calculations.

The education system is intended to prepare the learner for the world of work so the use of technology within the sector in the teaching and learning environment should be mandatory. As it happens students tend to be highly proficient and familiar with technology, and it can be a let-down when they arrive at college to be faced with much less technology that they are used to. In addition, parents are used to being able to log in and view the progress of their children at school, receive school reports and interact with their teachers online. When their child goes to college all that can stop immediately. The expectation for staff to embrace technology comes from many different stakeholders.

The outside world

The FE Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG) report underlines the need to embrace technology in colleges, and this must start with staff feeling comfortable with IT. It can be very easy for staff to stick with their routines of work and processes without understanding what is going on in the outside world. It is important that staff take the opportunity to step out of their educational environment and into industry to see how technology is used in the working environment. This would help inform them about how new technologies and skills can be utilised in the classroom, and give them a clear understanding of the environment that all their students are going to have to work in when they leave college.

A first step into the digital world for teaching staff is often the college electronic Individual Learning Plan (eILP). As a provider of eILPs, we still face objections from staff who like their spreadsheets and bits of paper and can’t understand the advantage of having something available everywhere on the web all the time. In fact that frightens them. Also, staff who are teaching in a non IT room can feel that this technology is not for them as they don’t have access in the classroom. To overcome this barrier some colleges have given staff iPads to access the eILPs and even in some cases extended this to students.

Teaching digital natives

Students now are born digital – they instinctively take to information presented to them electronically. This is the age that have grown up with digital communication through email, text and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. They love the eILPs. IT tells them what they have to do, how well they are doing and enables them to interact with their learning progress and performance.

The next generation of teachers will have grown up with technology, this generation is in transition with some early adopters actively embracing technology in the learning environment , but others lagging behind to the detriment of the new generation of young people that it is preparing for the world of work.

As the FELTAG report commented:

“More effort needs to be made to engage and empower learners’ use of digital technology – and the use of their own devices – in the learning process.”

Adopting an eILP can be the first step on the road to fully embracing e-learning, providing a safe environment for all staff to get to grips with the concepts of online real time information, target setting and performance monitoring available 24 hours on mobile devices and PCs outside of the classroom.
At VLE Support we help colleges put down their pens and paper and take up the digital challenge.

Mark Trinick is managing director of VLE Support, providing eILPs for FE and Sixth Form Colleges

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