When I speak to people and we have them come visit us, they always ask what is a Google Reference College and how do you get to be one?
Well there are many variations of this and it depends upon the platform/VLE or software you are using. In my last post I mentioned that Leeds City College holds the status as one of the ‘Google Reference Colleges’ in the UK. This title means different things for all those who hold it and how they got to this point will vary. When we collaborate and meet up from time to time one thing that is very clear, is that yes there is a clear use of technology but none of our approaches are solely about the tech itself. It is built upon the passion for making a difference to the learners we serve and how technology, specifically Google for Education, can be used as the enabler.
Let me talk about our approach and how we became one. The college moved to Google (G Suite) about 6 years ago now and used Moodle (as well as Office) before that. We were looking for something different as we weren’t happy with what we were using but we didn’t know what that solution might be. But just moving to Google doesn’t mean it will work and you will use it well. Our model and the impact we have had with it and significantly over the past 3 years since we completely transitioned to solely using it as our digital platform (we no longer have a VLE), has been built upon not the tool but how staff use it which leads to engagement and buy-in.
I wrote a blog post about empowering staff to empower learners and this is how we got to be a Reference College. We built in a professional development (PD) strategy, so that our staff had the training, guidance, and support to use the tools and how they apply these to their teaching and the context of their learners. This has not happened over night but we have taken everything which has not worked and learned from it. We focus on key pillars for our PD around edtech and they are simple but sometimes forgotten. We firstly ensure that we differentiate and personalise the sessions. It would be inconceivable to not do this for our learners but, at times, I still attend external sessions where everyone is talked at and learns at the same pace regardless of their knowledge when they come through the door. The second one is simply to role model the tool and ensure that you use the tool to teach the tool. Do not talk to staff about the possible but show them and give specific examples so they can be creative and relate to their context and their learners. The next thing we do is around making the session fun, engaging and exciting. We want people to leave the sessions buzzing and wanting to come back time and time again. The final pillar is we vary what we offer, how we offer it and when we offer it. You will have staff that are part time, staff that want a different pace of learning and also some will gladly attend face to face training whilst to engage others a webinar or online training is the route to take.
This may not seem revolutionary and that’s probably because it isn’t, but to me I do think that PD is an element on which people do not focus enough and then the tools can quickly become expensive paperweights.
If anyone wants to chat to me or come visit and see our approach then please just get in touch.