EdTech explorative stories screenshot

EdTech Reflective Explorations: Hertfordshire Adult Family Learning Service (HAFLS)

The HAFLS Reflective Exploration project enabled three members of the HAFLS team to undertake CPD in use of educational technology (EdTech) focused on the theme of ‘Extending your digital skills’.

The HAFLS project was one of six Reflective Explorations funded by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) in spring 2021 to help practitioners develop their digital skills by engaging with the resources and communities of practice on the Enhance Digital Teaching Platform (see below).

The project funded remission time for three members of staff to engage in the project:

The three participants were supported by ETF EdTech Mentor Sally Betts.

Aims and objectives

In September 2020, the HAFLS team had to transition from traditional face-to-face delivery to 100% online teaching in a short period of time in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, they wanted to increase the confidence of teachers and learners when accessing digital teaching. They also wanted to increase opportunities for learners with disabilities and improve learners’ rapport and social interactions during online sessions.

“Since our way of working had shifted to solely online, our focus was using digital tools effectively to deliver online learning to community-based learners. We hoped this project would enable us to investigate new resources, exploring new digital tools for teaching and learning and gathering information regarding the future of the digital agenda. From our learners’ perspective we were hoping they would develop ownership of their learning through approaches like flipped classroom; confidence to experiment with the new technology such as Jamboard, and improve their digital skills, whilst attending interactive online sessions.”
John Mensah, Project Lead

The project brief

Practitioners

Practitioners were asked to:

  • EdTech explorative stories screenshotIdentify specific areas of their practice they wanted to improve
  • Complete a specific set of bite-size training modules on the Enhance Digital Teaching Platform, mapped to the Exploring and Adopting levels of competency defined in the Digital Teaching Professional Framework that underpins the platform
  • Undertake a bespoke training workshop facilitated by the ETF EdTech Mentor
  • Apply the learning from the modules and the workshop to their practice and critically reflect on the impact
  • Work towards the achievement of two- and three-star digital badges
  • Engage in collaborative working with their peers to improve their practice
  • Contribute to comments on the #EdTechSwap Awarded Practice Wall on the Enhance platform
  • Keep a reflective diary, produce a short video highlighting the impact of the project activities on their practice and their learners.

Project Lead

EdTech explorative stories screenshotThe Project Lead was responsible for:

  • Liaising with the ETF EdTech Mentor and managing the project
  • Facilitating internal CPD
  • Working towards a three-star badge at Leading stage on the Enhance platform including development of a guide for ongoing usage.

EdTech Mentor

EdTech explorative stories screenshotThe ETF EdTech mentor Sally Betts supported the project by bringing her expertise in digital teaching and learning and a broad knowledge of the Enhance modules. Through regular weekly meetings with the Project Lead and practitioners, Sally was able to personalise the content, recommending relevant Enhance modules and badges, as well as further digital tools and resources.

Explorations

The team focused on The Digital Teacher category of training on the Enhance platform for their ‘Extending your digital skills’ theme. This category includes modules on areas like ‘Planning for teaching with technology’, ‘Delivering effective learning with technology’, ‘Best tool for the job’ and ‘The Flipped Classroom’. The team particularly enjoyed the ‘Best tool for the job’ module. In addition to completing modules, the team submitted reflections and/or resources on the Awarded Practices Wall on the Enhance Digital Teaching Platform to gain two- and three-star EdTech award badges.

Sally Betts, the EdTech Mentor, ran a bespoke workshop on the digital teaching tools Nearpod and Flipgrid, which the project team found particularly useful.

As part of the project, the HAFLS team implemented the EdTech and Essential Digital Skills Management Dashboard facility on the Enhance Digital Teaching Platform. The Dashboard enables those with responsibility for staff development to track progress of staff using free EdTech and Essential Digital Skills CPD resources on the platform.

John Mensah’s explorations

EdTech Reflective Exploration Projects screenshot of a tabletJohn set up a Microsoft Teams chat group where the team could collaborate and discuss ideas. Alongside this, weekly meetings with the whole HAFLS tutor team allowed for wider dissemination and collaboration.

John led Google Classroom CPD for colleagues to enable them to learn new skills on the platform, which helped to boost confidence and has paved the way for future CPD sessions.

Practitioners invited each other on their Google classes and that meant resources could be shared more easily which also facilitated the sharing of professional practice.

John produced a reflective guidance resource to help members of staff when choosing which digital whiteboard tool to use in online classes.

John and Evelyn met with another adult community learning service to discuss expectations and best practices using digital technology to deliver online teaching.

The in house CPD was brilliant, I enjoyed sharing my knowledge to members of the team and it was good to also listen and understand their various digital teaching experiences. It provided a good space to learn new things and share ideas.” – John Mensah, Project Lead

Review of Microsoft Whiteboard and Google Jamboard

John describes the review he undertook of Microsoft Whiteboard and Google Jamboard.

Commentary on the project by Evelyn Djan

Evelyn explains what activities she undertook and what she and the team learned through the project.

New digital practices

What new digital practices did practitioners test out with learners?

The project team tested out a number of new digital tools and approaches with learners during online sessions:

“The use of breakout rooms/parallel rooms in Google Classroom is a great new way of utilising a TA in your classroom. Essentially what it means is it allows the class to be split into groups where the TA can monitor one group and the teacher another. The teacher or student can flick between both rooms when required to do so.”
John Mensah, Project Lead

Members' focus

EdTech Reflective Exploration Projects screenshot of a tabletEach member of the project team had a different focus.

John was interested in:

  • Comparing different digital whiteboards
  • How to utilise Teaching Assistants (TAs) in class with breakout rooms
  • Peer-to-peer teaching where learners can give each other feedback.

Evelyn wanted to look at:

  • Using tech tools such as Nearpod, Flipgrid and Edupuzzle
  • How to flip your classroom effectively
  • Assessment and reflection tools.

Maria’s focus was:

  • How to recreate social interaction and build rapport in an online learning context, especially for Entry level learners
  • How to improve online induction.

Evelyn describes the introduction of a new online Learner Reflection form.

Evelyn describes the introduction of a new online Learner Reflection form.

Engaging learners with Google Jamboard – Part 2

Maria explains techniques she has used to encourage learners to engage with Google Jamboard.

Using a flipped learning approach

Maria found the flipped learning approach worked well where attendance was intermittent.

Impact

Impact on digital practices of teachers, learners and the organisation

The shift to online teaching and learning in September 2020 forced a quick adaptation to using online teaching tools and processes, but the project helped the HAFLS team to take a more considered approach to reshaping some of their practices and resources to ensure they are fit for purpose. The introduction of internal CPD sessions and new online collaborative practices has led to a wider impact on the whole HALFS team.

Tools like Nearpod, Flipgrid and Word Wall have been used to great success in Google Classrooms, and tutors intend to explore more tools after the project, based on suggestions from the EdTech training modules on the Enhance platform. Critical reflections of practitioners also led to changes in current strategies and tools, such as moving to using Google Jamboard.

“The main impact has been seen in achieving a higher degree of reflection in teachers’ everyday practice at HAFLS. The practitioners became more aware of their role as change agents for the digital agenda, they had meaningful professional discussions about their influence on increasing learners’ confidence to use new digital technologies and they focused on the quality of the resources and the learner engagement in online delivery.”
John Mensah, Project Lead


“The practitioners became more aware of their role as change agents for the digital agenda…


A number of examples of impact are set out below.

Adapting sample exam papers for online usage

Sharing past papers for learners to complete for accredited courses was proving problematic. When tutors uploaded PDF documents on Google Classroom and learners opened them with Google Docs, the formatting changed drastically and learners struggled to complete assignments. Converting to MS Word helped slightly but didn’t solve the problem. Evelyn turned the PDFs into editable documents using Google Slides. It worked well because learners had their own portfolios of past questions in Google Slides that they could edit and share with their tutor, but it was time consuming to convert longer past papers. The HAFLS team raised the problem with the Awarding Organisation and they have now updated their sample papers so that they can be edited, saved and submitted to tutors online for marking.

Moving to using Google Jamboard

The project team shared their learning about Jamboard with their peers. As a result, HAFLS tutors implemented this in six classes and stored more than 50 Jamboard whiteboards in the Google Class drive. Using this tool with learners has increased peer-to-peer work, but the HAFLS team have found that not all learners are ready to use this resource, and it requires particular strategies to engage learners.

On introducing Google Jamboard to entry level maths learners

“Maths entry learners are not confident enough to “expose” themselves to others and show their mistakes on the Jamboard… My peers agree that Entry level learners are generally more anxious about problem solving tasks and to begin with I could use it as a demonstration whiteboard until later in the course where preparing for exams and learners could feel more confident to work together on solving problems. It confirmed my suspicions that learners are willing to take risks if their knowledge levels are higher.”
Maria Zahariea, English, Maths & ESOL Teacher

On introducing Nearpod

“I used to deliver a two-hour session, then set an assignment and would usually not hear from learners till the following week. The main form of interaction was during live sessions. I added Nearpod to Google Classroom as a question. After some encouragement, all learners participated, and the Stream was active between sessions. It also motivated learners to find further information.”
Evelyn Djan, Curriculum Innovations Team Leader

On introducing flipped learning

“I put a quiz about a topic to be covered in Google Classroom. Learners were told to give answers and encouraged to do their own research to find answers. They submitted answers and reasons for their answers… There was increased interaction during the live session as the debate continued. Learners asked higher level questions as they had time to research the topic. Showing the video during sessions in the past has not elicited critical thinking and more questions like it did when I flipped the class.”
Evelyn Djan, Curriculum Innovations Team Leader

Next steps

The project team intend to continue improving their digital skills by completing more modules on the Enhance Digital Teaching Platform and encouraging other tutors to do likewise.

Further in-house training will be provided to ensure all tutors are working at the same level. The next staff CPD session will be on Nearpod and Flipgrid and will look at which courses would benefit from the introduction of these tools.

The intention is to move to blended learning from September 2021 onwards. Some resources have already been adapted for both online and face-to-face training and the plan is to do that for all resources.

“Reflection will remain a key part of practice to ensure we are adapting and changing where needed.”
John Mensah, Project Lead

Training on the EnhanceDTP

John advocates the benefits of allowing teachers to choose which training modules to engage with on the Enhance Digital Teaching Platform.

Ongoing advantages of online learning

John believes that online learning will offer ongoing advantages for their community learning service.

Benefits of the project for HAFLS

Maria explains why the project came at the right time for HALFS.

Background

Hertfordshire Adult and Family Learning Service (HAFLS) is part of the Adult Care Services Division of Hertfordshire County Council. Most provision is focused on courses for adults in health and well-being, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), English, skills for work, digital skills and mathematics, reaching approximately 5,000 learners per year Class sizes are on average around 12–15 with a wide age range from late teens to pension age. The HAFLS Study Plus programme helps young people aged 16–24 people take the next step into further education, apprenticeships or a career. HAFLS also provides workforce training for local employers.

About the Reflective Explorations

Six Reflective Exploration projects were funded by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) from February to March 2021. The aim of the projects was to help teachers and trainers in six organisations to develop their digital skills by engaging with the resources and communities of practice on the Enhance Digital Teaching Platform. The projects were focused, in particular, on the opportunities for skills development and pedagogic dialogue around submission and sharing of reflections and resources to gain digital badges.

Practitioners worked in groups of up to three supported by a Project Lead, who was also involved in the reflective CPD process. All projects were supported by an ETF EdTech Mentor. Projects were invited to focus on one of the following six themes:

Participants produced reflective diaries and short videos to record their CPD experience and the impact on their practice. Feedback from the project is being used to help refine and develop the badging and community of practice models on the Enhance Digital Teaching Platform.