“To make change happen we must get school leaders to see the value of investing time and money into Professional Development.” – Lynette Barker, Australia
Teacher Librarian & Learning Technology Coordinator
St Therese’s Primary NSW, Australia
Keeping up with the latest skills and technology is challenging, and many times, educators simply don’t know what technologies are available to help them in their classrooms.
This was the case for MIE Expert Lynette Barker, and then in 2014, she attended her first MIEE gathering.
“I was amazed by the creativity of others, the new programs available (I didn’t even know about OneNote) and the possibilities technology had in education,” says Barker. “I left that weekend inspired, but overwhelmed. After a few months of head-spinning excitement, I realized I needed to tackle one thing and do it well.”
For Barker, that “one thing” became OneNote. “Within 12 months, I had designed and implemented ‘EPIC Planning’ – a process that involved getting ‘Everyone Participating In Collaborative (EPIC) Planning,’” she shares with us. “At the beginning of 2016, the whole school made the move to programming in OneNote.”
Barker is very clear on what the EPIC journey taught her. “Teachers are willing to change, but often lack confidence to go alone,” she shares. “As an innovative leader, I need to look far ahead to the exciting and unimaginable possibilities technology can offer our students. But when I’m leading teachers through change, I need to be just a step ahead of them. If the divide between what is known and where they are headed is too great, they won’t make the leap.”
This experience, along with her trip to E2 in Budapest, gave Barker the confidence to introduce the “Hands Held Out Academy”: a school-based academy for teachers that Barker created to empower educators with the confidence and skills to help their students to achieve more. It’s optional to join, but the participation rate has been fantastic, with 26 out of 29 teachers joining. Armed with Surface Pro devices (purchased by Barker’s school principal), teachers have exclusive use of the device and are encouraged to take it everywhere and use it to prepare and teach, daily.
“I provide before- and after-school workshops, taking the teachers slowly and gently through new technologies including Office Mix, Snip, Sway and coding,” Barker shares. “I have introduced the teachers to the Microsoft Educator Community and set courses for them to do. I am always available for support and will guide them as they begin to use their new skills in the classroom. The academy has been a great success because the teachers receive training and support onsite. Their steps appear small, but the impact is huge. The academy has brought real, authentic change to teaching and the students are the winners (and I am thrilled!).”
Barker concedes that the pressure for teachers to continue to learn more skills – all while managing their classrooms and helping their students – is at an all-time high.
“Teachers being asked to teach ‘coding’ and other digital technologies as part of the primary curriculum is a huge challenge, and one that is just starting to surface in Australia with the new Digital Technologies Curriculum currently being introduced,” she says. “High schools have faculties and skilled teachers to meet the need – for the primary teacher it is another subject to try and teach in their already crowded week.”
Not surprisingly, Barker is responding by offering professional development opportunities, via the Hands Held Out Academy, to upskill teachers in this area, and develop their interest in areas such as STEM and coding.
“I am showing them ways to integrate digital technologies into other key learning areas,” Barker shares. “This week, the year three teachers used Sphero to trace the path of Captain Cook around a floor map of the world. Students (and teachers) loved it! They then moved into making maps and having a sprite travel around the world in ‘Scratch’. This is authentic learning for teachers and students. To make change happen we must get school leaders to see the value of investing time and money into professional development – I’m so glad mine does!”
About Lynette Barker
- Educational background: 1985 – 1991 class teacher (year 1 & year 3). Retired to be at home with kids, then retrained in ‘Master of Education: Teacher Librarian’ (2003-2007). In current TL position 2005 – now.
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: OneNote – love it!! Can’t be without my Surface Pro.
- What is the best advice you have ever received? Whatever you do – do it with kindness.
- Website I check every day: Twitter
- Favorite childhood memory: Holidays at my Grandfather’s house in the bush – he had no electricity and we simply played all day and sat by the wood-fired stove at night.
- Favorite book: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein