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BlueSky's Training and Projects modules have helped Goodwin Academy to expand online CPD for all staff at a crucial time
At Goodwin Academy in Deal, Kent, the use of BlueSky to support staff professional learning has been a fixture of the school for a few years. Now, under the lockdown, the technology has provided a vital element of its support for staff, helping them to develop their skills in online teaching and learning swiftly and efficiently.
Rachael Moon, Assistant Principal Teaching and Learning at the school, which is a member of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), quickly spotted that, once schools shifted to online learning before Easter 2020, staff would need extra support with CPD.
The abundance of online learning resources that were becoming available as different organisations and companies responded to the situation was great – but it also meant the choice of webinars, lesson plans and other resources was potentially overwhelming. Having begun compiling a list on a spreadsheet it became clear that a more systematic approach was urgently required.
"We wanted to put in place something structured to help staff with the switch to online learning as they began teaching from home and to incorporate it into their professional development plans, where appropriate," Rachael says. "There is obviously a lot of free CPD being made available at the moment advertised through Twitter and other places and we needed a way to bring it together."
Library of resources
Rachael turned to BlueSky's Training module to create an easily accessible library of support for all staff across subjects and key stages to draw on.
When heads of department or curriculum leaders forwarded their own suggestions to her for links to materials they had found useful, it was a simple matter to add them to the module, creating a highly effective but properly selective library of CPD materials for every member of staff to use.
"We have included a whole range of types of materials for staff to choose from. Some is very focused on learning support and specific subjects but there are also materials for our wellbeing team to draw on and potentially disseminate. Some of the training events are live so can be flagged up to staff to participate in then, once the event is over, I go back and attach a link to the recording of it as a resource so people can catch up with it later if they were busy teaching at the time or home-schooling their own children, as many are. None of it is compulsory for anyone but if they do decide to do an online training course or something else, it is easy for them to add it as an activity to their professional development plan which is already logged on BlueSky as part of our performance management."
The fact that BlueSky is intuitive to use made the process very straightforward and take-up has been good as a result, she adds.
"It's just so simple: you click the training button and you're in and now the website link has been added it makes things even easier. In the first week, we actually had a total of 44 CPD activities created based on those materials, which I thought was pretty good and I was really pleased with how much people had engaged. Some of the training is just interesting, too. So if you want to spend half an hour learning about dual coding, just because you want a refresher, then you can, and the system is so easy to use that it encourages people to do just that."
Based on the success at Goodwin, Rachael has been given the go-ahead to roll out the Training module resources across all 16 primary and secondary schools in the Trust, incorporating more CPD resources recommended by the teaching and learning and pastoral leaders at each of the individual schools.
There are also plans to use BlueSky's Projects module, which supports collaboration across teams and across organisations, to enable groups of staff throughout the trust to work together on professional development in key areas such as subject literacy and ITT.
"The pool of resources we have is constantly expanding and people are sending me new things all the time," she says. "It's brilliant because our knowledge of what's good is constantly building but there are no silos – it's available to all and we're constantly sharing what we have found that works in a particular context. Using BlueSky means this rapid expansion is less of a problem because everyone has access to it and it's helped us to create a one-stop shop for our staff CPD which will serve us well into the future. Before, when I saw a good training course or link to something interesting that could feed into staff development, I was sending around emails and it's so easy to lose track of them when you're going through 100 emails a day. But if everything is stored in one place, and everyone knows that's the system, it's much more effective and efficient."
It mirrors how BlueSky enables individual staff to keep track of their own CPD, Rachael adds.
"Let's be honest, we do a lot of stuff as teachers, and you do it but you forget that you've done it and you don't necessarily keep up a perfect record of what you did. But you can log this training course or that development activity quickly and easily in one place on BlueSky, so your record is always up to date, which is important when you are thinking about appraisals and about your wider career development."