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Friday, 16 October 2009


Graphic: The Vital logoAt the Naace Conference last week I was fortunate enough to attend the 'Soft Launch' of Vital. The £5.6 million scheme to help teachers bring technology even more effectively into the classroom now has a name, and collaboration with existing providers and practitioners is underway ahead of the programme’s much-anticipated official launch in January 2010.

Vital (Transforming Lessons, Inspiring Learning) is to be the overarching title for an unprecedented collaboration between the Open University (OU) and e-skills UK. First announced in July, Vital’s goal is to foster and develop top-class continuing professional development for teachers and other educational practitioners in England who face the dual challenge of stimulating increasingly technology-confident students, and preparing them for the ‘knowledge economy’ beyond school.

“Between now and January, we will be making good use of a number of opportunities, including this week’s Naace and Handheld Learning conferences, to set out our ambitions for Vital and explain the progress made to date ahead of the scheme’s ‘hard’ launch at BETT 2010,” says e-skills UK’s Debbie Forster, the Vital Programme Co-ordinator. “Our focus is to work alongside existing training providers and practitioners to build on best practice in this area, and with employers to identify ways for them to support the development of teachers. We also want to encourage practitioners to pre-register at in advance of the roll-out of courses from the start of next year.”

Vital responds to the needs of two types of practitioners – those seeking to exploit ICT across the curriculum, and the specialists teaching technology subjects (Computing, IT and ICT) as disciplines in their own right.

We recognise that keeping abreast of the latest developments in technology is a continual challenge. As well as supporting teachers of all subjects, a core component of Vital will be opportunities for specialist teachers to work with employers and to sample industry-level cutting edge content and facilities,” explains Debbie Forster.

The OU’s Peter Twining, Vital’s Programme Director adds: “The scheme will celebrate and promote practical solutions to the challenges that schools are facing both in terms of their broader development plans and day-to-day classroom practice. Often this will be about teachers gaining the confidence and experience to make better use of the ICT their schools already have, and encouraging the creative combination of traditional and digital technologies to create the best experiences and outcomes for pupils.”

From January, Vital will be offering six new face-to-face courses and at least three online courses. In addition, a network of nine regional Vital co-ordinators will be in place working with local training providers, schools, local authorities and employers to ensure provision is appropriate and tailored to each region’s needs.

“A key part of Vital will be to introduce new development opportunities for teachers, with the first courses aimed at addressing important aspects of the curriculum, such as how to promote effective discussion and collaboration in the classroom, using Web 2.0 technologies where appropriate. But Vital is about more than just offering courses, with the programme supporting informal peer-to-peer learning both within and across schools.” says Peter Twining. “Vital will also play an important role in researching and promoting the best CPD that currently exists. We appreciate that a great deal of excellent provision is already happening and we are busy mapping the current ICT CPD landscape and seeking collaboration with the best that’s out there. For example, where we find that a provider, such as a local authority, has a superb course available in their region we are keen to collaborate with them to extend that course’s reach to a national scale.”

“We aim for personalised learning for students, and we want the same for our teachers,” emphasises Debbie Forster. “Our ambition is to provide support that makes a real difference for specialist technology teachers and to build an ongoing commitment to continuing professional development in ICT amongst all the nation’s teachers. As well as developing specific courses where they are needed, we will also work to enable online teacher communities and networks offering mutual support and the means of sharing good practice.”

Footnote: Debbie Forster and Peter Twining were keynote speakers at the Naace conference, Hellidon Lakes, near Daventry, Northamptonshire, Saturday 10 October 2009.

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