Long gone are the days when a teacher or college tutor simply stood before their class and lectured their students.
Today's digital world has led to huge developments in how both academic and vocational courses are delivered, with educators at all levels looking at ways to embrace the digital age to captivate minds, engage students and enhance their learning.
Digital technology now plays a major part in all our lives and at Reading College we have taken a strong, proactive lead in the use of these technologies. Our approach was highlighted in a recent Ofsted inspection, which found that our "plentiful and exceptionally well-used" IT resources were helping "classrooms and workshops to buzz with activity". Our work has also been recognised by City and Guilds, who have drawn on our experience to share best practice across the education and training sector.
So what does this transformation in teaching and learning look like, and what are the benefits? Our teaching teams now have easy access to a wealth of digital technologies, which are helping to provide engaging and interactive sessions that are relevant, available any time any place, and which increase the capacity and independence of our learners. Tools such as Google Docs and Google Communities are supporting exciting collaborations, in which students can take the lead in developing and sharing content with their peers, with 'live' reviews and feedback from tutors.
Popular social applications such as Pinterest, presentation tools such as Powtoons and infographic creators are improving presentational techniques, and helping teachers and students alike to share data and reports in ways that are visually compelling and relevant. The growing 'gamification' of learning is also being utilised to help students develop skills in an accessible way.
The move has gone beyond a piloting of new technologies, to the extent that experimentation is now at the heart of our approach. Culturally, we have empowered staff and students to share new tools, technologies and applications and set up an online and physical 'Pass it on' network to provide a forum for ideas and recommendations.
When we took the decision to raise the profile of digital technologies at Reading College it is fair to say there were some misgivings. But our aim was to use this as part of a strategy to improve standards and student achievement. The concerns very quickly shifted as we embarked on a culture of experimentation. In the early days we used quite low-cost software as we experimented and started to get to grips with what we were doing. It was also important for us to consider the relevance of the technology to a particular vocational area, the pedagogy and how all this would work in practice and parameters were set. We are now much more open to the use and benefits of social media, and hardware such as iPads have been provided along with continued personal development programmes to support teachers in using technology. We are now seeing tutors coming up with ideas on how to tailor the use technology to specific lessons, which in turn has led to more cross-college collaboration, sharing of good practice and learning from each other.
Having led this transformation within the college, we are keen to extend our experiences and expertise to our work with employers. Our mission as a college is that our 'students go further' and we believe they will now be able to offer many employers new insights that will benefit organisational communication, marketing and efficiency. We are keen to meet with businesses to help them understand what our students have to offer, and see the mutual benefits that these partnerships will produce.