TEL Mentoring Programme – Staff Supporting Staff

Image of personTreasa Mc Ginley is the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Coordinator for the Donegal ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service. When the global pandemic hit last year, TEL came to the fore is supporting staff and students with emergency remote teaching and learning. In this blog she reflects on the TEL Mentoring Programme which helps support FET staff to engage with technology to enhance the teaching and learning experience.

What is TEL?

In a nutshell TEL is the use of technology to support and enhance the delivery of learning. The ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’ (TEL) Working Group was set up in response to the SOLAS/ETBI TEL strategy 2016-2019. The group is inclusive of staff from across the FET service programmes and also includes Donegal ETB’s Head of IT, Ciaran Cunningham. I was appointed TEL Coordinator in October 2019 – little did I know what was coming in March 2020!

Buddy Up!

The TEL Working Group identified a gap between tutors who were embracing TEL and those who were apprehensive about using technology. In conjunction with H2 Learning we designed a TEL Mentoring Programme to support tutors to embrace technology in their teaching and learning. Practitioners who were confident using TEL were trained as TEL Mentors and other tutors were offered the opportunity to become Mentees and avail of support and guidance from a colleague. As TEL Coordinator I initially make the introduction of the Mentee to the Mentor and allow them to ‘Buddy Up’. A good relationship between the Mentee and Mentor is key to the success of the programme. It’s really important that the Mentee feels supported in a non-judgemental manner and in a relaxed environment.  Mentoring is an informal process that helps build relationships with our colleagues and it’s very true that often a Mentor can also learn from a Mentee.

How does the Programme Work?

The programme comprises three components: a set of short, pre-recorded lessons, live tutorials and most importantly in-centre support from a Donegal ETB mentor. The idea is that participants would engage in the pre-course materials in their own time, have an opportunity to interact and engage with colleagues on live tutorials and then explore and learn how to use several TEL tools with the support of their TEL Mentor. This involves a learning approach that supports Mentees to apply their learning to their own teaching over a six-week period. “Pedagogy can be defined as the art of teaching.” It refers to strategies, methods and styles of instruction. Throughout the programme Mentees are encouraged to reflect and consider pedagogies that inform the design and development of online learning spaces and activities. It’s important that we understand “why” we use technology to enhance teaching and learning before we consider “what” technology we should use. You don’t need to be using every app available, rather it’s important to use fewer apps but to use them effectively.

As well as being the Programme Coordinator I also act as a Mentor on the programme. I always find it very rewarding, and I love to see the confidence of Mentees grow as they become more comfortable with TEL. It’s great to see a Mentee who was once terrified of technology become excited about tools and apps. One Mentee said, “I do not know how I would have managed online teaching without this course”. Last year, staff had no alternative but to engage with technology as Emergency Remote Teaching and Learning was thrust upon us almost overnight. While this was not an easy experience, it has shown the resilience of staff within Donegal ETB and proven how committed they are to their students as they quickly looked to upskill and ensure that the learning experience of the student was always core to the heart of teaching and learning.

Moving into the future, Technology Enhanced Learning and Blended Learning is going to play a key role in Education. Approaches to delivery of FET are ever evolving and it is essential that it is flexible, accessible, engaging and innovative to meet the diversity of our students during this period of Digital Transformation. Technology can act as an enabler for us to enhance our traditional methods of teaching and instruction. It also helps us to incorporate Universal Design for Learning principles in our education and training settings. Teaching and instruction with technology can initially seem challenging but within the TEL Mentoring Programme we try to support each other to overcome these challenges together.

Let some of the Mentors and Mentees tell you more about it in this video.