Annette Quinn, Head of Operations & Impact

When COVID-19 closed schools in Colombia our expectations to provide services and support to our project schools, was limited.  But what we discovered was teacher’s ability to rapidly adapt and hurdle new ways of working, in order to succeed in new environments.  Here’s an insight from our work in Colombia.

In January 2020 we were just commencing the second year of our teacher training programme for our 2019 intake of project schools.  The programme led by Jessica Villa Davila (Jess), is designed to build ICT teaching and learning competencies, capability and confidence in teachers.  Our programme tracks the European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators which includes understanding and implementing: professional engagement; digital resources; assessment; teaching & learning; and empowering and facilitating learners to be digitally proficient. 

The images above l-r show: promoting our support, zoom training, training take up by one of our teachers, example of a teacher video shared to colleagues and parents

When schools closed so did our ability to train with our standard approach which involves half day interschool workshops, in-school and in-class observations, training and assessing, as well as 1-1 teacher training support. 

Our methodology is intricate because our programme is ambitious: we expect schools in our programme to be ICT autonomous within two years of providing them with hardware and software technologies.  We also expect that the teachers we work with in each partner school, to achieve a level of confidence and the capability to sustain and cascade their professional development to teaching-peers across their schools.

By March 2020, our well-oiled programme stopped due Covid-19, or did it? 

The usual programme we deliver did stop.  However, it was innovatively and rapidly replaced by an entirely new programme more aligned to the immediate needs of teachers and learners in lockdown.  At the heart of this change initiative was Jess, who reached out to our project school communities and began to drip feed support through a coordinated programme of new content, delivered via video.  Content included: Google Docs, Soap Box, WeTransfer, use of tablet cameras and video, Fiction Express, Doodle Maths… and more: all designed to address the new needs of teachers, at this unplanned moment of school closures.  Within a week of the school gates being locked, Jess had a new programme design, a new way of working and was connected to our teacher community: our professional development programme, never missed a beat.

A point of interest in this story is the teaching community’s ability to change and adapt, even though they were at an early stage of building their ICT confidence and competence.  Our community of teachers thrust themselves forward, persuaded by their need of technology in order to reach their students to support them, in any possible way.

Over the past month Jess has reported an increased level of determination and perseverance amongst this teaching community.  She also noted an escalation of inter-school cooperation evidenced by teachers designing, building and sharing resources to support one another.  Teachers have also found ways to effectively cascade their developments quickly, to problem solve collaboratively but most importantly to keep education moving forward for their students. 

This is classic fast incremental innovation spurred by environment change.  There was no well-honed strategy considered in internal workshops, or senior staff budgetary meetings, or well-designed implementation plans to make this happen.  Instead, this change came about by Jess’ initiative, her laptop and of course her determination and motivation to find a solution. 

Jess was able to promote a new training model to her community of teachers and gain their buy-in to take steps down an unknown path.  With schools now planning to reopen, Jess mentioned that they will return to their previously planned programme but the teachers will be back with a much higher level of ICT confidence and useful new skills should Colombia have a second lockdown. Judging this from the perspective of our two-year targets, these schools will certainly be autonomous. 

Acknowledging a colleague’s work: Jess brings motivation and passion to teacher training. Her knowledge (Masters in Contemporary Culture and Degree in Literature), combined with her experience in teaching and her skills in education technology are the perfect package to broaden, develop and support the teachers in our project schools. 

Jess is motivated to lead teacher professional development and no matter the context, the environment or barrier – she shares her passion to makes a difference.  “Knowing my job has in some way helped teachers get to where they want or changed their perspective by broadening their knowledge or know-how or by helping teachers view their context in a different way is what’s important to me.  I love to encounter passionate teachers who appreciate their role to use every resource available, to develop children.”  Take a look at Jess’s YouTube channel here full of tutorials and helpful advice for navigating around apps and educational resources.

After her working week, Jess relaxes into her other passions of music, art, history, swimming and storytelling.