Monday, December 5, 2016

Training Tech Professionals to Teach: Part 1, why?

A few weeks ago I finished a semester helping teach project management to university IT students in ANU Techlauncher. I was asked to help due to a shortage of suitably experienced tutors. But where do such IT teachers come from? Ideally, to teach IT you need not only a theoretical knowledge, but practical recent work experience. Teaching does not pay much, but it is rewarding in other ways. Perhaps we could have more IT professionals, trained to teach part time.

Financial Times columnist, , recently announced that she is becoming a teacher. She plans to teach school maths in the UK. Lucy called on older business people to do likewise: retire and take up teaching. But perhaps experienced IT professionals need not retire: they could take up higher education teaching part time. As more vocational education and university courses are moving to a blended and on-line mode, this need not involve a long commute to a campus. Part time teachers could teach mostly on-line, with occasional visits to the campus for intensive sessions with students and fellow staff.

Lucy Kellaway has helped found Now Teach, to help people have a second career as teachers. I would be interested to know if something similar exists for the Higher Education sector, to help professionals become part time teachers.

The ACS Accreditation Application Guidelines (2016, page 5) suggest using ICT professionals from industry for part time teaching:
"In addition to the full-time academic staff team, ICT schools are strongly encouraged to make use of the expertise of practising professionals in ICT and related fields for guest lecturing and other sessional teaching."

In theory it should be easy to recruit professionals as part time university teachers, as you don't need any teaching qualification to teach at university in Australia. However, this can make it a daunting experience. I have seen seasoned professionals who can defend their project in front of a hostile board of directors, but wilt when faced with a classroom of students. Also as teaching moves on-line, more skills than just being able to get up and talk for fifty minutes are be needed.

If an organization doesn't exist, then perhaps one needs to be started. This could focus on IT and related STEM areas, for vocational education and training (VET) and university teaching. It could provide an on-line program to help new teachers with teaching, particularly in how to use on-line and flipped/blended modes.

First I thought I would look at what would be a suitable set of qualifications for such teachers and what funding would be available for them to learn. Such teachers might be triple qualified: meeting the requirements of their discipline for professional skills (teaching is a recognized skill an IT professional), requirements for vocational trainers and university academics. As far as I am aware no courses exist in Australia to address the training requirements of the IT profession. Courses do exist for vocational an university teaching, but these are in separate programs.

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