Angela McFarlane's career has never strayed from schools. Now she leads the College of Teachers 
Angela McFarlaneThe College of Teachers
Professor Angela McFarlane
is moving further into the world of digital learning with the appointment of Professor Angela McFarlane as its new chief executive and registrar.

An internationally respected educator, leader and researcher, as well as successful developer of digital resources, she will head this distinguished, UK-based organisation from June 16 2014. The college has a global membership and already offers a wide range of online professional courses. It publishes the Education Today journal.

Speaking in London this week, she said, "I am delighted and honoured to be the next chief executive of the College of Teachers. The College is well placed to play a leading role in re-establishing the professional profile of teachers at a time when teachers need support and recognition more than ever."

One foot in the classroom

Angela McFarlane started her education career as  secondary science teacher and head of department in Hertfordshire before moving on to academia where she developed educational software at Homerton College, Cambridge (see The Innovators 10). However, her ability to keep one foot firmly in the classroom also served her well in the research projects involving educational technology she conducted for organisations like the National Council for Educational Technology and, later, Becta where she was head of evidence and practice for a time.

That classroom-grounded approach meant that she was resistant to the tendencies of many contemporaries, and industry 'evangelists', to talk up the role of technology for learning without taking full account of the practical and organisation barriers in schools. And that, in turn, helped pave the way for those wanting to use mobile technologies with learners. She is recognised as an authority on learning with mobile devices as well as with computer games, and on social learning.

Her experience as head of the School of Education at the University of Bristol made her an ideal candidate for the core College of Teachers role, dealing as it does with classroom teaching, initial training and CPD (continuing professional development), curriculum development, research and policy. "Ideally placed to lead the College of Teachers as we enter our next chapter," is how the press release from the college expresses it.

The expertise with digital technologies for learning will also be important for current and future strategy, as organisations use ICT and developments like social networking to extend their reach and effectiveness. And the appointment is good for the college's profile at a time where there is a perceived lack of national leadership when it comes to the role of digital technologies for learning. Angela McFarlane is also a member of the Educational Technology Action Group recently set up by the Coalition Government, and is co-chair of its survey "cluster" that is seeking feedback from educators on "understanding, measuring and assessing learning".

'Great Plant Hunt' was UK's biggest primary science project

In a recent role, Angela McFarlane led one of the biggest and most successful primary science projects as director of content and learning at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She produced the £2 million Great Plant Hunt which was funded by the Wellcome Trust and organised through its own website with online activities. This distributed 'treasure chests' of hands-on science resources to more than 23,000 UK primary schools to support hands-on science for children aged 5 to 11.

The project, developed in close partnership with practising teachers, marked the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, and aimed to encourage children to study plant life in their environment. User surveys showed very high adoption and usage by schools – more than 75 per cent of UK primaries used them.

The theme of authentic learning has been a constant in her work and in August 2014 her latest book, Authentic Learning for the Digital Generation, will be published by Routledge.  Angela McFarlane holds visiting chairs at King’s College, London, and the University of Bath. She is also a trustee of Wildscreen and a governor of the University of Middlesex.

The College of Teachers describes itself as an organisation run by teachers for teachers to support improvements in teaching and learning. It's the oldest professional association for teachers in the UK and was granted a Royal Charter in 1849. It supports the teaching profession with CPD and aquality assurance for courses along with accreditation.

The first ever training programme for women teachers was created by the college, along with the first for governors and the first external examinations for children back in 1873. In 1902, with other partners, the college established the London Day Training College which became the Institute of Education, part of the University of London with which it is still associated.

More information 

"The College of Teachers supports senior leadership teams, teachers, teaching assistants, industrial trainers, local authority managers and school support staff by offering professional networks and unique member benefits, as well as affordable professional development courses. Their qualifications range from attendance certificates through to doctoral level and are professional and academic in nature, allowing everyone involved in education to have their professional achievement and expertise recognised and rewarded. As these qualifications are awarded under the Royal Charter they benefit from international recognition allowing their holders to move schools, local authorities, and even countries safe in the knowledge that their qualifications will be recognised.

'A major focus of The College is accrediting courses offered by independent training providers globally. Many of these can be awarded as academic credits, which can accumulate and lead to the award of a College qualification. The College has just launched a consultancy brokerage service to offer support for providers internationally."