Teacher technology training has grown into an increasingly critical area of responsibility for IT personnel in educational settings. School technology leaders quickly realize that providing training to teachers has its own set of issues and challenges. However, following the simple do’s and don’ts below will assist IT leaders and staff in overcoming some common obstacles.
1. Do provide a list of objectives. During their formal education, most teachers receive instruction that includes the use of the “anticipatory set” from the Madeline Hunter Method, which provides a checklist of items that should be included in a lesson plan. This simple statement, or explanation to begin a class, focuses the students’ attention and provides a framework for the information to follow. When working with teachers, this same approach provides a good start.
3. Do set aside hands-on time. Teachers maintain that students learn better when they’re given the opportunity to practice. Whether the material offered is as simple as Internet searching or as complicated as learning the new school administrative database software, hands-on time proves invaluable in the learning process.
Time to practice also results in better retention of the material. “The teacher proficiency level with a new task is established in the training session and increases with practical application of learned methods,” says Barbara Eubanks, district computer technician and training coordinator, Unified School District 446 in Independence, Kan.
4. Do provide relevant materials. Center the training around tasks the teachers will work on after formal training stops. If possible, ask teachers to bring to the training project material that they can take back to the classroom and use right away. This provides immediate satisfaction and improves the chances that the teachers will make use of the training objectives.
“Both the presenter and participant must feel confident that the technology will be utilized after the sessions,” contends Jan Dahlgaard, language arts teacher at Russell Middle School, Millard Public Schools, in Omaha, Neb. “Recently, our district transitioned to an online grading system between semesters. Training [at that time] was relevant because we used real students’ grades and attendance records to make learning the program practical.”
5. Do provide incentives. Incentives provide positive feedback to those who complete training. Incentives include a certificate of mastery, a congratulatory mention at a school board meeting or a stipend for successful completion.
6. Don’t get off task. All teachers have encountered the student who attempts to distract the lesson plan or who will not stay on task. A more advanced attendee at teacher training may inadvertently alter the presentation by leading the trainer in a direction that’s not intended for that session.
Many times, especially when dealing with technology users with varying levels of expertise, one teacher may ask a question that’s not appropriate for the skill level of others in attendance. Simply state that this is not an objective for the training session and is better suited for a more advanced workshop. Offer to stay for follow-up questions and suggest that an advanced version of the training may follow later.
7. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Teachers are familiar with these teachable moments. If a topic or question arises for which you don’t have an answer, a quick “planned” segue demonstrating the help menu may cover up a potentially embarrassing situation.
“I like to use those ‘I don’t know’ moments to address what I refer to as clicking phobia,” says Kathy Adkisson, instructional technology resource teacher at Charles County Public Schools in La Plata, Md. “When I’m asked a question I can’t answer, I often ask teachers to join me as I click around and read menus that pop up or drop down. In doing so, I show them what even experienced computer users do when they don’t know how to perform a task: They click!”
8. Don’t attempt overly challenging training. If a subject area is beyond the skill level of the audience, the attendees may feel frustrated. “When presenting a training workshop, I find that teachers like it when I ask a few questions to assess their levels of expertise,” notes Tresa Fahler, district technology training staff member and teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School in Independence, Kan. “I can then make adjustments to the presentation.” If feasible, break the audience into smaller, more teachable groups based on skill level. Then offer separate workshops to each group.
9. Don’t overload the workshop. Teachers often challenge administrators to keep the student-to-teacher ratio low. This concept also applies to training. Even the best of trainers can’t be everywhere at once.
“One important and easy way to make sure training is not overloaded is to choose the environment carefully,” suggests Lora Bennett, information technology manager at Charles County Public Schools. “Our instructional technology team prefers to limit the number in a computer training workshop. We worked together and built a lab dedicated to training that had spots for only 14 people at computers. This forced instructors to keep classes to the desired sizes and eliminated the compulsion to squeeze just one more person into the training.”
10. Don’t forget to have fun. IT professionals present useful information to people who care about education. They then enthusiastically take that information into the classrooms. Plan well, present with a sense of humor and know that teachers are proven learners who need a little special attention.
EDTECH QUICK POLL
Q: What do you find most effective when training teachers and administrators in technology adoption?
47% Provide hands-on training
20% Appoint teacher/administrative peer coaches
13% I do not train teachers and/or administrators
10% Training as needed and when time permits
7% Offer short but frequent, clearly defined training sessions
3% Give prescriptive examples of how to do or achieve the goal
SOURCE: CDW•G SURVE Y OF 30 EDTECH READERS
Here are some useful technology tools for IT trainers:
• Notebook computer: essential for the mobile trainer.
• Projection device and presentation screen: vital for highlighting points and providing visual examples of a presentation.
• Laser printer: necessary for handouts that provide an overview of a training workshop. A color laser printer is a recommended option.
• Digital camera and/or digital camcorder: to include photographs or movies in the presentation. This takes a presentation to the next level.
• External hard drive or USB storage key: for training on the road when equipment is available. Bringing an external hard drive is easier than lugging around a computer. For smaller uses, a USB storage key is handy.
Bob Tincher is starting his 15th year as technology coordinator for Unified School District 446 in Independence, Kan.