Oct 31 2006

Ongoing Technology Development Is Key For Training Teachers

School districts need to provide their teachers with ongoing technology training so they can keep pace with advances in the dynamic IT market. They must instruct teachers on how to best integrate technology into their classrooms.

According to the Chinese Proverb, “Learning which does not advance each day will daily decrease.” When it comes to the ever-evolving world of technology, this idiom rings especially true.

Keeping pace is no easy assignment for teachers. Yet, in CDW•G’s recent Teachers Talk Tech survey of 1,000 K-12 instructors, more than 70 percent reported that in the past 12 months, they had either received no training in this area (30.6 percent) or only up to eight hours (42.1 percent).

Clearly, ongoing technology development for teachers isn’t making the grade. While teachers’ use of technology as a tool becomes increasingly prevalent, the survey found that it isn’t being used as a standard instrument for teaching —perhaps because instructors have not been adequately educated on the best methods of implementation.

The same survey found that most professional development centered on administrative applications and activities. Ultimately, the vast benefits that are afforded by integrating technology into the classroom mean very little if teachers are not properly trained to effectively use it to enhance learning.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you pour into technology or how amazing the technology is,” points out Paul Sanfrancesco of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office of Catholic Education. “If you don’t train the teachers, it’s never going to work.”

Professional Seminars

One way to ensure that teachers receive ongoing technology development is for school districts to facilitate training and conferences, such as the Technology Inservice Weekend at the Shore, an annual convention that is hosted by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for a select group of approximately 180 of its staff members. (See the Tinfoil Star article on page 26.)

The weekend’s highlights include professional guidance from nationally renowned speakers, hands-on learning experiences, sample lesson plans and plenty of time for teachers to network with each other—all with a focus on technology.

Even if a district can’t afford to offer a weekend retreat or single-day training event for instructors, other less costly investments can help teachers stay ahead of the curve in education technology.

Online Training/Videoconferencing

Just a mouse click away, online training instantaneously transports teachers to a virtual classroom that offers myriad learning opportunities. Videoconferencing, which can provide a more interactive training forum, is another way to bridge the distance between instructors and trainees, while keeping costs low.

To facilitate attendance at these types of education sessions, keep them brief and choose convenient times, such as hosting a series of one-hour sessions after school. Be sure to query teachers to find out their desired areas of technological development.

Additionally, vendors are often willing to provide software or hardware training—either online or onsite. Online chat sessions and message boards, which enable teachers to exchange ideas and lesson plans, are also available from various universities and teaching associations. (See “The Art of Teacher Retention ” on page 29.)

Keep in mind that you don’t need to send the entire staff to a technology conference in order to reap widespread benefits. You can ask the staff members who participate to present an overview of what they learned and to share their knowledge with their colleagues.

After all, there’s no substitute for teachers teaching teachers.

Chris Rother is vice president of education sales for Vernon Hills, Ill.-based CDW•G, which is a leading technology provider to government and education. She is a passionate advocate for enhancing the educational experience with technology.