There has been a huge push in education over the past few years to load up schools with as much technology as possible. We need technology in schools along with access to those resources so we can best prepare students as they move on upon graduate. Schools should not stick to just one platform or one type of device, if we want to prepare students for the future, they should have access to a multitude of devices so they can become familiar with different systems. Oftentimes schools will purchase technology and spend lots of money so they can say look at what we have instead of looking at what should be in the classrooms and what will actually be utilized by the teachers. If teachers do not feel comfortable on a piece of technology they will not use it.
Often we purchase new software or access to a web platform and throw it out to staff with barely 30 minutes of training. I can barely get comfortable on a program in that much time and I am proficient in technology, how can we expect teachers that are barely comfortable enough to get around a computer to learn a program or app in that amount of time. Then expecting them to take that and use it in a class is just absurd. It is a formula for failure which will result in the teacher becoming more frustrated instead of giving them a tool that will actually help. Our goal is to aide teaching staff in becoming comfortable with the technology. Something else that goes along with this is to not talk above our colleague’s heads or talk at them. Most people outside of technologists don’t understand the lingo so you need to explain things in a way anyone can understand.
School technology personnel oftentimes are not educators so if we are expecting teaching staff to understand technology to at least a basic level it is your job to understand some of the basics of education and how the classroom works. I am not saying you need to become a certified teacher but you should have a basic understanding of what goes on in the classroom because it will help you better in working with teachers. I have seen first-hand individuals that are highly intelligent in the world of technology fall flat on their face in a school because they just don’t understand how a classroom works and what teachers needed.
The planning stages need to take into account more time for training and being more efficient at that time. As a teacher of 13 years, I have sat through countless meetings and workshops that could have been put to much better use, no matter if it was training on technology or other educational goals but these trainings need to be more often and more focused. In our district we use just a handful of systems district-wide, it wouldn’t take much for us to offer a few training sessions during professional development days to get all staff on equal ground in using those technologies. This will not use up those entire professional development days but there needs to be better thought put into how the training is done.
It’s not about having one or two huge training session that covers everything but rather offer smaller chunks over a period of time. We always talk about the attention span of students and breaking things up so they have a chance to process the information and not be overwhelmed. Why does that thinking seem to not apply to staff? We should take a few minutes at each staff meeting to go more in-depth on a program or app that is used so over time that knowledge will continue to grow.
So if you are someone in charge of training staff, here are some things you should keep in mind. Offer more training on technology then you would think, overestimate the time needed to learn what you are trying to teach. Do the training in bite-size chunks compared to marathon couple hour-long sessions. Provide video tutorials that are available so staff can go back over them in their time but make the videos 5-7 minutes long at most. This will make it easy for teachers to quickly watch them and not take up huge chunks of their time. Teachers will be much more willing to watch a 5-7 video compared to one that is 15-20 minutes long. Speak English and not techie, this is essential. If you start talking over teachers heads you will lose them as their thoughts drift to work they need to be doing and it will turn them off from what it is you are trying to show, no matter how helpful it is. The last piece is to be willing to follow up with teachers and if they need, come in and sit down with them or sit in on a class.
Teachers are more than willing to learn something new, sometimes more willing then any other person you might come across. If it will help them save time, strengthen their curriculum, or offer students a new way of doing something you will quickly get anyone on board. If you don’t stick to what is discussed above you will never get anyone on board and will drive teachers further away.