Training for Technology
There are many different approaches to training, and it very much depends on the institution as to which works most effectively and efficiently. Once expectations have been set, the institution now has its goals. These expectations need to be met, and frequent assessment must be done in order to identify areas requiring further training or maintenance activity. According to one source, principals should take an active role in training, supervision, and curriculum design using technology and start seeing themselves as "chief learning officer". Training is truly the responsibility of everyone. The technology director and his or her staff must conduct the training, and hold each party accountable for attending each session and making up training when one is missed.
Student training should be thought more like teaching a unit of a subject, except teaching technology will take a longer period and such knowledge will be used in almost every other subject. Computer and technology education should start right from the beginning of the students' educational career and continue until each student meets or exceeds expectations. A technology director will have some involvement with students in specific computer classes and assistance during other times. However, most of the responsibility of teaching the students will fall on the teacher. The teacher must be held accountable but also must have the support of the technology department staff. The majority of that support comes from teacher training.
The most important training a technology director and his or her staff must give is teacher training. Teachers are responsible for teaching the students how to safely navigate the Internet, how to tell credible from bogus information, the risks involved with computer technology, etc. They only way teachers will develop enough knowledge and proficiency to teach these concepts will be through complete, comprehensive, efficient, and effective training. Training needs to be done for all new teachers, and ongoing training needs to be given in order to maintain these proficiency levels - especially given the rate of technology turnover and innovation. Before it is decided how the training will be given, it is important to consider the following.
According to Janice Friesen, and instructional specialist from MOREnet, Missouri's state educational network, there are 3 issues that effective training can remedy. First, isolation refers to the idea that teachers often feel that by working alone, they are not able to understand technology and therefore cannot gain enough of a working knowledge to be successful with technology. Second, the lack of general training. Unfortunately, even newer teachers enter schools as computer novices, unsure how to make technology effective in education. Some schools require teachers to participate in a certain amount of training, but the training is not measured by knowledge gained but rather on hours spent. Third, the lack of time to plan lessons that include technology. If teachers cannot figure out technology on their own, and the training they are given is ineffective, then it becomes an almost impossible task to integrate technology with the learning process.
Good training typically falls victim to the bottom line. Cost-effectiveness is a very important piece to an institution. This is another reason why it is so strongly urged that an educational body have a technology plan in place before implementing technology in the classrooms. Cost should be understood right from the beginning and planned for during the budgeting phase. The cannot be any substitutes for good effective training. The attitude that a teacher needs to attend x hours of training in order to be "proficient" must be done away with. Trainings must be efficient, but effective and complete so that teachers enter the classroom equipped to teach the students the same as if they were teaching a complex math lesson.
Training can take place on inservice days. In some cases extra inservice days may need to be added. Training in large groups is more likely to be the most cost-effective method, however, there should be enough technology support staff to provide one-on-one assistance throughout the entire training program. During the training program, teachers should be given a chance to work with fellow teachers to share ideas, lesson plans, etc. According to Janice Friesen, the eMINTS program in Missouri gives this opportunity for teacher interaction on a regular basis and it returns tremendous results for the teachers. During the training program, teachers need the chance to be sitting in front of the computer gaining hands on experience with the tools they are expected to learn and use in the classroom. Training must occur whenever necessary, and throughout the school year. Training is a crucial part of supporting and maintaining technology in the classroom in the long-term.
Other great ways to continue training is to offer online tutorials that teachers can work through. According to Judy Salpeter, using student experts dramatically increases the technology support capacity and offers students valuable technology experience. Help Desks and FAQ databases that were previously discussed are also great ways to continue teacher learning.
Recently there has been a push for teacher education students to be technology certified as well. However, nothing exists currently that make technology education a formal part of teacher education. Between this issue and the issue of teachers who have been teaching for years, the problem of reluctance surfaces. Reluctance can stem from poor training, or from being set in old, usual ways. Jerry Bennett, the director of a Technology Innovation Challenge Grant, gives an example of an observation he conducted in a school where a teacher was presenting a writing assignment to the class. Jerry noticed a 7th grade student looking bored. The student watched as Jerry got online. Soon enough the two were having a discussion about Internet browsers. When Jerry asked the student about the assignment the teacher was presenting to the class, the student was immediately able to show Jerry multiple online resources directly pertaining to the assignment that included text, pictures, video, and sound. When Jerry brought this information to the teacher, the teacher told Jerry that the stduents were only allowed online for free time and not for assignments. Wesley Fryer of techLearning published a great resource on how to deal with reluctant teachers such as the one described above. Requiring all teachers to attend training should give all teachers the skills needed to effectively use technology in the classroom; however, this does not always mean all teachers will employ the use of technology in classrooms - even if that is one of the set expectations. One great way to encourage the use of technology is for the technology director to focus on some of the teachers using technology successfully in the classroom and using those teachers as examples. Reluctant teachers are far more likely to implement technology based on a working, successful model rather than simply based on an administrative mandate. Another fantastic way to help maintain positive uses of technology is to actively publicize successes within the educational body. Teachers can continue to learn from these examples in addition to the typical training one thinks of on an inservice day.
Training Staff and Administration
Since staff are usually working year round, the technology director can hold trainings for staff and administration when teachers are not at school. This is helpful since staff and administrators do not usually use technology for the same things. Training must include basic computer knowledge as well to bring each staff member to a level playing field. All software, especially for report cards and student records should be reviewed. This can be done as a whole group, however, more success has been reported when technology departments hold trainings for individual offices. For example, training can be held for the central administration, then the guidance office and secretaries, cafeteria staff, and library staff. Since all of them need the same basic knowledge proficiency a large group training is desirable at first followed by office-wide training where software specific to that office are taught. The help desks and FAQ database ideas are help here as well as online tutorials.
It is somewhat easier to maintain training for the staff since staff are not required to be in a classroom the entire day. The technology director can schedule workshops on certain software for the staff and administration to keep their knowledge fresh and useful.
Most important, no matter who is being trained, once the technology plan is in place, solid, well-thought-out expectations need to be put in place so that those expectations can become the technology goals on which the training, support, and maintenance is all based.