One of the first tasks I was faced with as a new educational technology specialist was to offer sustained technology professional development to the teaching staff in my district. Time is always an issue in education, and it was not unexpected to find this resource limited. My initial approach to developing training for teachers, in particular, was to deploy a modified levels of technology implementation (LoTi) survey at the beginning of the school year. This data provided me with a snapshot of where particular staff members were in specific buildings concerning technology use. The survey will be deployed again at the beginning of the new school year to measure growth from what has been implemented from the previous instructional year.
The survey results identified a majority of users at the exploration/infusion stage of the model and, along with information from a recent McREL report, I began the process of gathering resources to provide exposure to various technology tools that exist for educational purposes. With a limited budget, myself as the only instructional technology professional, but with some excellent tools such as a new training lab of 27 Windows XP work stations, I developed a strategy to offer one hour training sessions, immediately after school hours, roughly two days per week. The focus of the training was for certified teachers, but I allowed paraprofessionals to attend the trainings too. Continuing education credits were offered as incentive to attend the trainings, and attendance was voluntary.
Hardware was the driving force of the initial offerings with a focus on the new SMART Board and iPod technology in the district and the use of teacher workstations and the software contained therein as foundational tools. This was expanded to introductions on Web 2.0 technologies such as blogging (WordPress & Blogger), wikis (PBWiki & Wikispaces), and eventually spread to podcasting, digital storytelling, and video production. These trainings were offered multiple times and at varying levels to meet the needs of new, developing, and master users.
Utilizing the internet as a curriculum tool was also a focus as new labs required activities for students to use. In the past, CD software for Macintosh computers had been used, but with a move to a single Windows platform approach the situation required some ingenuity to not accrue additional costs through purchasing software. Several online activities were found to supplement student use of the new computer systems. This approach continues as some teachers utilize the Del.icio.us online tool to organize web related resources and with an effort to create a district wide online repository of these online activities.
Over time, it became apparent that teachers required a place to serve staff created content. Our First Class client software allowed the use of its web publishing feature to offer up such creations. A focus on utilizing this software was implemented during the spring semester to enable users to place their content on a server for student use. The podcasting feature of First Class (version 8.3) provided an easy way for staff to record student stories, poems, and reports and to share it online with the school population, parents, the community, and the world. Several teachers started blogs and wikis to also share their curriculum and student generated content and media.
Digital storytelling was a natural step in the progression of initial technology implementation. Photo Story 3, Windows Movie Maker, and Power Point served as ready to use software for the staff and students. Basic training in the use of this software was provided, and teachers and students began the process of using these tools to generate content. The district web site served as a gateway in sharing this content and led to an increased awareness and interest in learning how staff members were implementing these tools in their classrooms.
As staff members attended various trainings, individual support was offered on site and several projects were completed alongside the teachers and students on a daily basis. This approach supplemented the teacher’s attendance and learning during the trainings and led to increased application of the new skills. Many teachers were surprised by the level of competence that students already had in utilizing these tools even at the Kindergarten and first grade levels. Failed attempts were re-evaluated and modified to meet the demands of time, resources, classroom and lab management, and scaling back the expectations of initial implementation generally remedied initial complications. The combination of training, support, and guidance during implementation provided a recipe for success.
An Open Lab was also offered during the spring semester to supplement after school trainings. These were held generally three times per week and allowed staff to come to the central office learning lab and get one on one attention with their various projects. A limited number of students also attended some of these sessions to learn how to implement technology and create content. A combination of after school trainings, individual support, and Open Lab time provided a way to accommodate the use of precious hours that were in limited supply. These trainings were extended by utilizing continuing education days and via professional learning community days where whole district, building, and multiple staff trainings were offered. Some professional training was also brought in specifically through eInstruction and their CPS clicker systems. Over 460 staff members received technology training over the course of the school year with 25% of that number returning for multiple trainings. All staff had multiple opportunities for training via the two continuing education days offered over the school year.
With the end of the school year a summer training program was also implemented and staff voluntarily spent time in extended learning workshops during the summer months. This program is continuing and will be expanded for the next summer. In all 60 staff member have utilized the summer training sessions that provided time to work on blogging, wikis, podcasting, digital storytelling, video, utilizing the internet, and computer basics.
The key component to the success of this technology training implementation was the addition of a full-time educational technology specialist to facilitate and implement such a training program. The knowledge and experience of a former classroom teacher with specialized instructional technology training enabled this program to come to fruition. Instructional technology professionals can make a huge impact in a school district as they work together with a supportive administration, teachers who see a concerted effort to meet their technology integration goals, and via a technology staff that provides superior support for the district’s network, hardware, and software implementation.