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Technology Training Programs That Work

 

Education technology experts have identified five characteristics of effective technology training programs for teachers. The best programs, they say, offer incentives and support, teacher-directed training, adequate access to technology, community partnerships, and ongoing informal support and training opportunities. Find out what members of the Education World Tech Team say about the effectiveness of the programs at their schools. How does your school compare? Included: Tips for successful technology training.

 

In an article "Effective Programs for Training Teachers On the Use of Technology," author Sally Bowman Alden identifies five characteristics of effective technology training programs for teachers. The best programs, according to Alden, offer incentives and support, teacher-directed training, adequate access to technology, community partnerships, and ongoing informal support and training opportunities. "If we are to gain the many benefits technology offers our children in learning and their futures," Alden said, "our teachers must be provided with on-going opportunities to develop their understanding of the value of technology to themselves personally and professionally and effective uses in the classroom."

To find out whether those are typical of technology training programs offered to teachers today, we went to the Education World Tech Team and asked our experts to tell us about the technology training offered in their schools. We asked, "How effective is the technology training your school or district provides? Does it include classroom instruction, modeling, or both? Is training mandatory or voluntary? Does it take place during school or outside of school hours? Are subs provided? Are teachers rewarded or compensated for their participation? Is there follow up to the training sessions? Most importantly -- is the training successful?"

Several Tech Team members responded to our request; most were the very people who provide the training for their schools or districts. This is what they told us.

MULTIFACETED TRAINING

"I am one of two technology coordinators in a six person tech staff at a boys-only, grade 3-12 independent school in Maryland," Ken Barton told Education World. "We enroll about 660 students and employ about 80 faculty members. We offer only one computer programming class in the high school; otherwise, faculty members are expected to integrate technology into the curriculum. To that end, we have a scope and sequence for technology integration in grades 3-8 as a guideline for teachers to follow.

"Our tech training is multifaceted," Barton continued. "During the faculty meeting days held before school opens in the fall, a half-day is devoted to ensuring that new staff members start the year off right -- technologically speaking. They are expected to know how to use e-mail, voice mail, and electronic grading, and to have begun a Web page on the school intranet for posting assignments and resources.

"Three days at the end of the school year also are reserved for professional development," Barton added. "Last year, teachers had to complete a technology skills inventory checklist and attend one three-hour class on basic Microsoft Office skills. That was the last session that will be devoted to training on software applications, however. From now on, we will be concentrating on integration training.

"In addition, four half-days throughout the calendar year are scheduled for professional development. Those days sometimes involve technology training; sometimes they don't. Teacher attendance is expected on those days, as well as on the teacher days at the beginning and end of the school year.

"As elementary coordinator, I also schedule monthly small-group training sessions during team planning time," Barton noted. "Attendance at those sessions is encouraged, but not required (although I'd like it to be). This year, training has focused on such online tools as search engines, rubrics, certificates and worksheets, quiz preparation, and WebQuests. I create HTML versions of my training sessions and post them on my intranet Web page, so faculty can revisit them when they need to. I also do a lot of "walk in" business whenever faculty members have questions or problems.

"I attend national conferences, such as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) annual conference and exposition, Classroom Connect conferences, and regional conferences held in Maryland," Barton added. "Then, in my monthly training sessions, I pass along to faculty ideas I have picked up. I also give presentations at regional conferences; our school provides substitute coverage so faculty can attend as well. And I "model" professional development by taking classes myself. Last year, I completed the 40-hour Intel Teach to the Future program, and this year I took a semester-long online class in project-based learning. I also am a Classroom Connect list host for Washington, D.C. area educators and a national host for math educators.

"This year, our school transitioned from optional after-school training to training held during school time (usually planning periods or regularly scheduled meetings) in which attendance is strongly encouraged," said Barton. "We also transitioned from hands-on training in the lab to Web-based training on our school intranet. Technology integration is one of many teacher evaluation factors in our annual review. I would say that our training program is moderately successful, but we are always trying to provide more circumstances in which faculty members can integrate technology."

Training Tips

Robin Smith, educational technology specialist at Hollidaysburg Area School District in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, offers the following tips for successful technology training.

Get support from the top. If the superintendent doesn't support technology use, attend technology training, use technology, and encourage others to use it; it is a hard sell to the employees.

Encourage principals to attend training sessions as well, and to support their teachers by providing extra staff development, if necessary.

Include teachers in the decision-making process when determining the types of training needed.

Be sure technology instructors are knowledgeable and well trained. They need to know their content and know how to teach it to others, even if that means providing them with extra pay for prep time.

Provide incentives for teacher attendance at training programs. If possible, pay teachers for attending. At the very least, count the hours spent in training towards professional development requirements.

Allow teachers to choose from among different types of training.

Offer training at convenient times. Friday afternoon usually is not convenient!

Include technology training and classroom technology use in teacher observations and evaluations. Teachers need to know that technology integration is an expectation and is relevant to their effectiveness as teachers.

TECHNOLOGY USE
NOT REQUIRED

"The Janesville school district, which serves approximately 10,758 students and employs 963 professionally certified and 453 non-certified full-time equivalency staff persons, has a comprehensive technology plan," Dave Figi told Education World. "In addition, staff members at various schools teach courses in technology that can be taken for credit or simply for upgrading skills. In the latter case, teachers receive a stipend for taking the course. Available courses include Software: PhotoShop; Technology Integration: Math Curriculum Sites For The Elementary Grades; Assistive Technology: Applying PowerPoint to Non- or Low Readers; Teacher Utilities: Creating a Database; File Management; Managing Your Graphics; Scanning Graphics for Classroom Use; Strategies For The Effective Use of One Computer in the Classroom; and Basic Computer Skills: Bookmarking/BookmarkBox (Internet).

"In addition," Figi said, "Janesville has a 10-day professional development requirement called Effective Teaching I and II, which includes such technology courses as K-5- Computer Applications in Art; Computer and Internet Curricula in the Science Area; Integrating Writing and Multimedia through HyperStudio; Introduction to Using the TI 73 Graphing Calculator; Digital Cameras/Scanners; and Lesson Objectives Tackled With the Web."

Marnie Boylen, Janesville's coordinator of instructional technology, has planned and guided much of the technology initiatives in Figi's district. According to Boylen, "Janesville offers two-hour sessions from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the school year. All staff members -- including teachers, principals, custodians, office workers, and the superintendent -- can choose to take courses on approximately 40 different topics. And the district offers three-credit graduate-level technology classes during the summer; those courses are taught by district staff members, who are paid by the university which issues the credits. We also have a district technology integrator who works with staff members in their schools or classrooms, and each middle school has its own technology integrator. Individual schools also plan technology staff development training sessions during monthly in-service times.

"District-level sessions are voluntary," Boylen noted, "while building staff development sessions are mandatory. Because of severe substitute shortages in recent years, it has become our practice not to do anything that would require subs.

"In the past, our classes have been very well attended," said Boylen, "and yet statistics tell us that only 40 percent of our staff has taken advantage of the training sessions. We used to send out fliers advertising the classes offered each semester; now we advertise classes via an online registration system on our Web server. Staff members sign up online. In the move from paper fliers to an online registration system, however, almost all the sessions were cancelled because of low enrollment.

"We offer professionals $10 an hour plus a benefits stipend for attending classes, and clerical staff and aides get their regular hourly wage if they attend courses approved by their supervisors. In spite of the stipend, many professionals have signed up for classes and then not shown up -- even though we call them a week ahead of time to remind them," Boylen added.

"Many of our professionals believe we should provide all our technology training during the school day or during scheduled staff development times," Boylen pointed out. "When we do it during those times, staff members are paid their regular salaries. Others have blown off training off because there's no requirement that they learn to use technology or that they use it with their students. Teachers here use the phone system and their computers for attendance, and some use their computers for grades. Many, however, do not even look at their e-mail."

PROJECT BASED LEARNING

"In the Oswego City School district, we have a very extensive staff development program," Cathy Chamberlain told Education World. "Teachers who work in our district have to take certain prerequisite courses in order to get computers into their classrooms. To get a teacher station in their rooms, teachers have to take a basic computer course on working in a networked Windows environment. To get four student stations in their rooms, they have to complete another in-service course.

"Elementary teachers must take a 15-hour course on the software program we use from Pearson Education Technologies. That course shows teachers how to integrate the software into their instruction," Chamberlain said. "Secondary teachers must take an integration course on how to use various programs to enhance the classroom teaching and learning experience. Finally, all teachers must take a series of three courses -- Basic Internet, Search Tools and Strategies, and Internet in the Classroom -- in order to get Internet access.

"We offer more than 75 different technology-related staff development courses," Chamberlain noted. "They range from working with multimedia, presentation programs, creating Web pages, using spreadsheet and database software, creating online portfolios and standards based units, and much more. Classes are offered from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and also in the summer.

"A unique facet of our program is that each course ends with an integrated project created by the teacher," said Chamberlain. "The project is one the teacher can use in his or her classroom, and each project also is posted online in a searchable database. Teachers often comment on the fact that they don't get a chance to share with their colleagues; this allows them to share their talents and creativity with teachers throughout the district.

"Teachers do get a stipend for attending those classes," Chamberlain concluded. "The average teacher here has taken 160 hours of instruction; some have taken as many as 500 hours."

USE IT OR LOSE IT

"Technology training is provided regularly in our district, but not always effectively," said John Tiffany. "Most training is provided by district technology coordinators, and is held after school for one to two hours. Occasionally, training is offered as an in-service program during a teacher work day.

"The same courses are offered over and over again, but there is no follow up or testing after the training," Tiffany noted, "and it's probably a good thing that the same training is offered repeatedly. Training is quickly forgotten unless it's used, and a lot of the programs taught are not used regularly. I've taken some training sessions two or three times before the subject matter was completely ingrained. I don't know how successful the programs are overall. They are not attended by great numbers of teachers, so it's hard to say what programs teachers actually are using. I don't think the teachers in my district want to use what they have."

"My district uses checklists to assess teachers' technology skill levels," Judy Gardner told Education World. "I find checklists to be very poor assessment tools. Teachers feel intimidated because they have no idea who will view the results or how the results will be used. Plus, teachers don't want to look 'techno-dumb' in the eyes of administration.

"I am one of the facilitators for technology workshops in my school district; we provide training in the form of summer workshops," Gardner notes. "Does that type of training work? In my opinion, no! Teachers, just like students, need reinforcement. A few days in the summer is not enough. Teachers might not have the opportunity to practice what they learned in a summer workshop until February or March. By that time, they have forgotten what they learned. I feel this greatly inhibits our teachers from integrating technology into the curriculum.

"Several years ago, I voluntarily started offering workshops for our high school teachers throughout the school year," Gardner said. "The 'Techno-Wednesday' sessions last for one hour every other week. I get no pay for doing it and the teachers who attend only get professional development hours. I try to make the workshops teacher driven. In the first class, I ask the teachers what they want to learn...what would they like me to focus on, and I set up a schedule based on their suggestions. That approach has worked very well. Teachers have the opportunity to improve their technology skills by using different applications, such as PowerPoint, Inspiration, and so on. After they learn to use an application, I ask them to come to the next class with ideas about how they can use it in their curriculum. This becomes a valuable sharing opportunity; some great projects have come out of these workshops!"

Gardner offers two tips for teachers trying to learn to use technology.
"Start with 'baby steps'....in other words, a simple project you feel comfortable doing. Place the project in your portfolio, and add something to it every time you use it.

Don't be afraid to learn from your students."

BUILDING LEADERS

"In our district, each school has one staff member who is identified as the "Tech Lead Teacher," John Connolly told Education World. "That person receives a stipend and functions as the "first line of defense" tech-wise. Staff members who have problems with technology, such as malfunctioning printers, problems logging on to the network, and so on, contact the tech lead before filing a service request with the district technology department. The response is usually much quicker, and most problems can be solved by on-site personnel.

"The tech lead teachers also run after-school sessions devoted to technology. About four sessions are offered each year and teachers receive extra pay to attend. Topics are determined by the tech leads to best meet the needs of the teachers at their site. In my sessions, I try to include as much hands-on training as possible; most teachers who attend the sessions are not very comfortable with technology. Feedback has been positive, but I don't really know how successful the training has been. Unfortunately, the sessions are not terribly well-attended, in spite of the extra money and, with the current budgetary situation here in California, I don't see either my stipend or the extra money for attending voluntary training sessions continuing."

"Our division is fortunate to have a full time instructional technology specialist in each school," said Julia Timmons. "That's my job -- and it's a job that requires me to wear many hats. My primary responsibilities as technology specialist are keeping the software working -- and training teachers to use it.

"Beginning in the spring of 2004, all teachers seeking certification in Virginia must meet state teacher technology standards. Those include eight broad standards with a number of sub-skills. Each division must develop a plan to educate its staff to meet those standards.

"Our division started the training process seven years ago when the standards were first announced," Timmons told Education World. "First, we developed our own interpretation of the technology standards; it requires all teachers in the division to meet the standards within two years of employment. Failure to do so results in a 'needs improvement' on their year-end evaluation. That means our local requirements are stricter than the state requirements.

"In the first year of our seven-year plan, all teacher-certified personnel (including principals and administrators) spent one half day a week for five weeks training at sites across the division," Timmons added. "Substitutes were provided and they were paid with grant funds. For the next four years, we provided training through paid after-school workshops in a variety of locations and dates. Training also was offered during the summer. Last year, we put all the training materials on the intranet and began to let teachers work through the documentation on their own. We continue to provide limited paid training time, but very little. Most teachers are now trained, and new teachers are able to finish the requirements without much assistance. If assistance is required, teachers are trained during staff periods or after school, but there is no remuneration.

"Training is offered on a regular basis to help teachers learn how to use new software," Timmons noted. "Some training occurs at the beginning of the year in pre-school workdays; some occurs during staff periods. Other training is modeled, and then supported by the presence of the instructional technology specialist. Occasionally, substitutes are provided and teachers are trained during work hours. During the past few years, we also have been able to offer teachers paid hours for developing lessons that integrate technology. That gives them time to create lessons, research, and find what they need for students.

"Each school in the division handles training in its own way. Teachers at my school are required to participate in a certain number of training hours per school year," continued Timmons. "Other schools require attendance at certain workshops. Occasionally, I offer training during faculty meetings. Tips and tricks are sent out via e-mail and in newsletters. I am available 24/7 to help with problems and answer questions. All training, regardless of when it is held, is supported with recertification credits."

JUST BEGINNING

"My district seems to supply very little," Linda George told Education World. "I am fortunate that the New Hampshire Society for Technology in Education (NHSTE) is very active and very good."

"I provide the technology training for our school," George said. "We just got laptops and Microsoft Office -- the big switch from Appleworks 5.0 -- so I have been training the teachers on that. Most Tuesdays, I offer training after school for about an hour and a half or so. I polled the teachers at the beginning of the year and gave them choices of the kind of training I could offer (e-mail basics, digital photography, Web page design, and so on.) Training is totally voluntary so far, although I believe next year I am going to have to offer more official training and open it up to other teachers in the district. Thus far, I only offer training to teachers in my building -- but I'm a first year teacher and I have my hands full here!

"My boss would pay me extra if I begin the training sessions at 4 p.m., held them for at least an hour, and had at least 12 participants," George noted, "but I prefer offering the workshops right after school, so I don't get the bonus. The teachers wouldn't want to begin anything at 4 p.m. and I don't blame them.

"I feel that the training has been successful so far," said George. "I can see the difference in the projects the teachers are beginning to attempt."

TECHNOLOGY IS A TOOL

"We have a three-year staff development plan," Robin Smith told Education World, "and we are in the process of writing a new three-year plan. Teachers can see the plan at any time and know the direction training will take. We make modifications on a yearly basis as needed.

"For the past several years, the district has provided a minimum of two contracted in-service days devoted to technology training," Smith noted. "Those are mandatory, and teachers are paid to attend. They also may attend our district's 12-day summer technology institute, or evening sessions in the fall.

"During the past several summers," said Smith, "our district has used the FutureKids professional development curriculum to train teachers and administrators on the basics of computer and technology use. We also provided training on our new e-mail system and online gradebook, and on the district Web page. Microsoft Office User Specialist Training also was available to teachers with advanced skills.

"This summer, however, the focus of our training will be integrating technology into the classroom," Smith noted. "Now that teachers have the basics we want them to begin to incorporate them into their lessons. Some training will be subject specific, such as that for Geometer's Sketchpad and music sequencing programs, while others will be grade-level specific to help teachers meet the district technology benchmarks we are creating.

"We also plan to offer training on digital cameras and digital editing; tech "toys," including projectors, Smart Boards, PC tablets and so on; and Inspiration Software and Adobe Acrobat," Smith added. "Also, we will provide more training on Web design, as well as training on using our planned helpdesk system, Intifusion Support System by Questeq.

"Besides our summer program, we also provide voluntary before and after-school teacher training on computer programs specific to each building," Smith pointed out. "Those classes usually last from a half hour to an hour; teachers receive Act 48 credit, but no extra pay. And, throughout the school year, we hold in-services on the implementation of special hardware and software products. Those are held on school days and substitutes are provided. This year, for example, we have provided training for whiteboard implementation.

"We also are considering conducting a voluntary Intel "Teach to the Future" program for teachers who wish to be trainers," Smith said. "Those teachers would become master trainers and teach other teachers. In return, they would receive a laptop computer for use as long as they are in the district. And we are considering a teacher mentor program, in which several teachers would be assigned to a mentor teacher who would assist them when they have a problem or a question. We have researched this type of program and it seems to be very well received in other districts.

"The training in our district has been very successful," said Smith. "We try to promote technology as a tool that will make teacher's lives easier and provide a more exciting mode of instruction than chalk and chalkboards. Students today are used to being entertained with MTV and video games. We cannot compete by teaching the way we taught 30 years ago. We encourage our teachers to incorporate educational uses of technology to appeal to current students and to reach students of all learning styles.

"Using technology for the sake of using technology is not the goal; using technology to make a great lesson better is what we strive for," Smith concluded. "Some lessons work best without technology, but most could be enhanced by technology. Our goal is to provide teachers with the knowledge and skills they need to enhance their lessons with technology whenever it is appropriate.

"Training is important," Smith noted. "It should be a priority in funding as well as in district-wide planning of technology initiatives. Most teachers are very busy. They are already juggling a great many things just to do their job. Try to make training as convenient and appropriate as possible, and provide teachers with time to learn the technology before expecting them to use it."

 

The Education World Tech Team includes more than 50 dedicated and knowledgeable educational-technology professionals who have volunteered to contribute to occasional articles that draw on their varied expertise and experience. The following Tech Team members contributed to this article:

* Ken Barton, elementary technology coordinator
Landon School, Bethesda, Maryland.
* Cathy Chamberlain, technology integration specialist
Oswego Education Center, Oswego, New York
* Jim Connolly, eighth grade U.S. history teacher
Buena Park Junior High School, Buena Park, California.
* Dave Figi, high school computer teacher
Janesville Parker High School, Janesville, Wisconsin.
* Judy Gardner, high school library media specialist
Lebanon High School, Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
* Linda George, technology integration specialist
Dondero School, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
* Robin Smith, educational technology specialist
Hollidaysburg Area School District, Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.
* John Tiffany, high school science teacher
Wauseon High School Wauseon, Ohio.
* Julia Timmons, instructional technology specialist
Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle School for Innovation, Lynchburg, Virginia.

 

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © Education World


Updated 11/14/2011

 

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