Today we have the good fortune to have a guest blogger, Ms. Erin Hommeland, who is a Professional Development and Classroom Technology Implementation Consultant. She also has the advantage of being an amazing person. Here she is…. –KM
For the past 7 years, I have designed and delivered professional development and training in the Educational Technology sector, more specifically, on the implementation of interactive whiteboards (IWBs). Getting teachers and administrators interested in the technology was the easy part. Talking with the decision makers about the implementation of and training with said technology was often where most of the discussion occurred. There was almost always a struggle with how much training was “enough” — and how much of their budget could be set aside to pay for it. I can’t tell you how many times I got a request that went something like this: School Representative: “We just bought 5 interactive whiteboards. I have 60 teachers. We want you to train everyone in a 60 minute session after school on Friday.”
Me: (Deep Breath) “That is ambitious. Let’s talk about your desired outcomes.”
Then I proceeded with a conversation along these lines:
“Are you ready for training?” You just placed your order on Monday. Let’s take a look at some options after your order is delivered. That way we can actually use the new equipment in the training session, which will lead to better outcomes for those trained.
“Are all 60 teachers going to be using the technology right away?” If not, what is your reason for requiring their attendance? If they are not going to be able to turn around and apply what they have learned, it won’t stick. Chances are, it will be a waste of their time, your money and you will potentially be creating some issues with negative attitudes towards your implementation.
“We should focus on who you expect to be your “power users.” This will keep the initial group size smaller, allow for hands-on practice, and more individualized instruction. Getting a small group up-to-speed fast will establish some peer mentors to help other teachers get started.
“Is Friday after school the only time you have available?” My experience has taught me that it’s hard to keep people involved and engaged when I am the only thing keeping them from the start of their weekend. Selecting a time when learners are more likely to be more engaged (like a Tuesday!) can be the difference between a successful training and a dismal failure.
Let me say that I completely understand that administrators are looking at budgets and the bottom line, and that is often in direct conflict with what I would call effective teaching and learning — for teachers and students! I can deliver information to 60 teachers crammed in a computer lab, with one IWB and one computer at the front of the room in 60 minutes. But I would not recommend it, and I would most certainly not call that training. It’s what I like to call a “glorified demo”. This might be a great way to show off what can be done with the hardware and software, to pique interest, or let your staff know what is coming to their classrooms. But it is not training. And most likely, not a lot of learning will take place or transfer to using it in their own classrooms.
Here are five steps for a successful implementation of new classroom technology:
1. Identify who your Power Users are going to be. Train them first. Advertise their expertise and that they will be on-site support throughout the implementation process.
2. Plan for training to take place after the new product is in your hands.
3. Plan for a series of training sessions. People need to know that they will have time to practice, and receive ongoing support from the “experts.” One session just isn’t enough to get mastery performance.
4. If at all possible, plan for one-on-one coaching sessions. This can either be with your contracted trainer, or your on-site experts.
5. Pick a day and time when your learners are more likely to be engaged and paying attention.
Any reputable vendor will have implementation and training support available to their customers. Some of it may be included with your purchase, and some of it will be an additional purchase. Be sure to ask! The really good vendors are looking to build lasting relationships with you and will have options beyond “This is how you plug it in” and “This is how you turn it on.” You will have an entire catalog to choose from ranging from “Getting Started” to content-specific and possibly even current-event mini-sessions.
The bottom line is that if on-going professional development and support are not part of the implementation plan, then your new technology is going to sit in the closet, or be a big blank space on the wall, without being used. That is not a good outcome for Administrators, Teachers or Students.
What are some of the experiences you have had (good, bad or ugly) with the education technology you have in your schools? What practices would you recommend to your peers? Do you agree with what I’ve suggested? I want to hear from you!