Friday, October 3, 2008

Teacher Tech Club

Last year I started an after school tech club for students centered around blogging. The kids were amazing, and the tech club was the highlight of my week. I would throw out a tool or idea and watch them run with it. 
So this year I thought I would do something similar for teachers.  I envisioned giving teachers the time and space to explore, play and create while I was there to help. I imagined starting out by sharing a few things and then going to a hands-on workshop type of atmosphere. As usual, I learned a lot.

Although I know my teachers and their skill levels pretty well, my expectations for the workshop were WAY out of line with the reality of what was accomplished. Upon reflection, it wasn't just technical skill level that was the problem. It was a difference in.......learning style? learning ability? mental flexibility? I'm not sure what to call it, but, for the most part, the teachers were not willing to just let go and try things the way the students have learned to do.
If I imagine a representation of the two groups I would portray the teachers as a rock, the students as a lump of soft clay. How do I teach the teachers to become more clay-like?

I actually think that technology is both the problem and the solution. I believe that using technology, because of the nature of the multiple solutions to a problem and the need to learn through exploration, is a great way to become a better learner.

Now I've gone in a full circle. This is why I started the teacher tech club in the first place!

I started by surveying the teachers about their interest level in such a class as well as topics they would like to see covered. First of all, if anyone knows how to get teachers to respond to a survey could you share that with me? The surveys I did receive back indicated a very high interest in learning about digital photography, so I made that the topic for the first session. 
Now I realize that I should have started with file management (which will be session number 2). As I took the teachers' laptops to install skitch (which I thought I would share during the session) I noticed the extreme need for basic file management. 

Start with the basics!!!!!!!

I actually started to create a resource wiki for the class, with sites like animoto and rockyou, dumpr and flickr. The reality was that we spent much of the time learning to connect the camera to the computer, download and organize photos in iphoto. 

I guess what I am trying to say is if you decide to do something like this, start out slow and basic, unless, of course, you KNOW FOR SURE that your students can handle more. I really thought that most of mine could, but I was wrong. 

Follow-up. I don't yet have a good plan for how to follow-up with these teachers. I will continue to have the tech club sessions, with much more basic lessons in mind. It is hard to find the time to meet one-on-one with each teacher to see how they're progressing (if they're progressing?) but that would probably be most effective. 

I also feel concerned about the fact that out of 35 teachers at my school, only 8 responded (4 in each session-same session scheduled at two different times). I waver between being extremely happy about those eight and being worried/frustrated that more do not make their own learning a priority. This is where I would like to see my school's leadership step in and require teachers to attend at least some professional development. It is a fact that until teachers begin to use technology for personal productivity there is no way they are going to integrate it with their teaching. 


bcdtech said...

I did something very similar with pretty much the same results. I had tried-for 2 years- to do after school workshops for teachers based on the results of a survey. I had almost all of the teachers respond and they asked for Photoshop, PowerPoint and various other tools. I started with Photoshop and got 3 teachers. They found it totally overwhelming. All they wanted to learn how to do was crop and eliminate red-eye. Don't really need Photoshop for that, but I showed them how to do it. I offered PowerPoint, no one signed up. Offered other short after school workshops and no response. Last year I offered 2 online courses using moodle. I got interest in one and had 6 teachers come. I did after school f2f 4 times over 8 weeks and the rest was online. Only 3 teachers completed a project. Although I was happy to help 6 people and really proud of the work of the 3 who actually did something that they will use, it was a lot of work for me to make up the courses with so little return.

This year, new head of school, new ideas. I surveyed the faculty, yet again. I asked if they wanted student tech mentors- about 2/3 agreed. I now have a fledgling student tech mentor program, just starting this week. I am hopeful that this will help both the kids and the faculty.

The new head wants me to design and offer courses to meet everyone's needs. Do 35 courses?? I also teach full-time and do help desk and chair my department (of 2). If I really believed that I could effect change by making up 35 courses, I would do it. I don't. I am still trying to connect teachers with tech by finding out what they are doing and offering to help them with their classroom projects. This is more meaningful for them, but is also incredibly time consuming.

I started a ning for grades 7-9 this year and the kids all had great ideas about how they would like to see it used for school work. So far,I use it and they have a few clubs on as groups, but it has yet to be used in any meaningful manner by any other teacher. I talked to the kids and told them that if they wanted to be able to get notes, homework, etc. on the ning that it was their job to talk to their teachers.

I have no solutions. I keep trying and keep feeling like I'm spinning my wheels. I do get a few more teachers on board every year. Perhaps by the time I retire I will have most of them to the point where they can use email and manage their files, perhaps even back them up once in a while...but embracing technology, making technology transparent, embedded in practice... truly transformative...not even close.

I agree about needing basic skills, but how can you generate interest in obtaining them? I had thought that by finding projects for teachers to become involved in, this would increase their computer use and naturally with more use they would pick up more skills. Hasn't happened that way.

reuw said...

Hi Andrea,
The idea of an after school tech club is great! I did it with students at our HS last year! -

I think that the problem you are experiencing results from your teachers not being "digital natives" i.e. at home in the digital world, thus feeling confident enough to experiment and "play around" with the tools you show them.
I think you must be more structured with them - showing them concrete examples of how they might be able to use these tools in their teaching repertoire. After actually using them they might become more comfortable trying things on their own.

However, keep looking! You might have some teachers who are more digitally comfortable and thus more willing to experiment.

I definitely agree that support from the administration will help!

Andrea Hernandez said...

@bcdtech thanks for sharing your experience. I'd love to see what you did on moodle and/or any of your teacher projects. I feel that an online course would not work for my school. I am going to keep trying w/the tech club, but with lowered expectations for how much can be achieved in a session.
Also, how do I motivate them to want to practice w/the tech in between classes? Any good ideas for that? At another local private school, teacher's salary increases were tied to tech evaluations which were based on required PD and follow-up. I think that would be a great motivation. I would love to see my school go to something like that, but they won't.
I did get one very nice email after the class. So, at least one person got something from it.
I like the student tech mentor idea, too. I wonder if I should have some students come and help during the teachers tech club. That might really help b/c one thing I found was that people really needed individual attention.
It sounds like you and I have similar jobs with some similar challenges.

@reuw I have tried structured workshops in the past, kind of more step-by-step and that didn't seem to do the trick either. I do think I need to step it down a notch. When I first started at the school I did a lot for people. Now I refuse to do things for people that I can teach them to do for themselves. But many actually go and find someone else to do it for them!
I know there is the whole "digital natives" but I tend to not believe so much in that because there are so many of us who are not digital natives but who act a lot like digital natives. There is more to it then growing up digital. But what? What is that missing ingredient that makes some people motivated and able/willing to learn new things and others not?

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Andrea!

At TCS, we have discovered the same as you. We have run a series of tech sessions on basic skills and will continue these. I gave the first session of the series.

I had an idea that the proposed topic was perhaps a bit in advance of many teachers' expertise but the collective opinion from other eleads was that the participants would cope alright. Well it was touch and go.

What it did highlight is exactly what you have found. Nothing is ever too basic with beginner classes in tech.

I've just written a post on what a first elearner needs before plunging in - I adopted the same principle there. As sure as eggs, if the introduction does not include the very basic material, a substantial lot of the participants will get left behind.

Surveys and teachers? Hmmm. An invitation for a night out, or a champagne breakfast for every completed survey returned?

You might get some back :-)

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

MIke Sansone said...

Thanks for sharing this important experience, for those on either side of the fence (and on the fence too).

Two big "You're Right!" items:
- Go back to basics. It's amazing how many simple (in my mind) computer use techniques are completely foreign to some that use computers daily. Like with any other teaching, my proficiency shouldn't become part of the problem.
- Leadership must get involved (in a proactive role). But frankly, they means they have to be learners too. I think this is where it starts. Get leadership behind you first.

Thanks again for sharing and putting this into words. Every time I try -- it comes out "ARRRGH" or something like that.

Barbara said...


What a great idea! The framing of it as a "club" rather than as a professional development opportunity takes the pressure way off. I'd celebrate the fact that 8 teachers are participating...they will be your grass-roots folks to spread the love to the rest of your faculty.

I agree that when you're working with adult learners, tech-savvy or not, the step-by-step approach is enormously helpful. To save time, might you want to create screencasts for some of the "how-to" steps?

Please continue to keep us posted! I may snag your idea if it seems like it's a big success.

Thanks, Barbara

reuw said...

Well I must say that after many years, I am finding that more teachers are beginning to look for me to help them "go tech", even some of the "oldies and goodies". They are beginning to see that it is harder to keep teaching today's kids the way they have been for so many years.

I am trying to "fit" the "solutions' to the "needs" of the teachers. Some are starting to use blogs to communicate with students, some prefer forums and some wikis. A few are using our virtual classroom on MS-Sharepoint as an auxiliary course supporting site.

Some of our newer teachers are coming to school with their laptops and so we started installing wifi routers to the school network and make things easier for them.

One of our new teachers started using one of our projection fitted classrooms to project pages of Talmud on the screen to help do textual analysis. I just have to drop him some tips and he's off on his own.

We are now seriously considering adopting an online pedagogic management system, where teachers enter grades, comments. attendance online and produce reports and parent notices from the system.
Our administration is coming around to support the system and I think that it will give our entire staff a very swift "nudge" in the direction of becoming "digitized".

Without the administration putting their full weight behind it, we will not be taking big steps in the right direction with the entire staff!

Andrea Hernandez said...

Thank you all for your comments. This is a huge part of the power of technology - I have the ability to process and brainstorm with colleagues around the world! It is truly amazing, and I really appreciate all of you for taking the time to comment.

I have to tell you that today was the 2nd of the two sessions. I scheduled two different times for the same session in order to accommodate more people. Today's session seemed to me to go so much better than Thursday's. Upon reflection, I don't know that it was actually that much different; I think the biggest difference was in my own expectations. Today my expectations were much more in line with the reality of what occurred. I went slow and didn't expect them to know much, and everyone seemed to learn and try some new things.

@Barb-I think you are right that I should focus on the positive and be happy that eight people are participating. Maybe more will join for other sessions, but if I help a few people learn a few new things that is good. I will definitely keep you posted on how it's going.

@Ken-You NZ teachers must earn a lot more than we make here in the US if you are able to offer a night out or champagne breakfast for each completed survey! I could perhaps offer a piece of chocolate....I don't know that it would help though!

@Mike @reuw -I have felt frustrated that I don't have full administrative support. That would make all the difference. But it is complicated. I need to be the leader leading the leader; her vision is not as informed as mine. Does that make sense? But I am not in an administrative role for a reason - I don't want to be in that position. So, I guess I could be doing more, too. I feel a bit disappointed in myself that it took me until my third year here to even think of doing these classes for teachers. I knew they needed the basics; I guess I wasn't doing enough to try to meet the needs.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I think I could have written the exact same blog post! I am really struggling with my fellow teachers as I try to share new, easy to implement, technologies in their classes. They just don't have the time or the desire to find the time to learn!

Let me know how this has turned out for you...

Maureen said...

I have been doing a teacher tech club for several years now and when I first started I had similar results. Here are some things I learned:
1. No tech club shall be longer than 1/2 hour. One hour at the most! After that forget it! For instance: have one tech club be just showing them a great website. If it is an extensive program run the tech club in a series. Example: we got activboards. My first tech club was showing them how to turn them on and project to their boards. Second tech club was using the pen.
2. Keep it RELEVANT! Only show things that they can TRULY USE and will have TIME to use. Unitedstreaming: all teachers want to be able to show movies. relevant to ANY teacher at any level. Photoshop is great for the kids, techies, and photo junkies but who has the time to do all that editing? All teachers need to know is upload pics, crop, get red out, and print. We use Picasa. Simple and easy.
3. MUST BE SIMPLE!!! Don't even waste your time on showing any program or website that is complicated. It must be VERY user friendly.
4. Offer the same workshop several times and at different times. For instance: If you do a PowerPoint workshop run it on a Tues and Thurs. One before school and one after. You will reach more people by being flexible to their time.
5. Write up "how to handouts" and make them availble on line to print out. There are still some teachers who need to have a hard copy resource to follow directions. Here are some tech clubs I have done:

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Ha ha Andrea!

I was suggesting that a champagne breakfast or a night out might attract some survey papers back. I didn't say anything about funding it!

Ka kite
from Middle-earth