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.