Ask any technology manager about successful technology initiatives and I bet they broach the subject of teacher training. In the daily conversations I have with K-12 technology decision makers, I hear over and over again that the number one reason new technology goes unused is that the teachers haven’t been adequately trained. They aren’t comfortable with integrating that technology into their lessons and it’s not for a lack of trying on anyone’s part.
Class time is valuable and teachers already have a number of professional development (PD) days on the calendar. In many school districts, technology training is squeezed in wherever it can fit. Sometimes, it’s after school. Other times it’s over the summer. Either way, it’s usually conducted outside of traditionally designated professional development days and often expected to be fulfilled on the tech staff and educators’ “own time.”
Working in education requires more hours than most people realize. When the students go home, a teacher’s job isn’t done. They have to create lessons plans, grade homework and tests, update reports for school guidance counselors, write letters of recommendation and more. The same is true of technology professionals. Not only are they dealing with day-to-day troubleshooting. They are also working on technology plans, assisting teachers, looking into or setting up new equipment and preparing to present technology proposals in front of the school board. With all of this work to be done, it’s no surprise technology training often gets left by the wayside.
Technology has taken on an increasingly important role in K-12 classrooms since it often acts as a catalyst for those 21st century learning skills we so often hear about (also promoted by Common Core). Technology helps to facilitate things like critical thinking, creativity and collaboration. Sure, those things are possible without technology, but they are certainly easier with it. Technology also helps to personalize education, allowing students who need more time and attention on a specific topic to receive that help without requiring the teacher to be in 100 places at once. The more time a teacher spends with one child, the less time she spends with another. It’s surprising then, that I haven’t seen more K-12 schools make technology training part of their regularly scheduled professional development days.
I’ve seen several creative solutions to this problem that I think are worth considering. Technology training should count as professional development. If your district can’t work tech training into its regular PD calendar, try recording it. Several schools I’ve covered on K-12 TechDecisions use lecture capture, webcasting or screen recording programs to create videos for teachers to watch. They find this approach is more convenient than asking technology staff and educators to give up additional time for a specific training day. Teachers earn credits for watching the videos, which goes towards their mandatory PD requirements. The added benefit of this approach is that those videos are always available. If a teacher has questions about a particular technology or would like to refresh what they’ve learned, they can access that video 24/7.
Technology is part of the K-12 classroom and learning to use that technology is now a big part of teaching—so lets just call technology training what it is, professional development.