Saturday, March 17, 2012

Teacher In-service before Technology Implementation. Is it the chicken and egg debate?

A few days ago I received an e-mail from a teacher friend looking for some advice. It would seem that she had monies for a significant technology purchase for her district, had her purchase decided upon and was looking for advice in this area... should she purchase and send out the technology to teachers before or after she provided in-servicing for teachers. The answer is... it depends.

First of all it depends on the difficulty and complexity of the technology purchase.

If the technology is perhaps an upgrade to something that teachers are already using, then sending it out before teachers are in-serviced may be okay. The teacher, in this situation, can explore the upgrade while having the security of fall back to the familiar. I'm thinking of a software upgrade in this situation, an upgrade of an LMS, new OS for a TI-Nspire.

If the technology is easy to install and simple to use, then the technology can precede the in-servicing. An excellent example of this would be Apple TV. That piece of technology was so simple to add to a wireless network for me.

However, if there is complexity with installation, or the technology is powerful/complex to use, or of it is a technology that deviates the end user significantly from their comfort zone then never should teachers have to go through the struggles with trying to integrate it into their teaching without in-servicing first.

Some examples do come to mind. The first time that I seen a SmartBoard I was impressed to no end. However I would not want to have to try to install one on my own.

A few years ago we were asked to evaluate different Learning Management Systems (LMS). I remember trying to learn Desire2Learn (D2L) without any training whatsoever. It was extremely hard. However when we selected D2L as our LMS and I received some train the trainer in-servicing, my proficiency grew exponentially within a few days.

I also remember when I left my position in Nunavut and began teaching in Labrador. In Nunavut I was trained and certified in the Mac ecosystem. In Labrador, I was reintroduced to Windows. Without any in-servicing on using and troubleshooting in the Windows environment, my first year was hard with many hours spent struggling to learn things on my own.

In answering my friend I pointed out to her that negativity spreads like wildfire, much faster than things that are positive. She needed the teachers to experience success and have positive feelings about the new technology she was bringing into their teaching.

So what did I recommend to my friend? I recommended to her that she purchase the technology and put it into storage until after she started her in-servicing sessions. The install of the software could take place during the in-servicing and the install of the hardware could take place while the teacher was being in-serviced or immediately after.

Any technology has only one chance to make a good first impression. I have seen lots of cool technology on classroom shelves because teachers were not trained before they received their technology. They did not know how to use it, or became frustrated trying to learn it, or did nor see the true benefit of integrating the technology into their teaching. In-servicing before they even put their hands on the technology may have changed all of that.

To me there is no debate... in servicing BEFORE installation and implementation.

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