Monday, August 6, 2007

Teacher Professional Development, A Slippery Slope or the Yellow Brick Road?

I have been working on developing an effective training model for the teachers in my district. This has been a rather interestingly fun task to undertake and I can't wait to start the training. The reason for the training is that we are deploying MS Office 2007 this year and with the both subtle and drastic changes in the interface and some of the features, training is needed so our teachers don't freak. Over the past two months I have been thinking about how to conduct the training so that it best meets the needs of teachers, administrators, kids, etc. and so I decided to pose the question to all you out there to give me some feedback on this issue, but first some background.

This started after doing a demo of MS Office 07 for our district. I was pretty shocked at the changes that were made. Things are quite a bit different and can be confusing at first, but once you play with it things start to make sense. I dare say this is one of the program interface changes that Microsoft has done that actually takes the user in mind, at least in my opinion. After doing a year of demoing the new Office our district Director of IT gave the green light to install it on staff machines and select student machines. Needless to say I was elated and terrified at the same time when the word came down the pike. If your buildings are anything like mine you have an awesome mix of those staff who are your early adopters, those who are comfortable, and those who know just enough to be dangerous. Some may think this creates a trainer's worst nightmare but I have actually come to enjoy the diversity of my staff as it helps keep me grounded in reality. My tech team and I undertook the informal/formal task of surveying staff on two questions in regards to training: 1. What style of tech training would you like? And 2. How would you like tech training conducted? The responses we got back were as varied as my staff but there was one clear message "be respectful of my time." In creating the training for Office 07 I tried to keep that message in mind. What I created over this summer was a training model that incorporated elements of a PowerPoint Deck that introduces the new interface and some of the key changes that may drive people mad. The second part takes advantage of our new online community. I designed a series of sites centering on each of the essential MS Office programs used in our district. On these sites are links to online interactive audio lessons developed by Microsoft (which I feel are pretty good at teaching the basics), various discussion boards (tips and tricks, questions, share outs), some simple tasks to be done for accountability, and document libraries to share our creations. The last part of the training is a scheduled training session with me and teachers who have a specific task/project/document they want to do/create. At this training session we work solely on creating whatever it is that the teachers want to create and will use in the classroom(s). My hope is that by haveing teachers do the basics online at their own pace it will be respectful of their time and empower them to request more specific training. Then once they have a feel for the new look and feel we can come together and work on specific skills.

I developed this model after the feedback I received on the shotgun style training I did a few years back where the message was that people enjoyed the training but they didn't leave with anything but a major handout and from anecdotal feedback on our mentor training we designed as part of our HP Teacher to the Future grant project. They like the time of the training, during the school day, but did not have enough time to really get to know the program they were learning. So I am hoping to meld the two together in this online/ targeted mentor style training. On a side note I am also toying with the idea of leading our building tech leaders through the online portion of the training and them go back and lead their building through what they went through (the mentor portion).

The preliminary feedback I am getting on this idea is rather mixed. Some feel it is a great idea in theory but that in reality people will not do the online portion. Others feel that it is a great idea and that staff will appreciate the effort put into the online portion that they can do on their own time and then come together and create something they will actually use throughout the year.

My question is: What are your thoughts on the proposed training model? Will it work or will it flop? What would you do to improve it? I look forward to your comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment