Tech Training and Modeling Effective Teaching

By Shaw, Trevor | Multimedia & Internet@Schools, September-October 2004 | Go to article overview

Tech Training and Modeling Effective Teaching


Shaw, Trevor, Multimedia & Internet@Schools


"Learning Unleashed!" is a new column this year in which I am chronicling the progress of a multi-faceted technology initiative at the Dwight-Englewood School, a private K-12 day school in Bergen County, New Jersey. In each column, I will focus on a new aspect of the initiative.--T.S.

THINGS are beginning to get interesting as I write this in the first week of June 2004.

Two weeks ago, the tablets for the teachers arrived, and our tech team worked under an incredibly tight schedule to get them inventoried and configured with our software.

Last week, our Board of Trustees had its end-of-year meeting at which I presented the Learning Unleashed program. I explained how our school is at a critical time in terms of curriculum, facilities, and technology, and that requiring students to purchase Tablet PCs is the right direction for us at this time. After a period of discussion, a question was called, and our program was approved by a unanimous vote.

Last Friday I nervously held my breath as 30 teachers opened their tablets for the first time and turned them on.

The Workshops

Professional development for year 1 of Learning Unleashed will consist of three components. Last Friday's workshop was the first phase. We will follow this with a 3-day workshop in the middle of the summer in which faculty will work in small groups to develop course material, digitize resources, and experiment with ways to use the tablet in their instruction. Toward the end of the summer; we will bring all the tablet teachers together for a final session in which they will share what they have worked on over the summer, ask any unanswered questions, and finish preparing their course materials for the year. We intentionally split up these workshops to provide ample time in between for individual exploration and experimentation.

Our initial workshop last Friday was designed not only to give teachers a basic introduction to their new equipment, but also to provide a supportive environment where they could get all their questions answered while they experimented for the first time with a technology they had never seen before. Teachers were asked to come during a free period before or after school to get their tablets and to get an overview of its basic functions. We ended up running six sessions that day. Each session had between two and six participants.

My original plan called for the briefest of introductions followed by a loosely structured activity that would lead teachers through the various functions of the hardware as well an the configuration of the software and the features of the pen and digital ink. I wanted to model the kind of student-centered instruction that I hoped teachers would bring to their own classes along with the technology. I spent a lot of time designing a user guide that explained how to perform each of the functions the teachers would be asked to perform. In an attempt to model stone of the intriguing features of the tablet, I filled this manual with numerous digital pictures and screen shots that I annotated with circles, arrows, and notes using the digital pen.

In designing the workshop in this manner, I was hoping that the teachers' curiosity and excitement about their new devices would drive them to want to explore and experiment. I envisioned the teachers working together in small groups to answer each other's questions and to solve common problems using the on-screen tutorials as well as the materials I provided on paper. Since all of my participating teachers were relatively comfortable with computers and since all of them had volunteered to participate in Learning Unleashed, I thought that their basic skills combined with their high level of motivation and curiosity would lead them to build their own understanding of the skills that were relevant to them.

"Course Corrections"

By the end of the first session, however, it was clear that I needed to make some adjustments. …

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