Saturday, July 23, 2011

Teaching teachers new technology.

With the new school year coming up and the grant starting, there will be a lot of teachers going out of their professional comfort zone.  (See Tom Whitby's article on Professional Comfort Zone).  After reading Tom's article and then Andrew Marcinek talking about teaching teachers' at their pace, it got me thinking about what I do.  

Like Marcinek, I'm a technology specialist (we call it computer facilitator in Surrey BC).  It is part of my duties/responsabilities to help the teachers grow in the area of technology and to promote the usage of  technology in classrooms.  If a teacher wants to use the computers with a tool to enhance their learning, if anything goes wrong, they call me.  Usually they know the technology or they've seen it at a professional development or department meeting.  Great that they want to try it.  But I take it a step further.

Marcinek says that "If your colleagues use PowerPoint effectively and the kids are learning from it then let them go. Let them check it off as technology integration!"  I disagree.  Let them use PowerPoint, but at some point show a few of the students in that classroom, or the teacher themself an example of Prezi and what it's capabilities are.  Perhaps the teacher has never heard of Prezi, so give them a choice.  

A good example of this situation is ordering at a restaurant.  You've been at this restaurant before and you know that the last time you ordered something you liked how it tasted.  But if you continue to order the same thing over and over again, does it not get boring?  And what are you missing out?  When others talk about that restaurant you can only contribute the one item that you ate.  So what can you say?  Same principle applies

Instead, you have a choice.  Most people ask the waiter/waitress what do they recommend.  Or they ask others at their table what they've order, or (and this is what I model I follow for my method of training) they look at other tables and see what others are eating, and see what looks good.  They get curious.   That's what I try to do.  I create an example or get an example of a new software or Web 2.0 tool, and I show the teacher.  "Hey look at how cool this is...".  Then I send them a copy, and wait.  Most teachers are inquisitive, and like trying new things, to learn.  Soon, those teachers try it out, or come to me and ask if I can show them how to use the new tool.  It's still at their pace, but with this method the teacher gets to see all the options on the menu before making their choice.

I agree with both authors mentioned above, it's best to master what you're trying to learn before moving onto another tool.  Some tools take a few days to master (my favorite is Wordle - what a great tool for english teachers to show poetry and the importance of word usage - see example below of a Wordle of the Song - the Boys of Fall by Kenny Chesney)

Other tools can be used to a full capacity, and can take quite a long time to use all of its capabilities
See below for an example of Voicethread, a Web 2.0 tool

This year many of our teachers are going on Twitter to help publish their observations, using a wiki or blogger to annotate, upload lesson plans, give exemplars of students' work, to basically share with other colleagues.  Keep an eye here and at the Sullivan Heights Blog to see what we're doing at our school and what teachers are going out of their comfort zone to try new methods of teaching, new technology, and basically help prepare students for the 21st century.  

Wish us luck!


  1. "If your colleagues use X effectively and the kids are learning from it then let them go. Let them check it off as technology integration!"

    It'll all depend on the definition of effectively. Does that mean the teacher or observer is comparing multiple paths? Is the goal minimum competency progress or are the learning goals higher? How fast is this learning occurring? Are students engaged? etc. etc.

    I don't think people need to be lowering the bar for technology integration.

    I'm interested in seeing what your teacher publish.

    We finally got that going at scale in my district. You might be interested in seeing some of the lesson plans. The site is

  2. Teachers ned to compare and to give students options since not all students learn the same. I find Prezi easier to incorporate videos, more so then PowerPoint, and all that motion and movement keep most kids more alert. Students seem to like Prezi better (maybe because they're tired of PowerPoint - who knows). When I asked why they said they liked the fact that they can just put in all their ideas right away and then organize the ideas into some sort of order. Makes Prezi a graphic organizer, don't you think?

    As for some of the work, most of them are student's work. Here's some examples - - a summative assessment of what students learned in the unit on emailing. From a student who is normally shy and won't volunteer to tell me what she has learned.


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