Cutting to the chase, I believe technology trainers are still needed in education. Of course technology training is part of my day job, so I am obviously not unbiased. But I think some insider bias is ok in this case, because it is my investment and experience in my work that gives me insight into this question. Read on for my reasons that tech trainers are still important in education.
I'll grant you that teachers (really, most members of Facebook) have learned the basics on their own. Filling out your profile, making posts, and adding friends are pretty easy to figure out independently. But without any formal training, how many people are using Facebook well? Consider these points:
- How many of your friends have ever dug deeply into their privacy settings and/or frequently check their privacy settings? Several of my Facebook friends do this only occasionally, usually when I or another one of their connections takes time to post something to Facebook about privacy concerns or changes.
- How many educators have lost their jobs because they shared unprofessionally on Facebook?
- How many of your Facebook friends have created strong passwords to keep their information, and ultimately your information, safe? (Corollary question: How many of your Facebook friends have ever had their accounts hacked or clicked on links that started sending spam out from their accounts?)
- With credit to Ann Witherspoon's comment on my previous blog post, how many of your Facebook friends "have created groups, fan pages, or events within Facebook"? In other words, how many of them have used Facebook at a deeper level?
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Some people learn better in in-person settings. They need to be able to watch someone else or have a chance to ask questions on the spot as they experiment with a new program or tool. The face-to-face training can give them the start they need to explore a technology tool further on their own.
I know people who feel intimated or even "stupid" when they are reading a manual or watching an online demonstration, but in a show-and-do Q & A session with an experienced trainer, they pick up everything they need to gain a little confidence and get started. When the trainer has more experience in the tool being taught, they can also save the teacher the hassle of getting stuck on tricky parts because they can steer the teachers around those spots. And there are always going to be people who won't make an independent effort to learn something on their own because it is not in their area of interest; requiring a face-to-face training is the only way to ensure they will be properly exposed to the material.
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Teacher training is an area where I hope CTOs will rely on the experience of the educators on their team. When I hear of statements like "It's just part of their job to know how to use the tools" without the follow-up statement "So let's design the training to teach them," I become concerned that the lack of teaching/training experience in some members of the technology team is impacting the quality with which a new program or tool is rolled out and implemented. If your school or district acquires or upgrades technology for the purpose of positively impacting student learning, then I believe it is the responsibility of the school or district to provide appropriate training in meaningful use of the technology.
Students Deserve the Best
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I think this quote from an Edutopia article sums it up best:
It is critical for veteran teachers to have ongoing and regular opportunities to learn from each other. Ongoing professional development keeps teachers up-to-date on new research on how children learn, emerging technology tools for the classroom, new curriculum resources, and more. The best professional development is ongoing, experiential, collaborative, and connected to and derived from working with students and understanding their culture."Learning from each other" includes learning from dedicated specialists in instructional technology. It is a given in our personal and professional lives that technology evolves constantly and rapidly. For the sake of keeping student learning relevant and having our pedagogical practices benefit from the latest technology infused approaches, I believe it is critical that schools and districts place an emphasis on technology training for teachers, and that part of the training menu includes opportunities for face-to-face staff development experiences.
Face-to-face is how the majority of educators still teach. It is not unreasonable for educators to continue to expect similar opportunities for their own learning, with a healthy dose of online learning experiences thrown in. Keeping instructional technologists on staff is a valuable investment in bringing multiple opportunities and styles of learning to today's teachers, which is ultimately in the best interest of today's students.