Bringing the K-12 Classroom Online, Part 5

Blackboard and Staff Training

Mike Temara doesn’t represent the normal “classroom” in a K-12 environment. He is Supervisor of Facilities Training, working for Johnson Controls, Inc., placed at the Fayetteville-Manlius School District. It is his job is to train and “certify” a staff of 50 custodians working in six buildings, as well as train staff in other departments. He needs to train these support people in basic computer use, preparing them to use technology to support the material needs of any classroom, school building, and district.

Mike approached my organization, which is the Central New York Regional Information Center, or CNYRIC, a collaborative supporting 52 school districts, in the fall of 2005 to ask if we had a system to allow him to both provide and track certification and skill-based training activities. His parent company provided him with videotapes and paper assessment books for some training, but the management of these in his environment seemed overwhelming. Since the school system in which he worked had a very adequate networking system, it was his idea to take advantage of it to both train and familiarize his staff to use networked digitally-based tools in their work environments.

In the fall of 2005, since the CNYRIC supported his system, Mike approached my supervisor for technology assistance, who then asked me if Blackboard would be an appropriate tool to accomplish Mike’s goals. I told him that, yes, Blackboard could manage assessments and allow for the integration of text, audio and video materials linked to assessments. I surmised that Mike probably would need help converting the video taped material, along with permission from his parent company.

Mike sought out a technology coordinator working in his district and determined that he could convert the videotapes to digital video files using existing equipment. Johnson Control gave him permission to do so, provided the material would be protected from public capture. The tech coordinator converted several of the videos to a digital (.wmv) format and provided the files to Mike as a test of the possibilities.

I then worked one-on-one with Mike to build a site where he could include the video segments, the provided PowerPoint files, text information, and the assessment questions in paper copy books. While Mike was familiar with computer use, he was a slow typist. Showing him various copy and paste routines in Microsoft Word helped him immensely and he spent a number of hours entering, copying and pasting all of his assessment questions into Blackboard’s Test Manager. He then organized them for several work areas including Carpet Care, Floor Care, and Restroom Care.

The beauty of this setup was that Mike would have a way to organize and administer various skill assessments, manage the certification project, and, while doing this, provide his custodial staff with hands-on experiences using computers within their work environment.

Here is the current top-level view of Mike’s original “proof of concept” site:

If you were to enter the site as an instructor, you would find the “Gradebook” looking like this:

Click on thumbnail to see larger image.

Mike has enrolled all 50 of his custodial and maintenance staff into this course and has fifteen quizzes ready for use. His content consists of Powerpoint shows, company-provided videos, self-made videos, and text. The self-made videos include images showing opening and accessing various boilers in the six buildings, with locally-produced assessment questions.

Mike had to “sell” this use to both his parent company AND the school district administration. During April of 2006, with enough content and knowledge to display what was created, Mike presented his first course to the local administration, the local business manager, and school board members.

He was given the go-ahead to commence training and has begun to use the same system to create additional training modules based upon his various departments.

Thus, he has added Boiler Operator and Maintenance, Maintenance Safety, Basic Microsoft Word and Excel, Metasys Energy Management System, Act 1000 & the Que Maintenance Program, and Docushare training to his list for development within the first course. He has commenced to build a course for Cafeteria and Transportation Staff, and Supervisors & Clerical Staff.

While this is not an instructional program for students and teachers, it provides a needed support service for all those people who provide the material supports needed to make a school work.

We are watching Mike’s project with great interest since the kind of support he is building can benefit many of our districts. When we embarked on our course management program to support teachers and kids, we didn’t envision its use for adult staff who are not teachers but who must be taught in different settings at different times with the same materials. Our view of “staff development” was restricted. What a nice marriage of technologies – thanks, Mike, for enlightening us and expanding our vision of online course management systems!

Email:Dan Lake

Because the materials are copyrighted, Mike’s site is closed to guest viewing by design. If you wish to know more about Mike’s activities, contact him directly at