Preparing Teachers for One-to-One(2)

from Technology & Learning

Ten tips to help educators working in laptop environments thrive.

More districts are turning to one-to-one computing, which puts a laptop in the hands of every student. The ambitious undertaking can bring challenges when it comes to training teachers how to use the technology—and how to teach students to use it.

In 2005 Springfield Public Schools in Springfield, Oregon, provided Apple laptops for 300 middle school students. Tom Lindly, technology services manager for the 11,000-student district, shares his thoughts about readying teachers for one-to-one.

Plot your strategy.

Don't overwhelm teachers. Plan how to get them used to the idea of one-to-one computing fairly carefully. Start out small with something fun that has broad appeal, Lindly suggests. For Springfield, it was a one-week summer session on digital photos.

Give yourself some lead time.

Districts need to give teachers time to get accustomed to the new equipment before it goes to students. Teachers don't need to be experts, but they need to be comfortable. Springfield started its training nine months ahead, but a year to a year and a half would have been ideal, Lindly says.

Involve teachers in key decisions regarding software.

Pick what subject you want to zero in on first—for one district, it might be literacy, while for another it might be math. Then get the teachers who will be using the software to be the ones evaluating it for possible purchase. The outcome will be that the software gets more use, Lindly says.

Differentiate instruction.

It's an education buzz word, but differentiation really does have meaning when it comes to computer training, Lindly says. Teachers come into a one-to-one initiative with a range of skills. Districts should structure training so that it's interesting for all—for example, have a stable of knowledgeable people on hand so they can work individually with those who are struggling, Lindly says.

Use your skilled teachers as trainers.

Teachers will learn better from teachers than from techies, Lindly says. Springfield trained a few teachers first, who in turn taught their peers.

Teachers make training relevant by demonstrating how software is going to affect student achievement. For example, Springfield uses KidBiz3000, a reading and writing program for grades 2-5 by Achieve3000. Teacher-trainers didn't just demonstrate how the application works; they also showed how it could be used effectively in the classroom.

Get the most from vendor training by tailoring it to your district's needs.

Vendors will come into a district with standard training in mind. Often a district can make that training more valuable by talking to the vendor about goals for the product and teacher skill levels ahead of time, Lindly says.

During the school year, Springfield explained to Apple that district teachers had their laptops over the previous summer and had been working on digital photography. In response, Apple tailored its training to emphasize application of tools rather than just the use of them—in this case, how to teach students to do presentations with their own digital photos.

After the initial training blast, follow up on an ongoing basis.

Create opportunities for teachers to use what they learn in training sessions, Lindly says. During the first year of Springfield's laptop initiative, it did one-hour weekly get-togethers with teachers to review what they were doing, and to share ideas about what was working in the classroom and what wasn't.

Evaluate teacher training.

Get formal feedback, which could be as simple as a survey about how effective training was. Then make needed changes. One survey tool popular with K-12 IT departments is Zoomerang.

Create support documents and make them accessible.

Springfield used Apple Professional Development Online and when it was getting its one-to-one program in place. And there are great instructional materials on the Internet along with plenty of materials other districts have developed, Lindly says.

Springfield expanded its site, to include staff resources. Lindly recommends other sites, as well: Kellogg Middle School, Fullerton School District, and Kuglin's Educational Web Resource Page. It's worth remembering that a good science lesson is a good science lesson, whether it's designed for use on laptops students take home or not. Useful materials can be incorporated into a one-to-one computing format, Lindly added.

Sheila Riley is a San Francisco-based freelance writer.