DAILY INSIGHT: Technology for new teachers?

By Matt Townsley, CIO Advisor

One of my roles as district technology and curriculum director is to lead our annual two-day New Teacher Institute. Educators new to our district learn about curriculum initiatives, spend time with a seasoned mentor, and connect with district and building personnel. I've struggled with the role technology should play during these two days. Should it be tool-centered—step-by-step tutorials of our primary management and instructional systems? Should it be totally avoided so that the new staff do not feel overwhelmed? The answer for us seems to lie somewhere in the middle.


Every teacher in our district is issued a laptop. This year, the IT department provided new teachers a laptop on the second day of the Institute. Rather than a step-by-step walkthrough of using a MacBook Pro, we showed them how to access the Web and their email. That's it! Additional how-to questions about the hardware or operating system were to be directed to the mentor or to IT at a later date.

Using our time wisely

A few years ago, several staff members requested that a "quick links" page might be a great way to help new and veteran staff easily locate the most important systems and resources offered by the district. After the Web and email access directives, we spent the next 20 minutes articulating the most relevant links and noting the necessary login credentials. For example, we know that new teachers need access to our copy center before the fist day of school. Field trip transportation requests may be important to share, but it is not something on new teachers' minds in August.


1. Our New Teacher Institute feedback indicates we need to extend the amount of time with technology next year. Should this include more tutorials? Spend additional time for general Q&A? Discuss Apple-specific shortcuts (knowing many of our staff come from a Windows background)?

2. Putting computers in the hands of new teachers sooner rather than later is important. We waited until the second day to provide computers to new teachers, admittedly because it was easier for IT staff. Looking back, providing a computer to the new teachers well in advance of the New Teacher Institute has its pros and cons. Pros: "Just-in-time" training becomes a more realistic scenario; additional time for staff to use it if they choose to work during the days or weeks leading up to the Institute. Cons: It may require repeating training (i.e., how to use email and other resources) to individuals and in turn taxing our limited IT staff resources.

I am interested in learning from other technology directors.

What is your workflow or protocol for providing computers and training to new teachers?

Matt Townsley is director of instruction and technology at the Solon Community School District in eastern Iowa.