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Without training, ed-tech is useless

Technology has the power to transform learning, but only when it’s done right.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Adopting technology for technology’s sake is not a recipe for success.

Yet it continues to happen. Every. Single. Day.

You can purchase the very best learning technology, steeped in the deepest education research. It doesn’t matter. If you don’t implement the tools effectively, and in the context of clear academic goals, all the tools in the world simply won’t make a lick of difference in the lives of students.

The key to that success starts up front—by getting buy-in from and effectively training your staff.

Educators at Calcasieu Parish in Lake Charles, La., have been implementing education technology for more than three decades.

District CTO Sheryl Abshire is a legend among school technology leaders. In an interview with Ed-Tech Focus on K-12 recently, Abshire attributed her district’s successful track record to strong training and professional development programs.

“We always select technology that supports our learning goals rather than building curriculum around technology,” says Abshire.  “And we don’t put any technology in classrooms without first giving hands-on training for teachers.”

But not all professional development is created equal, as any school administrator or teacher can attest.

Looking to improve technology training in your school or district to get more out of your investment this school year? Abshire and other ed-tech experts offered these tips to Ed-Tech.

It’s got to be about more than just technology
Teachers are busy. With lessons to teach and plan for, extra-curricular activities to coach, and continuing education to pursue, adding ed-tech training to their busy schedules can feel like piling on.

That’s why helping teachers connect with the technology and buy in on a deeper, more philosophical level is critical to your success.

“The schools that do it well tie professional development around technology into a larger framework of learning goals and the mission of the school,” professional development consultant Alex Inman told Ed-Tech.

If teachers can’t understand how the technology and the training tie back to their work goals, they will dismiss the training as something they have to endure, rather than something they need to succeed.

Make sure your next professional development course clearly explains how the technology enhances their personal teaching goals. And include teachers and staff in future planning and training discussions, so that they can take ownership and innovate.

Make it personal and practical
At the end of the day, when it comes to new education technology, most teachers have one question: “What’s in it for me?”

This isn’t selfish; it’s practical. Teachers want to know how new technologies can help them and their students do more. Good ed-tech training illustrates the practical ways in which new school technology solves real, everyday problems.

There are basics that your entire staff will need to know. But, the more personal and specific you can get in your training regimen, the better-equipped, and enthusiastic, your staff will be.

For that teacher who experiences low in-class student participation, show her how tablet devices can be used to encourage student engagement. Or, for the math teacher who’s having trouble getting kids excited about Algebra, show him how an online game or app can introduce some fun into his classroom.

Make it ongoing
Technology training shouldn’t be a once-and-done event.

As teachers use new school technology, they’ll inevitably have questions. Make sure your school or district has a support system and an option for continued training. You might even consider hiring a training guru for in-person or online continuing education, or to field questions as they arise.

And don’t forget about collecting input and ideas from staff. Start an ongoing dialogue with teachers and others to gauge how the training is going and identify ways to improve.

What steps do you take in your school or district to provide effective technology training for teachers and staff? Tell us in the comments.

Looking for an easy way to engage your staff about professional development and new school technologies this fall? Here’s one way to start a productive conversation about professional development in your school community.