Image: Larry Johnson
As a person who has conducted and attended hundreds of teacher training workshops, it's been interesting for me personally to see not only how teacher training is becoming increasingly about educational technology but also how limited (or limiting) some of this training can be.
I am in the middle of preparing a series of edtech training sessions for the institute where I currently work and two priorities in particular struck me as being particularly important compared to previous workshops I have arranged more around the issues of teaching methodology and classroom management. Actually, these two considerations can certainly enhance those sorts of workshops as well, but for edtech in particular I think they become vital.
I call these two priorities FO-FU, which stands for 'Finding Out' and 'Follow Up'.
Starting with the FO, it worries me somewhat that so much edtech training appears to involve an expert (usually a visiting expert) demonstrating one or a small range of edtech tools that have been preselected in advance. I don't see anything inherently negative in that, but with the wealth of edtech tools and possibilities now available I think teachers need more than that. They're often given fish, but not taught how to go fishing.
Hence FO involves identifying a teaching/learning need and then actively looking around to find out what tools are available to meet that need or possibility. Teachers need to learn how to find and evaluate these tools across a range of criteria including things like cost, platform, accessibility, viability and reliability. And they need to work themselves into this finding out process in a way that allows them to increasingly do more of it on their own with other teaching/learning needs and facilitative edtech tools.
FU is, in my opinion, an even more important concern. Given that teachers are often being exposed to a tool for the first time, often using technology that mightn't exactly be within many teachers' immediate respective edtech comfort zone, without some sort of follow up it can be a little bit like grasping at ladders made of ice; they melt into liquid before teachers can learn to climb anywhere (if at all).
The solution? Edtech training sessions need to come (as a minimum) in pairs. The first session covers orientation, finding out, selecting and learning how to use one or more edtech tools. The follow up session comes later (anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, but certainly in my opinion no later than that) and teachers are encouraged to bring along some of the work or experience they've managed to complete using the new tool and/or a list of specific problems or successes they encountered along the way since that first lot of training.
Again, this represents a problem for the fly-by-night visiting expert who is here today and gone not only tomorrow, but possibly forever. This is not to say that the visiting expert isn't worth your investment for edtech training; but it is to say that both you (if you are organising the training) and your visiting expert need to have a longer term plan that includes some sort of follow up to explore what has been taken up and achieved (or not taken up and not achieved) since the initial training.
In fact, I think it is quite essential for edtech trainers visiting contexts for once-only shows to have, as part of their offering, some sort of online meetup or gathering space where the trainees can come together again and share the fruits (or fruitlessness) of the training. Most edtech experts I have met are open to this idea, but it often turns out to be a rather vague offering. The follow up needs to be intrinsic to the F2F training session from the start and clearly and pragmatically facilitated.
FU doesn't just ensure you are getting appropriate bang for your buck with the expert, however. It also becomes a very important fire under the bottoms of teachers to get out there and try and use the tools they've been trained to find and use.
Let's imagine a trainer has taught teachers how to find and use a one or more social media platforms to engage in education resource finding and sharing, for example.
Knowing that the trainer will be back in a week's time (or available online) to facilitate a session sharing what has been used and gleaned can be just the catalyst some teachers need to get out there and try it and not just put it into the vague mumbly 'might try that thingy sometime' basket.
Less confident teachers may be more willing to have a crack if they know they can have questions and problems addressed afterwards. Teachers need to realise successes and progress, no matter how small, if the edtech spark is to get the oxygen it needs to burn into something brighter.
It also means that there is more potential for teachers (whether from the same team or from different departments) in a given session forging and maintaining connections with each other. They have something they need to try and achieve and they will be meeting up again later to share it, so why not team up after that first session and try stuff out together?
All in all, I haven't seen a whole lot of FO-FU in the edtech training I've experienced as a teacher. I think both Finding Out and Follow Up are becoming increasingly vital for edtech, and I am in the process of making them cornerstones of the edtech training I am starting to put together for others.
You might like to think about FO-FU yourself, whether it be in evaluating the edtech training you are receiving or the training you are thinking of facilitating.