Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tech Training (or, Why I Love My Job, Part III)

Dear Teachers,
Once upon a time, in a land not so very far away, my technology trainings would go something like this: I would fall in love with a particular tool (OneNote, say, or Google Earth). I would arrange a lab, schedule a training, and eagerly await the teachers who signed up. "Here is another really cool feature of OneNote!" I would happily exclaim as I got everyone to click here, point there, type somewhere else. Teachers would be reasonably happy when they left because the tool really WAS cool, but I always wondered whether they would ever even look at the technology again, let alone use it in a meaningful way. Something, I began to realize, had to change.

So for the past two or three years, I've tried to focus on my practice and on what I needed to do to make tech training more meaningful. Thanks to Learning Forward, a wonderful organization dedicated to teachers' Professional Learning, I have a lot more tricks up my sleeve and have a better understanding of what adult learners need. Thanks to carefully observing some very gifted presenters, I've made some changes in my delivery method. And because I've shifted my focus to the curriculum and away from the gee-whiz features of some of the technology (because seriously, some of the stuff we get to work with these days is WAY COOL), I have a better sense that teachers are walking away from trainings thinking not, "That was an amazing tool" but rather "That lesson will be so much better because of that tool she showed us." And THAT, of course, is what will ultimately benefit the kiddos.

I have to say, I'm kind of excited about some days I'm scheduling at a few schools in October. I'll be at each school for an entire day, working with grade level teams during their planning periods. Each team will select in advance a tool AND an upcoming unit. One of the principals and I worked out which tools they'll have to choose from. I started to put this information in an email to the principals, one which they could then forward on to their respective staff members. That seemed kind of Old School, though. My second thought was to create a Google Doc to share with principals, who could then, in turn, share it with their staff. But I wanted to do something that would get the teachers' attention, and I started thinking about how I could start generating interest in the tools even before I set foot in the door.

So I used Popplet to create an image that I could upload to Thinglink - Popplet and Thinglink being two of the six tools I plan to explore.

I took a screen shot of my Popplet and pasted it into Word. From there, it was an easy right-click to save it as an image.

Next step: Thinglink (have you tried Thinglink yet? It is ever so wonderful!) - after creating an account, just click that big blue button on the Create page to upload the desired image - in my case, it was that Popplet screen shot. Thinglink allows you to create little hotspots of information on the selected image; it has so many useful applications for both students and teachers.

After that, I added the tags to insert a brief description of each tool and a link to its homepage. 


So in doing my promo for the training, I included an introduction and demonstration of two of the six choices, so teachers will get a taste of what those tools are like even before we get started. 

Finally, I created a Google form for the grade levels to record their request. I love Google forms, and I especially love all their wonderful new templates!

The final Thinglink I sent to the principals is here. Check it out! But don't respond on the form unless you're the team leader at one of those schools! ;-)

So now I have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for that form to populate. It will be great to walk into each grade level at each school, knowing that I'm about to help them with an upcoming unit (one that they selected themselves) by using a particular tech tool to increase student engagement and learning for that particular unit. I'm hoping that teachers will leave saying "My lesson about ____ will be so much more engaging when I use _____" - rather than "_____ is a really cool that I will probably never use again. Now back to my lesson planning." That right there is where tech integration begins, folks.



  1. I love Popplet and Thinglink! You and your team introduced me to Popplet at ETSI and I learned about Thiglink on Twitter a few weeks ago. Such great tools to use in the classroom! I used Thinglink recently to create a tutorial on how to read the pentatonic scale from the music staff:

    I'm going to revise it a bit and send it home with 4th grade as an extension for their upcoming lessons. These tools make me so excited to be a teacher!!

  2. Kelly, I love your Thinglink! What a fun way to teach the pentatonic scale!