So, this is it. Aside from a few tweaks here and there, mine and Adam’s major project has reached its conclusion. The process was actually quite interesting. If I’m being totally honest, I really had no idea what shape our project was going to take back in January. I knew that Adam and I were going to work together and that we were going to do something around ed tech training. Beyond that? No clue. In fact, it wasn’t really until the beginning of March that the format of our project really started to take shape and even then, we were in a constant state of flux pretty much until the end. With that in mind, I’m going to use this final blog post to highlight two of the primary challenges that we encountered along the way and offer a few closing thoughts on the project as a whole.
Big Challenge #1 – The problem that we have attempted to solve is quite large in scale.
Teachers aren’t trained to use the tech that they’re expected to use (I believe I’ve mentioned this in roughly half of my blog posts this semester and spoiler alert, it’s coming one more time). Adam and I decided to go with this issue early on in the semester as we both recognized that this is a problem. Diagnosing the problem? Easy! Coming up with a feasible solution? Not so much. Even now, I have some doubts. Did we attempt to tackle too much? Did we perhaps stretch ourselves too thin? Would we have been better off attempting to solve a “smaller-scale” issue? Would this not have been much easier to accomplish if we both worked at the same school?
That said, I believe that we did a good job of, at the very least, establishing a quality base from which an ed tech training program can develop within the limitations of the current PD structure (lack of money/time combined with a litany of other priorities). If we were to formally implement this plan next year, we would undoubtedly make plenty of changes along the way but that’s all part of the process. It’s tough to know how successful your idea will be until it’s in the process of being enacted.
Big Challenge #2 – Creating our tutorials
As part of our plan, we decided to create video tutorials that we would hypothetically show to staff (as well as parents/students) in order to attempt to train them in the use of various programs. The programs that we focused on were:
- PowerSchool/Parent Portal
- Google Suite (emphasis on Docs/Slides)
- Google Classroom/Google ReadWrite
We also created a couple of examples for potential “community of practice” sessions (one of our targets is to expose teachers to potentially beneficial programs).
There were a few things that made the tutorials challenging. For starters, we had to figure out how we were going to format the tutorials. There were a few options here but we opted to go for a combination of slideshows and videos. It was important for us to not just do all slideshows all the time because that would get tiring. As a result, we opted to incorporate videos as well and overall, I think we did a pretty good job of creating accessible tutorials that any teacher/student/parent could benefit from (posting the tutorials to the school’s tech website is also part of our plan).
Creating the video tutorials proved to be a bit of a challenge. We used Screencast-O-Matic to create our videos and it was actually super easy to use. The problems that I encountered were:
- We used the free version of the program which was quite limited relative to the paid versions.
- If we made a mistake during the recording we had to scrap it and start from scratch. Fortunately, I only had a couple of pulling-out-hair moments with the loud bell at my school causing me issues on a couple of occasions.
- STUDENT PRIVACY! – For obvious reasons, I didn’t want the names of any of my students to be shown in our tutorials (something that would be less of an issue if these tutorials were only going to be seen by the staff at my school). This made the creation of a couple of the tutorials quite difficult (mainly, the PowerSchool and Gradebook tutorials) because I was unable to show certain features without showing student names. This actually brings me back to one of my pulling-out-hair moments. I was almost at the end of one of my Gradebook tutorials and had exercised extreme caution in making sure that no student names could be seen. Unfortunately, I left my cursor in one spot for a few seconds which caused a student’s name and their grade to pop-up on my screen. Rage!
In spite of these, and other challenges, I believe that we produced a worthwhile product. Technology isn’t coming, it’s already here and its potential within the field of education is limitless. I warned you earlier that I was going to say this one last time so here we go – The problem is that there are far too many teachers that don’t know how to properly use the technology that they’ve been given.
We can’t reach the end goal of using tech to transform education if we don’t start from scratch and work our way there.
This isn’t a change that can happen at the snap of a finger. It will take time and the overall benefits might not be seen for a few years. However, if engaging an increasingly disengaged student-body is a priority then our plan is absolutely something that is worth pursuing.