Saturday, August 25, 2007

Teaching Teachers

This week I had the opportunity to teach staff in my district how to use SmartBoards. This is the second SmartBoard class I taught. The first was in April. Thinking about it now, it amazes me that I first got trained in the use of the SmartBoard and accompanying software last August. Then 8 months later, I was proficient enough to teach others. One year later, I am teaching my second group of teachers.

Now, if you ask my husband, he will tell you that the reason for that is I spent hours and hours at home learning how to use the technology. And stayed many hours after school practicing on my SmartBoard.

But if you ask me, it is really because I wanted to learn, was vested in the process due to my desire to use the equipment with my students, and, here is the most important part, was NEVER afraid I'd screw things up so badly that I would ruin the board, the software, or my computer. And that is what I kept thinking about this week as I taught my colleagues.

Each day, as I taught new skills, I watched my class members go through one of three emotions. One: Wow! That was cool and I can't wait to try it over and over again. (This was not the most common feeling.) Two: Wow! That was cool. Let me watch again and then I'll attempt it, slowly, cautiously, but willingly. (Fairly common.) Or Three: Oh no! My brain is on overload, I cannot handle anymore. I will try it if Lisa comes and watches me do it, making sure nothing goes wrong. (More common than I was happy with.)

Fear seems to hold back a great many people when it comes to learning new technology. And I think it all comes back to lacking basic computer understanding of how a computer works. When I taught my class how to use their thumbdrives (most of them cut open the packaging on their very first thumbdrives in order to use them), there was a clear lack of understanding about what this piece of equipment would do. The greatest fear was that it wouldn't actually save anything. Everyone kept waiting for a signal to let them know it had saved properly. We had to go back through it again and again, with me showing them how to find files on the drive so they could prove to themselves their file was really there.

In fact, even finding the correct drive on the computer was tricky. Which drive is it? What happens if you save into the wrong drive? Where will your file go? Will it mess up the computer? When I asked my class on the first day to go home and download the Smarttech software so they could play, all but one came back the next day saying they were unable to accomplish this task. When asked why, they told me they got various messages they didn't understand. We ran through it again and I sent them home on day 2 to try again. I got five phone calls that night. One didn't notice the message at the top of her screen preventing downloads without giving permission. Two were nervous when the computer told them it was saving the file to a temp file in the c drive. One called to have me walk her through problems, just nerves. One cancelled the download in the middle, not realizing this would prevent the program from downloading completely. Basic problems: fear and lack of computer literacy.

So now I am thinking about my students. The saving grace for 10 year olds is that they have no fear. They don't really care if they mess things up...the teacher will fix it. So they try everything willingly. And they learn at an incredible rate. They also learn how to fix their mistakes so Mrs. Parisi doesn't have to keep doing it for them. (Use the undo button BEFORE you close the program, Check your wireless network connection to see what system you are on before you complain that you have no internet service, etc.) They are easy to teach and enthusiastic about it all.

How do I reach the teachers? Keep my cell phone handy for those panicked evening phone calls, send out e-mails with informational website URLs, stop into rooms and see what new ideas they come up with, point out how much they learned and were able to accomplish.

And remind them over and over that playing around is important. Any file they lose can be remade, any program they crash can be reinstalled or reloaded, and, really, as long as they don't spill their coffee on it, they are not going to "break" the computer. Just have fun! I think I will make this my mantra for the year. Just have fun! Not a bad way to go through life...and technology.


Durff said...

We got two SMARTBoards this year. It isn't fear that keeps me away, but the crowd of others! That's a good thing, do since I have a lot of other tools, I make do....someday we will get more...maybe then i can get near one....

Jim Hollis said...

Great post!

You're absolutely right, it's fear that holds back so many teachers from using technology. In addition, schools will often provide great technology but they don't provide the training that's required for teachers to be proficient. Kudos for you on your Smartboard classes! It's such a great technology and brings so much more to the classroom. All teachers can become proficient in using a Smart Board but they need training that carries over directly to the classroom. I wish you well in your task of educating your fellow teachers!

With Smartboards, I've seen some teachers stop using them for simple reasons like they hate to calibrate the Smartboard. I've noticed the best solution for this is to have the kids learn how to calibrate it; they think it's cool!

I'm doing some consulting work for a school district in Arizona. One of my jobs is to create Smart Board resources for the teachers. If you have time, stop by and visit my Teachers Love Smart Boards blog and let me know what you think!

Lisa Parisi said...

Durff, When you decide to push the other teachers away, call me. I have tons of lesson ideas saved. I can send them to you. :)

Lisa Parisi said...

Wow! I can't imagine not using my SmartBoard simply because I don't want to calibrate. I think it takes 30 seconds to do?

Thanks for the link to your site. I am VERY impressed with what you have put together. I added it to my delicious account and sent the link to the teachers from my class.

Larry Ferlazzo said...


I just learned about your blog from Alice Mercer. Any favorite blog of Alice's is a favorite of mine!

I'm looking forward to your future posts...

Lisa Parisi said...

Thanks, Larry. I hope this blogsite lives up to your and Alice's expectations. :)

ms. whatsit said...

I soooo want a SmartBoard. I've seen them in classrooms in my district, so perhaps it won't be too much longer 'til we get them in my building.

Saedel said...

Hello Lisa! I stumbled upon your site (through Ms. Whatsit's) and this post is very true. I'm entering my 5th year as a Computer Teacher and I've been using SmartBoard (Promethean in my case) for the past 4 years. Another thing that holds back learning is lack of practice. For example, I've conducted Excel training in my previous school but the teachers never really applied it for unknown reasons.

thanks for sharing this post!

*bookmarked your site*.


Anonymous said...

Lisa: I have had my board for just over one year....still in the learning stages and very hungry for mentioned tons of lesson ideas for durff you would be willing to send....would you send them to me? Bookmarked your site...thanks

Bill Otto

Lisa Parisi said...

I would love to share lessons. Let me know how to contact you. Right now I have fifth grade lessons because that is what I am teaching. Look back at Jim Hollis' comment, too. He created a fabulous website with incredible resources for the board.