Scott R. Laleman
What counts as a cycle will be different for each of you. They are not likely to be of equal duration or intensity. Your first action might only last a few days or a week and the second could be 3 months. Or the inverse is also possible. There is no need for each of your actions to be of equal duration. The point is to experiment with your actions, learn from your research and apply what you have learned to achieve a progressively better outcome. Sometimes you will find that you need to take a step backwards or sideways to learn how to move forward.
Tell us the story of what you did and what happened. In order to tell this story you will need to have some way of documenting what happened. Reflect on the story in light of what you have been learning in your other courses. What will you do or change for your next cycle of action-reaction-reflection and plan?
Starting in September, a new form of staff development, called Tech Camp, was introduced to the staff. Tech Camp was designed to be just in time training--what teachers wanted, when they wanted it.
The idea behind this process is that if teachers are given technology training on what they want, went they want it, they will feel more comfortable in their use, have a chance to use it immediately, and will begin to use technology for themselves. This, in turn, should ultimately lead to increased use of technology in their classrooms.
One of the middle school teachers had approached the me for assistance with the computer based grade book. I asked the teacher to get the rest of the middle school team together and come up with time for them all to have a small group session. This was to serve as my pilot session for Tech Camp. The session was set up for later in the week, after school. It was originally planned to last from 3:30-4:30 PM, but ended up going until 5:00 PM. The teachers involved were very enthusiastic about learning how to use the grade book, and one even said at 5:00 PM, when the session was over, "I'm going back to my room to get started on this right now!" A follow up session was planned for the next week, and the specials teachers (art, music, computers, PE) were invited to a similar session the week after that. As word started to spread about Tech Camp, more and more requests were received. Every session through the month of October was filled.
Tech Camp sessions were held on Tuesday mornings, and Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. I had set it up like this to keep things consistent for the teachers and myself. I wanted teachers to know that there were set times and days that they could set aside in their calendars if they wanted to learn about technology. I also made sure that there were sessions planned for every week, regardless of if there had been requests or not. If there were no requests for a particular day or week, I would plan lessons which I thought would be of interest to the staff. However, in November, there were almost no suggestions for topics. Since I was not entirely in tune with what the teachers needed as far as technology training, there were not many participants at these sessions. There were days when no one showed up.
During this same time period, I kept track of the types of tech help calls (and emails) received. The calls were separated into two categories: "how to" calls, and "it doesn't work" calls. "How to" calls happen when the user is trying to do something specific with an application and either doesn't know how, or can't figure it out using what they already know. These types of calls show an interest in using the computer and a basic knowledge of what the computer can be used for. "It doesn't work" calls are just that; calls where the user's computer is frozen, won't print, etc. These type of calls are often not accompanied by any other information, such as what the user was trying to do when the computer malfunctioned, and show a lack of understanding about how to use the computer and what to try when things go wrong. These types of calls normally come from novice users and can be from both techno-phobes and those who are willing to learn, but just don't have the experience with technology to troubleshoot their own problems.
There was a significant increase in "how to" calls over the first nine weeks of the school year. Prior to Tech Camp, almost 80% of the help calls were "it doesn't work" calls. After Tech Camp started, that number dropped to around 60%. The "how to" calls increased during the first nine weeks from 20% of the calls at the beginning of the year to around 40% of the calls after the first nine weeks.
I could see that teachers were using technology in their classrooms through the types of help calls I received, as well as through informal observations in the classrooms, but I was hoping for a more dramatic increase. Frustration with teachers requesting Tech Camp sessions and not showing up when they were scheduled, and frustration over planning sessions when they were not requested with little or no participation, led to some changes in the structure and scheduling of Tech Camp sessions after Christmas break.
Looking back, I can see that there may have been many factors which may have led to the decline in Tech Camp requests. Teachers may have felt comfortable using the technology (as was evident by the increase in 'how-to' calls), and not felt the need to attend more sessions. The schedule for Tech Camp may have been a factor, something that was changed for cycle 2. Time may have also played into things, as November and December are very busy months for teachers.
Over the course of the first five months of school, just in time technology lessons for teachers, called Tech Camp, were scheduled on Tuesday mornings and Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. Toward the end of this time period, there was a significant increase in the number of help calls regarding specific applications and functions of the computers, rather than calls about the computers simply not working. However, there was also a drop in participation at Tech Camp sessions in November and December.
The assistant superintendent suggested that having the sessions scheduled on specific times and days was causing the decreased participation, since teachers had many other obligations during these days. After Christmas break, a change was made so Tech Camp sessions could be held any day of the week, before and after school, or during a teacher's planning period. During the fall, sessions had also been scheduled regardless of if a teacher had requested a session or not. After Christmas, sessions were scheduled only if they were specifically requested.
An open forum called Tech Talk was also started in January. Tech Talk was intended to be a weekly offering of cool things that teachers in our school and other schools were doing with technology. Show and play time with new technologies was also built into the sessions, which was supposed to create a spark with teachers to request Tech Camp sessions. However, due to extreme lack of interest (only one person showed up to one meeting), Tech Talk was abandoned after four sessions.
I was given time during a half day inservice in January to have teachers play with, and ask questions about technology. I chose to run a session on iMovie, since the staff had been introduced to it by an Apple trainer a month before. In addition to the half day inservice, a list of possible topics for Tech Camp was emailed to the staff. In the weeks following the half day, requests poured in for not only additional iMovie sessions, but for other sessions as well.
I noticed a trend in the peaks and valleys of Tech Camp requests. The times when the most requests came in were usually after a half day inservice where I had held a technology session. The valleys usually came 3-4 weeks after the half day. If there was no technology session during a given month (the half day in services were a monthly occurrence), requests dropped to almost nothing.
I believe that when teachers are shown something interesting related to technology, they get excited and want to learn more about it, or things related to it. The half days are days when I was able to share exciting things with them and create a spark. However, after a period of time, that spark died down, and Tech Camp requests followed suite.
In April, I asked classroom teachers to complete a survey about their own use and their students' use of technology in comparison to the beginning of the school year. The survey was sent to 25 classroom teachers, of which 19 responded. Of the respondents, 14 (74%) said that they are using technology more or significantly more than at the beginning of the school year. Fifteen (79%) said the same of classroom use by their students. No one said they or their students were using technology less than at the beginning of the school year.
Teachers were also asked what type of staff development they would like to see more of. An overwhelming majority (74%) said they would like to have more 'show and play' sessions during half day in services. Fifty-eight percent said they would like to see more Tech Camp sessions or release time during the day to work on planning technology related lessons with me. The full survey results may be seen here.
When asked about problems or concerns that kept them from using the computers in their classrooms, the number one concern was reliability of the older machines. Five teachers mentioned problems with the computers as a concern. Time to plan and not having ideas about how to use the computers were some other concerns.
In response to research I have read about ownership leading to increased use, I have come up with a plan for next year to get laptops in the hands of teachers. The plan involves using No Child Left Behind Title II money to buy laptops, which teachers would own in return for a commitment to a number of hours of staff development and becoming a technology leader in the school. This plan will be presented to the school board at the May meeting.
At the end of the third nine weeks of school, there were no requests for Tech Camp sessions and I was getting frustrated by the lack of participation. There were individual teachers who still asked for help, but it was not the school-wide participation I had hoped for. At one point early in the fourth nine weeks, the computer teacher mentioned in passing that "Mrs. H is afraid of you," which took me by surprise. In the ensuing conversation, I realized that I had of late been very short with several of the teachers. I decided to take a hard look at my leadership style and make changes so that teachers wouldn't feel threatened.
During the third nine weeks, teachers had begun asking other teachers for technology help rather than calling me when something went wrong. Three of the teachers I talked to mentioned that they didn't want to 'bother' me with their problems. I saw this as a major problem since it was my job to help. In changing the way I led, I started doing the following:
These things paid off in two ways. The staff responded by asking more 'how-to' questions, as those types of help calls made up nearly 70% of the calls during the final weeks of the school year. I also started to feel much better about the job I was doing. By maintaining a positive attitude, it helped me remain more positive when working with the staff.
The second part of this cycle involved planning to propose a laptop program for teachers to the school board. Originally, the presentation had been planned for the May board meeting, but was pushed back to July because of a full agenda for the May meeting.
Two drafts of the plan had been run by the technology committee earlier in the year. The final draft of the plan provided for 10 teachers to receive laptops purchased by the school for their personal use. The teachers would repay the cost of the laptops by committing to 60-70 hours of staff development. Rather than use No Child Left Behind grant money, as originally planned, the program, if approved, would use existing staff development funds.
From the research I have done, I believe the best way to get teachers to use technology in their classrooms is to give them personal ownership that they can use both at school and at home, while providing them with regular learning opportunities (Riel et al, 2000; McKenzie, 2001). The school board did not take any action on the proposal at the June meeting, but had positive reactions to the request.
Tech Camp sessions will continue next year for all teachers at the school, not just those involved in the laptop program. I am hoping that the teachers involved in the laptop program will become leaders and teachers in the Tech Camp sessions as well. I am also asking the new administration to set aside time during each half day inservice for technology training to get teachers excited and to spark interest and requests for Tech Camp sessions.
|Previous Section: Plan of Action|
This page last updated on Monday, July 7, 2003