Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Few Quick Thoughts about Tech Inservices

A frustration of my current job is that I haven't figured out the staff inservice piece. Back in KL, I was pleased with the after school drop in sessions Kent and I held for staff. I think they worked because...
  • No advance registration was required. Teachers didn't feel they were committing to something.

  • Weekly session were held. Teachers started holding non-critical questions for the drop in session. This meant I could safely run to the loo between classes without fearing being dragged into a classroom to provide support.

  • Reminders were sent. I sent out a reminder email and posted signs in the canteen each week on the day of the session.

  • Studio approach rather than set agenda was used. People came in to work on projects and we were there to support them.

  • Teacher-student ratio was high enough. Often Kent, Suganthy and I were all there rushing about to provide just-in-time support.

  • We were a trusted source. Suganthy, Kent and I had been there long enough that teachers felt safe dropping in for support.
I don't think the same approach would be successful at this school because their are more initiatives vying for people's time. I've tried offering after school sessions when needs arise, but teachers are so tired that it isn't a great time for them to learn something new.

I've tried sessions during their team planning time. I felt my inservice wasn't very good, but I can work on that. I plan to do more with this option next year.

I've tried giving brief teasers during staff meetings on new items that I think can be of real use to many people, such as a very easy way to resize photos to free up more space in their server quota. This has worked well and people ask for more info, but this venue only works for very specific types of information.

Therefore, I was delighted by an idea I heard tonight. The technology directors from various international schools in Singapore try to meet monthly to discuss instructional technology. Tonight, the director from the Australian school shared an idea that I think is brilliant. Next year he is going to offer full day professional development sessions for staff members. He will lead them in house. As he said, we often send people out for professional development. Why not keep them in?

There is much to love about this idea...
  • Cost effective.
  • Total control over content so able to tailor exactly to the users' needs.
  • Teachers will be learning when they have more energy, not at the end of the day.
  • Sufficient practice time can be provided in class.
  • It builds support networks among the users; after the class they can ask their classmates for support.
  • It is on our computers so everything will look the same when they return to use it on their classrooms.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea (and my level of enthusiasm). To make it even better, he proposes we all do this and open our sessions up to each other's schools. Only cost will be for subs. Of course, I'd need to find lab space and at the moment, that's an insurmountable barrier. Hopefully I'll soon be back in my own lab.

Are any of you using this model in your school/district? Is it working?