Saturday, February 9, 2008

Part I - Training Survey of New Teachers

Back on December 27th I put out a little call for help via the Twitter network. With the help of several extra eyes, I made some updates and put it to use this past week. Among my helpers were Patrick Higgins, Diane Cordell, susane, Chris Prout, Cyndi Danner-Kuhn, @lilhonda, @digitalmaverick, and @susant.

I introduced new teachers to the world of Internet collaboration. I’m going to post this over two or three blog entries as I have time over the next several days. It will stand as a reminder to myself when I present next year. It’s also another look at how to introduce the wide range of tools to new teachers.

Overall, I was very happy with the presentation. It was a 1:1 situation. I used a combination of show-and-tell, video “commercials”, and hands-on exploration. My intent was to engage the teachers after they had already endured a full day in their own classroom.

The alternate route program assists teachers in New Jersey get their state teacher certificate. I teach in a private school, so the certificate is not required. It took a very long time for me to complete the process. I had to get myself down to the county education office to fill out the paperwork, sign up for various tests, and then wait while the state department’s new computer chugged my paperwork through the system. After six years of teaching, I’m a fully certified K-5 classroom teacher and middle school math teacher – not just a provisionally certified teacher.

Last year I completed the class portion of the alternate route program. I had already passed the Praxis tests for both licenses. The class met once per week from September through June plus one Saturday per month. The program I attended was well worth my time. It reinforced a lot of learning I did on my own. There really isn’t a new teacher program at my school. I was lucky to have my former sixth grade teacher in this school who really mentored me and showed me the ropes. The alternate route program tied all the pieces together.

One of the classes was a technology class. It is just one evening in the myriad of sessions over the nine-month period. I was looking to learn all sorts of new ideas. In reality, it was not what I was looking for. I was asked to take over that class last summer and I really threw my heart into it.

All the learning I accomplished via the Internet over the last year has come into play. I had two and one half hours to give the teachers a window into what is possible. I called it Integrating Technology in Education. I knew that I couldn’t really “teach” much so instead I aimed to excite them with possibilities.

I also took the advice of Patrick Higgins and Diane Cordell. They said to “steer clear of showing them things they already to with technology added”, “draw parallels to real life situations”, and “make life easier, don’t just add another requirement to their lives”.

I think I managed to keep those thoughts in mind.

I started the class with a bit of hands on work. I told them my goal was three-fold. 1) To help them share what they already do 2) to help them find free professional development and 3) to show them some amazing work being done in classrooms today.

We started the journey via a set of delicious bookmarks I created for the session. I only gave them one sheet of paper (double sided) and told them as long as they could get to from a computer, they would be able to access everything we did that night.

From the delicious bookmark, we clicked on the survey set of tags and went to the link Teacher Survey for Start of Class. I spoke about how useful delicious is in carrying your bookmarks from one computer to the next. I discussed the fact that I use a delicious account for my students so I don’t have to keep bookmarking favorites. I also tried to get across the notion that I can share the links of other people who share my interests.

The survey was useful on several levels. First, it got them working on the computers right away. Second, it gave stragglers a chance to catch up and not interrupt the flow of class. Third, it showed one method of using the Internet with their students. Feel free to click on the link and take the survey if you want to try it out.

I have used SurveyMonkey with my fifth through eighth grade in a variety of situations. I showed the teachers how you can see the results as surveys are completed. We talked about the fact that the data could be used any class from the lowest grades up to high school.

In Tuesday’s class, one gentleman spoke about his work at a university in his “former life”. They used SurveyMonkey (paid for account) extensively. He mentioned that while the results are basic, they could be exported into Excel and even brought into SAS to really work the data.

We reviewed what the class already knew, as a whole. It also gave me a great heads up on the breakdown of grade levels for my group instruction.

Here are the survey results.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how we moved on to wikis.

Image Citation:
"Thank you everyone!" J. Star's photostream. 3 March 2007. 9 February 2008.


  1. Fascinating survey - was the total number of teachers polled?

    The responses didn't really surprise me; if anything, the educators you surveyed are a bit more tech aware than the staff in my district.

    Almost every persons said they had a computer with internet access at home. Yet they appear to be going online only to shop. My "indispensibles": blogs, tagging, Twitter, don't even come up on their radar.

    And once they find out about these tools and applications, will they want to use them on their own or at school? Will they return to their classrooms fired up with enthusiasm only to learn that their filters block most/all interactive sites and information sources?

    Perhaps things are better in New Jersey, but your neighbors in New York are finding tech integration to be a tough sell.

    Great post - thanks for sharing your data.


  2. Diane:

    @thekyleguy asked a similar question about whether there would be followup and what filters they would face when we were watching Educon 2.0 via UStream in the chat room.

    As a result, I requested emails of teachers who would like to be polled in June. Unfortunately, the wiki was cranky at the end of the first night of training, so I only got email ids of those in the Wednesday and Thursday classes. About 25% of the teachers left me an email address. I'll send a follow up survey through email to see if any changes took place.

    One group of teachers set up a Wikispace account before they left the room. They are collaborating on a Mock Trial assignment for the alternate route class. It's like you said: Give them a reason to use it personally.

    I was surprised that I was able to access Wikispaces, Survey Monkey, and Delicious without asking in advanced for it to be unblocked. Some blogs could be accessed, while others couldn't. Voicethread was blocked. It is the largest public school district in the country (by what count I don't know) so they have some opportunities immediately.

    Not all the teachers are from that school district, so who knows what they will find, but at least they know they have options.

    I'll post the results of the survey when I take it. I'll also be asking for help along the way in the Spring.

  3. Greetings and thanks for the link. Unfortunately I haven't used that site in a long time. Here's my current blog home.
    Thanks again,
    Chris Prout

  4. Diane said it correctly: fascinating, but not too far off from what we might expect; educators are not too shabby in terms of knowing the correct terminology, but what of the practical uses?

    One thing that always distresses me is the lack of knowledge of RSS feeds by educators. If there was one aspect of the "new" web that changed it's role in my learning it was the discovery of how to maximize RSS feeds. And I keep discovering new ways to use them every day.

    Glad I could be of help to you, and if you ever need someone to skype in to one of your classes or to participate remotely, please don't hesitate to contact me via the network.

  5. Interesting blog. I have not used Wikis, but I've heard about it. It sounds like you're on the ball with technology. Anyway, thanks for sharing.