Most of the blogs in this series have addressed ways to help users directly and how to create resources that allow users to help themselves. Now it is time to look at training. As equipment and software change and evolve, users must be kept informed and learn how to incorporate new resources to enhance their lessons and teaching strategies. Unfortunately, given the demands and schedules of the school day and year, approaches to training and the actual scheduling of sessions requires a bit more creativity than in the business world. Often a multipronged approach works best.
Most school-based technology departments consist of a small staff that is responsible for servicing a large number of devices and responding to an equally large number of users. To complicate matters, school districts can encompass many buildings spread miles apart. Usually the technology department is centrally located, but getting to everyone takes time. Building Technology Liaisons can be a welcome resource to staff in various district schools. These individuals—usually faculty—receive a stipend and extra training from technology staff to troubleshoot issues colleagues encounter day-to-day, as well as help to introduce new programs and department initiatives. They are on hand and can report their findings and escalate problems to technology staff when further assistance and expertise is required. The liaisons are the first to learn the use of new equipment and software and become the lead trainers in their respective buildings. They serve as a resource for staff members in the building, as well as the technology department providing useful information and feedback.
Another way to reach staff in various locations is through Technology Days scheduled in each building one or two times a year. Technology staff members travel to buildings for the day and are available for questions, troubleshooting, and comments. During these times you can also schedule a morning or afternoon workshop before or after classes to address new initiatives or expand on programs already in place. The rest of the day is for faculty and staff to drop in during free time to talk tech. The information sharing goes both ways. These days are a great way to reach out and see what is happening around the district.
Workshops and training during the school year can be difficult given the demands on faculty time. The technology trainer in our district offers Summer Breakfast Clubs so faculty can get together and learn more about different topics during the relatively stress free summer months. Surveys are sent out in the spring to determine what topics are of most interest, then a schedule of offerings is posted before the school year ends. Sessions are geared toward particular groups but are open to anyone interested. Some institutions are able to fit training of this sort in during the school year, but if you struggle to find times when people are available, summer is a great option.
One-on-one training sessions are often necessary and can also be arranged with technology staff as the need arises. Sometimes special projects or program changes result in special needs that are best addressed directly. Individuals may need refreshers, further training, or may be involved in technology trials helping to evaluate possible new initiatives. When new staff and faculty arrive at the beginning of the year, orientation or induction sessions should include time for basic technology training. When new people start during the course of the year, they will need one-on-one time to get up to speed on your procedures, programs, and equipment.
Training time and the personnel to provide it can be the biggest challenge to small technology departments, but it is time and money well spent. Computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, online student information systems, cloud storage of web-based email and document systems are just some of the current and ever evolving technology utilized in our schools. To get the most out of these resources, your users need training and retraining to keep up to date.
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