Chapter 1

Introduction
     

Background

It has been said that you teach as you were taught. Since most of today’s educators went through school before computers were in school or when educational technology was in its infancy, it comes as no surprise that many teachers struggle with effective implementation of technology in their teaching. How can I change this trend at my school?

The literature discusses training situated in the context of teaching. Much has also been written on new teacher induction and its ability to increase teacher retention and its effectiveness in preparing teachers to succeed in their new school.

In this report, I explore new training possibilities through the completion of 3 cycles of action research. Action research is the systematic, reflective study of oneself and their environment.  The researcher examines their work and looks for opportunities to improve. As stakeholders, they propose actions to help them improve their practice and reflect to develop the next cycle. This action research was conducted at Greenhill School where I serve as director of technology.

Greenhill School serves approximately 1250 students from ages 3 through the 12th grade with approximately 200 faculty and staff.

When Greenhill made the commitment to technology, a technology plan was developed establishing clear goals and a realistic strategy for using telecommunications and information technology to improve education. Greenhill School's Technology Plan was developed as a result of school-wide strategic planning which identified technology in education as one of the key capabilities the school must have in order to be successful in its mission.

In 1996-97, the school installed a network infrastructure and developed the Technology Department. At the start of this program, the entire employee base was required to take technology classes to satisfy a mandatory technology training requirement of 10 or more hours per year. This worked well in the beginning. Training was on basic use of the technology as most faculty and staff were new to technology.

E-mail and the Internet were new concepts to most Greenhill employees. Very few had any knowledge of Microsoft Office or teaching with technology. These early classes focused on the basics. Most of the workshops were 1-2 sessions long and averaged 1.5 to 2 hours each session. The classes were held at the end of the work day. These workshops seemed to work well for the initial introduction of technology at Greenhill School.

In 1999, I moved from the classroom to become the director of technology. During that first year, I continued offering workshops following the same format. However, I spent considerable time analyzing the effectiveness of these workshops and determined that we needed to make changes.

In the year 2000, we started to offer more intense workshops in the form of full day (8 hour) sessions offered on weekends and in successive blocks at the end of the work day. These sessions were conducted using the corporate model for applications training and were offered in beginning Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access. The faculty and staff that attended these sessions made measurable changes in their technology knowledge and the classes were structured to fit their immediate needs. All examples and exercises were based on the use of the application in their workplace.

We also began an intensive program of one-on-one training with faculty and staff. This allowed us to focus the training on the specific needs of the individual. While we were able to continue addressing the basic needs of the faculty, we added greater emphasis to integration of the technology into the classroom and implemented “just in time” training opportunities. We identified our web is a great resource for developing greater integration and began to work with faculty to develop their own web pages.

New tools for developing and delivering technology training were employed. Tech tips and clips- short instructional “white papers” and video clips were developed for training purposes on common skills that seemed to be lacking in large numbers of the employee population. We also used these tools to deliver instruction on new technology as it arrived at Greenhill School.

We have also offered week long training workshops for teachers specific to integration of technology into the classroom. These have been very successful in the past and should continue in the future.

Statement of the Problem

There has never really been an analysis on the technology skills of the faculty and staff of Greenhill School and as such, the training programs are often driven by the types of calls that were received and logged at the help desk.

While there have been have had continuous training opportunities at Greenhill School, the faculty and staff that currently take advantage of these opportunities are small in number. Most faculty and staff have learned the basics during the initial introduction of technology at Greenhill School but have failed to continue to grow. The pool of faculty and staff that are actively involved in technology professional development has declined. At the same time, we have a turn-over rate in excess of 30 employees each year. There have been several faculty members that had been very active in technology professional development in the past that have moved on to other schools.

Of these 30 plus new employees, 10 of them are fellow positions which are one year assignments. All of these new employees enter the community August of each year. These employees usually include a mix of faculty, staff and fellows.

These employees are given about 3 hours of training serving as an introduction to technology services at Greenhill School. This introduction takes place two weeks prior to the start of school and is divided between two days. While we have considerable training opportunities for employees at Greenhill, there is no formal evaluation and tracking program related to training. New employees are encouraged to make arrangements for training as they see the needs. However, this seldom happens.

What follows is a discussion of related literature and the results of 3 action research cycles. Much has changed since the start of this project and plans are in the works for additional change and new action cycles. These changes in training practices are starting to create positive change in the use of technology in the classroom as well as improving my relationships with the faculty and staff.