Training the trainer

Yesterday as I sat in training for our new SIS, I posed the question, "Why is it so hard to train teachers?".

Yesterday as I sat in training for our new SIS, I posed the question, "Why is it so hard to train teachers?". One of the best responses I received addressed the quality of many trainers:

One reason some teachers are hard to train is... ... the trainer in many cases has have very little classroom teaching experience, usually no more than 1 or 2 years of experience and think they "know it all". They use acronyms (RAID, NTFS, PNG, WYSIWYG, WZC, URL, etc.) and jargon (bandwidth, hyper-threading, 64-bit architecture, Active-X, write buffer, RGB vs. S-Video vs. composite video, etc.) where plain English would be MUCH better. (but that wouldn't show how SMART they are!).

HINT TO TECH INSTRUCTORS: Your purpose is to educate, not to impress or to intimidate. Lighten up and COMMUNICATE!

This is very true; another reader noted that the insecurity of many new trainers (often techies better suited to a cubicle than a classroom) combined with the insecurity of technophobic teachers makes for some pretty negative results.

Obviously, an easy solution is to make the trainers better. However, technical savvy and public speaking don't often go hand in hand, although I must say that the trainers from our new SIS vendor have managed to make the product and technology fairly accessible over the last two days, and can even carry on a conversation. In my experience, they are the exception rather than the rule, though.

So what is an easier solution? Training the trainer is actually a nice compromise. Most of us have at least a few really competent users in our schools who are also teachers. If your school is lucky you're probably one of them. Training these users in depth and then empowering them to train other teachers and staff helps bridge the gap between the technically-inclined and technically-challenged. Training the former means that you now have a solid group of users who truly understand the needs of the other users in your school and can teach directly to those needs. Champion users such as these can quickly become your best friend, especially if you haven't the time, patience, empathy, or wherewithal to hold users' hands. As other readers pointed out, it often takes serious one-on-one training to bring many users up to speed. Even if you are a rare extroverted, happy-go-lucky, people-person of a techie, you rarely have time for this level of training. Champion teacher users will usually make the time. Make use of them and make sure they're first in line when it comes time for a tech refresh.

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