An unusual day, part 1

Thursday did not go as planned for me. However, it managed to help me rethink the way our teachers want to, can, and should use technology on a daily basis in their classrooms.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

Thursday did not turn out as planned. I was running late for work and getting ready for an afternoon of professional development with the teachers. No training that I had to specifically run, but as the only superintendent's office administrator on the district's teacher-driven professional development committee, lots of coordination efforts end up falling to me on these days. We had several sessions planned for teachers with different interests and one in particular on a couple pieces of RTI software, so last-minute computer lab and database arrangements were filling my time nicely this morning.

It is, however, flu season, so along about 8:30, we got a call from a presenter on a new literacy curriculum we were exploring. Surprise! She had the flu and couldn't make it. Unfortunately, there wasn't space in any of the other sessions to accommodate everyone who had signed up for her talk, so we needed a substitute...quickly.

"Ummm...I could probably run a technology training session," I hesitantly told the PD committee chair.

"That's a good idea - can you fill 2 hours and keep them interested?"

"Yeah, you bet...the presentation starts in 3 hours, right?"

This is called extreme extemporaneous speaking. Fortunately, I'm something of a motormouth, so by the time the session started, I had plenty of talking points. Three hours, three cups of coffee, and a 15-slide deck later, I was good to go. I broke the session into two chunks. The first was a relatively vanilla training on Google Apps. Remember that, while a few power users were in the audience of middle and high school teachers, most were simply there because they were interested in building textbook literacy skills; this was not the typical group of tech-savvy teachers who come to hear about new rollouts in the district.

Because of the short notice, we couldn't do hands-on training, so we spoke a bit abstractly about Apps, discussed strengths and weaknesses, looked at training resources, and went through a few demos. Where things got interesting, though, is when a group of teachers with a lot of instructional strengths, but very average tech skills started talking about ways they'd like to leverage Apps, as well as other classroom technologies, with their students.

You see, our budgeting process has already begun, the middle school has seen a lot of computers enter the building in the last two years, and the high school is at the end of its lease for most of its computer equipment. It's time for a refresh and some serious classroom integration in both spots, right?

Read Part 2 of this story to see how this group of teachers helped me shape a new perspective on next year's budget.

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