Friday, October 26, 2012

Just-in-time Training

When working with a 1:1 mobile device program at any school there are certain things that have to be considered, and certain things that absolutely must be available to students and staff.  The first is technical support.  If technology doesn't run smoothly in the classroom, there is a larger chance they will simply stop using it.  The second is training and understanding how to do certain things.  I work for a small school and for everything we do with technology (and we do a lot), there are only two of us in my entire department.  My helper is in charge of technical support and I cover everything else.  It isn't possible to do everything that needs to be done, but it is possible to provide tools where educators and students can help themselves.

We have provided a wide variety of tools to our students and it is my responsibility that the students and educators know how to use those tools.  I have provided training over the summer for staff and I have actively been inside the classrooms, but that will never be enough.  My people (and probably most educators and students using technology) need high quality Just-in-time Training.  They need access to tutorials (written and/or video) on how to do the specific tasks they need to do.  There are many wonderful sources for technology tutorials online.  Video tutorial sites such as are wonderful for professionals.  Teachers and students however, tend to need training that is a little more specific.  They need a video or written tutorial that explains to them how to get from their point A to their point B.  For exampe: Let's assume that a child is working on a project using Google Apps.  They need to insert a specific table into a document, but have no idea how to do it.  Let's also say that I am not available to help them.  They could spend time searching for tutorials on how to accomplish this.  They could find information and mentally adjust it to their situation (maybe), but this type of thing takes time, especially if they lack experience with Google Docs.  Here's my solution:

If I know students (or educators) are going to do something that may be difficult for them, I will usually make a quick video tutorial or (upon request) a written tutorial on how to do a very specific task.  This way the learner does not need to go hunting for help and I know they will have help from their own individual starting point to their own individual ending point.  For example: A group of students or teachers need to connect a printer to their iPad.  There are tutorials on generally doing this, but they will be more successful if I take the 5 minutes to make a quick video tutorial (ipad screen casting resouces listed below) showing them how using their app and our printers.  Also, this way they can hear my voice and we know each others idosyncricies.  They are all more likely to understand what I am saying, even if a complete stranger uses the same words.  I also know exactly what the student/teacher heard and can adjust any trainings as necessary to improve student/teacher learning.  This is not something any third party can do.

Another version of Just-in-time Training that is important for technology integration success is having someone in the classroom to offer advice when needed.  Of course, it would be impossible to be in every classroom every day, but classroom observations could help.  Providing regular visitations to classrooms in order to observe and offer ideas can provide an amazing amount of help to staff and students.  Instructional Technologists must be given the time and encouragement to go into classrooms and provide another point of view.  Classroom teachers must be given the time and encouragement to allow someone to come into their classroom, in a non judgemental fashion, and give them another point of view.  This is a collaborative approach, not an evaluative one.  This is not about teacher performance or evaluation, it is about student learning and engagement.

If you find yourself in a situation where your school or district is interested in integrating technology into your classrooms and curriculum, encourage them to deeply consider the important of professional development for teachers.  Too many schools and districts have purchased large amounts of technology equipment only to have it sit in a room or unused in a classroom simply because they did not provide the necessary professional development.  Equipment alone is simply equipment.  Equipment plus training equals potential.  For an example of the effects of professional development on integrating technology, see my post titled "The Importance of Professional Development".

If you are an administrator and would like help teaching teachers how to use and integrate technology, please feel free to email me at or you can contact me through my website at

A note about screen casting on the iPad:  I am not aware of any app that allows you to screencast directly from the iPad, however there is a nice work around.  I use AirServer to project my iPad onto my computer screen and then Camtasia for Mac in order to record what I am doing.  This allows me to make quick and easy video tutorials on doing different things on the iPad.  Some of my tutorials are listed on my website. If you don't want to play for a screencast software, Screencast-O-Matic and Jing are both nice alternatives.

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