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Magazines > MultiMedia & Internet@Schools > January/February 2004
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Vol. 11 No. 1 — Jan/Feb 2004
THE OP-ED PAGE
Why Teachers Hate Tech Training ... and What to Do About It
by Gail Combs

Editor's Note: Do you follow any library or technology listservs? I do. I find pearls of wisdom on them, and some great discussions of issues school library media specialists and technologists deal with. When I read Gail Combs' posting a while back on WWWEDU, in a thread entitled "Why Many Teachers Don't Tech," I was taken by her opinion and her attitude! So I asked her if we could publish her remarks here in the new "Op-Ed" space of MultiMedia & Internet @ Schools. She said sure, so here they are.

If you would like to weigh in on an issue that you feel strongly about, let me know. We have space for you, too!

­David Hoffman, hoffmand@infotoday.com

I have stood on all sides of the technology issue (biology teacher, technology facilitator, now library technology specialist), and I have seen some common mistakes that are consistently made by many school districts. I used technology in my classroom for years until I was placed in the technology department for the express purpose of assisting teachers in its use. I have seen why so many teachers abhor tech training and all of its varied applications.

Some of those reasons are:

1. In some school districts, equipment and software are kept current, but the technology training is done in a shotgun fashion where teachers are shown the software at a time it is not necessarily needed. Training that is offered at the "time of need" has proven to be far more beneficial.

2. Like any new skill, practice is always necessary. Most teachers are not given an appropriate amount of time to practice with new software and are expected to remember how an application works 6 months after the actual training. Teachers who are truly effective in the classroom usually have little or no spare time, and they are often not paid for the time they must put into learning new technologies. When so much of a teacher's time is absorbed with federal, state, and local documentation, district-wide paperwork, and after-hours curriculum development, then the only remaining time left for tech practice and development is personal family time. Teachers who are single and those without children usually are those who can afford to put in the extra hours that technology experience requires.

3. Technology trainers often forget to provide real classroom applications that often can make the software or equipment appear unnecessary. I always included content applications and the time it would take to incorporate a particular application. I would offer nonthreatening tutoring at the "time of need" and rarely did I have less than 95 percent buy-in on any technology training.

4. Many teachers are intimidated by technology and technology people. They are convinced that we have been genetically altered somewhere in our long-term Internet exposure. If tech trainers would use the everyday language of teachers, a lot of that fear would dissipate.

5. We forget some people just don't naturally like gadgets. I was taking apart my box radio when I was 12 to see why it worked the way it did. That is not everybody. I do not understand people who stare at art for hours or those who memorize sports statistics. It is beyond me why anyone would want to teach physics instead of biology. Well, some people just don't see the thrill of technology (though that does seem hard to believe!).

Unfortunately for teachers, technology is not an option. That is where technology professional development and individual trainers need to accept what teachers have known all along ... we must make our training have real application and have it occur more closely to the actual "time of need," contain elements that make it fun and enjoyable, and provide opportunities for teachers to practice and develop their skills in an environment that is nonthreatening.

Gail Combs
combs417@sbcglobal.net


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