Sunday, September 22, 2013

5 to 6 Hours of Basic Training on iPads? What?

Photo Used Under Creative Commons License
My last post was on the plan the educational technology team in my school district came up with for iPad Basic Training for Teachers. As iPads began making their way into our school district through different avenues last year, we felt it was important to make sure our teachers had a basic understanding of how to use the iPad before we even began to talk with them about using the iPad for teaching and learning.

In conversations with people inside and outside of my district, upon hearing we were proposing five to six hours of training in the basics, we were occasionally met with "What? You want HOW MUCH TIME to do basic iPad training?" The strongest reactions usually came from people who were already iPhone and iPad users themselves.

I'm going to list a few of the reasons we felt five or six hours was the minimum amount of time we needed for iPad basic training. They are not necessarily listed in order of importance, but all contribute to the reasons that prioritizing for this kind of training should be included in any implementation that puts iPads into the hands of teachers for the first time. The same principles can apply to any tablet, laptop, or mobile device you are deploying to teachers.

  • When planning for effective training, you have to assume that as of now the majority of your teachers have not used tablet devices before. If you are an edtech specialist or "natural techie,", think back to times when you have used totally new devices. I remember touching an interactive whiteboard for the first time in the early 2000's. I still remember the trainer saying, "Press harder, you won't break it." Breaking it was a real fear of mine since I had not used that type of technology before. Your teachers have a wide range of fears when adopting new technologies, too.
  • Staff members who own personal smartphones and tablets use them for personal reasons, which are different from the reasons and ways these devices will be used in the classroom. For example, how a person evaluates an app they are going to download for personal reasons is very different from how they should evaluate an app they are going to download for use with students.
  • Even teachers with smart phone/tablet experience do not know all of the ins and outs of the device. 
    • They may have never investigated device restrictions or accessibility settings which might be beneficial in classroom use.
    • Have they learned time-saving gestures such as the five-finger pinch for closing an app? (I learned that when I saw someone else do it, about a year after getting an iPad.) 
    • What about the hidden-characters on the iPad keyboard, such as the apostrophe you can get if you long-press the comma key or the quotation marks you get when you long-press the question mark key? I didn't know those were there until I watched training materials we had gathered for our teachers. Based on their reactions to our trainings, many experienced iOS users didn't know about them either.
    • Several teachers we interacted with admitted they didn't know how to download apps or manage an Apple ID/iTunes account because someone else in their family, often their children, managed their devices for them or did stuff for them when they asked for help instead of showing them how to do it.
  • For those who are self-taught on iOS devices, if you added up all of the little bits of time you put into learning how to use your device as you needed to learn it, I would be willing to bet six hours would be a low number for the time you invested. 
  • When deploying iPads for teaching and learning, time is not a luxury that exists in terms of allowing teachers to learn the basics "in their own time as needed." They need to be brought up to speed as quickly as possible so they will feel comfortable with starting to use the devices instructionally. Scaffold the "how to" so you can move everyone toward meaningful educational use.

In my previous blog post on iPad Basic Training for Teachers, I explained that we decided to deliver the majority of our training through self-paced online modules. Although our primary reason at the time was the need to reach hundreds of teachers with several hours of training, the online delivery of the training has proved effective for other reasons. It allowed those with more experience to quickly move past information on topics such as "The Parts of an iPad." 

The amount of material covered is best absorbed in small chunks as well. When we trained in person in two three-hour sessions on separate days, at the end of each session, the participants' eyes were glazing over. They needed to be introduced to the different concepts and then given time to experiment and play. And people with existing experience needed to be able to move forward faster. Online modules allow for personalization in learning. We received many positive comments in our end-of-module surveys regarding the ability of the participants to watch the materials online while practicing with their iPads, review the material as needed, and fast-forward through skills they already knew.

One of my favorite bits of feedback was from a teacher who had been a technology specialist on her campus several years ago and now serves as a classroom teacher. She took time to email myself and my boss. Here is what she had to say:

Well, for someone who thinks I am a know-it-all on the iPad, thank you for these trainings! I learned so many things just from Module 1. I can’t wait to finish the training! 
Thanks for all the time you put into these trainings!

As teachers are implementing iPads in their classrooms this Fall, time will tell how effective our plan was overall. But the comment above, as well as multiple positive comments in our end-of-module surveys, make me believe the approach was the right one to take. And I will continue to remind myself of the benefits as I think of the time we're going to have to reinvest to update all of the training materials now that iOS 7 is out!

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.