You have been asked to lead a group of 90 teachers and administrators, grades K-12 in a district technology initiative. Each teacher will be given a tablet pc, wireless projector, scanner and speakers. They must commit to attending monthly meetings, participating in online conversations with other cadre members and sharing an end of the year project demonstrating personal growth in the use of educational technology. The members of this group represent every level of technology use; from novices who have never heard of a blog or wiki, all the way to the tech-savvy, Moodle-loving media specialist who eats and sleeps this stuff. Where would you begin? How would you go about meeting the needs of such a diverse group? How would you deal with the resistant learner? How would the year unfold?

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Hi Cary - just a few thoughts from a Primary teacher from the UK. I think that you should introduce all to the wonderful world of blogging and make sure that they report on your monthly meetings and their thoughts ( at least on a monthly basis - I suspect that they will begin to post more as time goes on, but setting a post per meeting would be a good place to start). As you are operating in the Ning Social Networking umbrella I presume you will be setting up a Ning site for your group to enable them to have a meeting place, and an area to get the discussion going. I guess things may begin slowly and build up ( alternatively if they become enthused early you could have a rush to blog and comment ) both scenarios would be positive, the buzz will hopefully even shift the stubborn members of the group. I hope that these random thoughts are useful.
I believe I owe an apology to everyone in this community. This post was written as though a particular situation may happen; in reality, it already is happening. I have been leading a group of teachers this year in the initiative mentioned in the original post. As a "newbie" to this community, I value the collective knowledge of the members and wanted everyone to feel free to offer authentic feedback. In hindsight, hiding behind a hypothetical curtain was probably more about self-protection, as I'm still struggling with the idea of transparency and putting myself out there. This year has been an enormous stretch for me and I'm trying to ascertain whether or not I have been successful in my attempts to lead this wonderful group of teachers in the right direction. Okay...huge lesson learned here. I guess that's the point, right?
Learning. Good. Apology. Why? Your hypothetical question is not invalidated by the fact of your actually being ON the journey already, is it? And you haven't told us how you managed it, or really how it's going.

If it had been me, I'd have recruited the experts in the group to mentor the new kids. I would not put them in Ning. Steve keeps calling Ning the "training wheels" but it's really a chauffeured limo. It's comfy, but it's not going to teach you much about the rules of the road.

I keep saying "blogs and 'gators" are the gateway. The power of reading and writing, the simplicity of the tools, and the introduction to voice/feed/tag/community/mass personalization cannot beover emphasized. Not to mention that once you get them all linked together in aggregation, you have an effective teaching channel that is two-way, decentralized, and immensely powerful.

Your milage may vary.
Okay...I'm still trying to understand why you are so adamant about blogs (what's a gator?) being the gateway? Can you try to explain it another way? I keep "watching" the tennis match between you and Steve (as well as others) but I'm not completely grasping why a walled garden is a bad thing; particularly if membership is open to all, including some "experts" in the field. I don't think Ning will prevent me from venturing out into the wide open world of blogs and wikis; I just see it as a great way to get my feet wet and I've "met" some pretty incredible people. Isn't that networking? I guess I feel like starting my own blog would be like writing in a vacuum; at least initially. Who would read it and why should they? Don't give up on me yet...it's beginning to take form in my head!
I recently started my own blog. I signed up for Google analytics right away because I wanted to see what my traffic was like. At first I really was writing in a vacuum, but as I share my blog with my local colleagues they are stopping by to check out what I am doing, and I have had a few tell me that they find some of my posts useful. Yay! I have also noticed that the more I post on other people's blogs and on Classroom 2.0, the more hits I get from those sources. I was a actually a little terrified the other day when I posted about how I enjoy Kathy Schrock's blog and Guide for Teachers and she responded to my post. I have been having a little stage fright lately, but I am getting over it.

I think in your position you could have a blog with a purpose similar to mine. My target audience is the other teachers in my district, and I post on technology tools that we have or can get and on teaching methods that are being used by our teachers. I also post on some other more general tech and education issues. (That sounds like I have far more posts than I do. I'm up to 9 now.) I teach technology professional development classes quite often, and I plan to post all of my notes and resources for my classes on my blog. I always get a few teachers who say they can't attend and ask for me to email my materials. This way they will be available to all of my district's teachers and other people too.

Next year I plan to blog with my students.

To answer one of your questions, a 'gator is an aggregator. You add RSS feeds (from blogs or other sources) to your aggregator and it collects all of the new content from those sources into one place. Netvibes is a popular aggregator. I use Google Reader which is still in Beta but is working quite well for me. Infinite Thinking Machine had a great post about RSS and aggregators in education the other day.
Thanks for the great feedback! I already have an aggregator...I just didn't make the conncetion between "aggregator" and the abbreviated form! I also actually have a blog for my students/parents but I need to do a better job of posting on a regular basis. I checked out your blog; it should prove to be quite helpful to the folks in your district. This past year, we used an online environment for all of the cadre members. I posted a host of resources for them to check out each week including websites, readings, videos, professional journals, etc... I believe most of them found it quite helpful but a few were overwhelmed by the sheet amount of information coming their way. Again, I continue to be challenged by the best way to meet the diverse needs of the learners in this project. Thanks again for your time!
I'm noticing with my own staff that I can lure them into Web 2.0 tech when I can show them it's useful. I want all my staff to have websites and have tried to teach them HTML. That strategy hasn't worked.
However, I'm getting several on the Internet by getting them to blog. They're not blogging because it's fun (even though it is) but because I'm showing them how it's a communication tool that can save them a lot of time and headache dealing with students and parents.
I'd urge you to show the practical aspects of technology as much as you can, and, if you can, get the experienced users to try to coach the newbies.
Maybe that's too simple a strategy, but it's starting to work here.
I agree with James. It is very important to my teachers that the new technologies that I teach them are practical. I find that a good way to get them using a new tool is often to show how they can apply it to what they are doing in their classroom now, but in ways that make their lessons more convenient or give the lessons more impact. Once I get teachers hooked on a tool I can usually transition them into starting to think creatively with the tool so that they can start creating things that are entirely new. I work with a couple of teachers who have received some excellent technology tools this year and have completely transformed their classrooms and their teaching methods with a student-centered approach.

While I'm agreeing with people, I also support nlowell's advice on having the tech savvy teachers mentor the inexperienced teachers. Teachers seem much more likely to use technology when they see other teachers using it successfully and when they have someone who will answer their questions.

I know it sounds like a lot of work, but I recommend having many one-on-one conversations with the most reluctant learners. That will give you an opportunity to assess why they are reluctant, and also to start them with simple tools that they can handle. Once the get the hang of using a tool, try to get them to use it frequently so that they don't forget it. Then you can start adding more complex concepts and technologies to their repertoire.
Our plan is to invite the first year cadre members to mentor the newbies. I understand that mentoring the new cadre members will be a form of pd for the first years but I also believe we need to provide opportunities for them to grow from where they're at...a huge task because they are no longer "required" to actively participate in the initiative. I feel as though we have begun to build some capacity in each of the buildings but it seems as though a plan needs to be in place to encourage further growth, particularly in the area of reflecting on one's own pedagogy. How do we continue to build teachers' understanding of the ways in which technology can best support teaching and learning? The enormity of this endeavor is crystal clear to me...and yet I'm oddly charged up about the prospect of doing so! Thanks for the feedback!
Cary,
It would be a challenge given that you have such an array of different levels of use and experience. I've found that by creating a tool that everyone can use, like this forum, you might be able to have the newbies interact with the webvets. You might also use something like a wiki with the idea of having them post to particular parts of it, having them focus on particular concepts or understandings. I use a wiki with my staff. We started with a school calendar that all staff are to post school related activities. This way, it is available all the time and no one has to run around to find out what is going on. It has more on it than just the student events because people need to know what exactly others are doing in the school. I also record who is subbing for whom and such so that people can see who is in the building. We also have a staff page for ideas for pd events. People are to add their ideas. It started slow but now everyone is using it. I've also requested that there be no paper memos within the school. Teachers are to send emails and all memos are to be cc'd to me. This has worked to get everyone in the school using the simpler tools like email and a wiki. I have introduced some staff to social bookmarking and they love it and they are sharing with others. I've done the same with podcasting although I'm still looking for a better method to upload podcasts. I don't know if I'd pair a newbie with a mentor but I would definitely organize support groups that would "connect" weekly, probably using online collaboration tools. I've experienced that unless your webvets are very empathetic types, they won't hear the frustrations of the newbies but will try to fix their problems and give them solutions which might intimidate those just starting. If you have a tech person that each group could send their questions or inquiries to, that would help. The group with new or near new users could share their frustrations and stories, support one another and move along. I might also suggest that each member find a different blog of someone "out there" that they regularly visit (blurking about) that provides some insights into the use of technology in the classroom or discusses technology use in schools. Eventually, I'd hope, they would feel comfortable enought to add a comment and start a dialogue. I also invite specfic staff to attend different workshops/conferences that I think will enhance their teaching and introduce them to technology uses. Hope this helps.

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