Monday, January 9, 2012

Striking a Balance Between Showing and Guiding

Over the past 15 years, I have provided a lot of technology staff development for educators.  Originally, I would create step-by-step handouts for the participants.  This was more in teaching like the "sage on the stage".  I would guide them through with "click here" and "click there".  What I found was that the educators generally felt very comfortable in the initial training and liked the step-by-step directions.  It seemed to work!

But....after they left the training, I found that they were very attached to their step-by-step directions. If they wanted to do something that wasn't in the instructions, they usually felt like they needed help from someone to do the task.  In the long run, this is not effective.  It might have worked OK when we bought static programs like Office 2000 and we kept the same program with the same features for several years.

Enter Web 2.0.......things are constantly changing like the leaves in the fall.  There are new tools each day.  There are updates to existing tools.  Take Google Apps for Education as an example. Google continues to update the product.  If I create step-by-step handouts this month, the screen shots and menu items may be different in one month.  How do I effectively teach educators about these tools?

I started to go the route of teaching them the very basics of a tool and then focusing more on how to find their answers within the help options of the program.  This seemed to work very well with educators who were comfortable with learning new technologies....those who were not afraid to try something.  I did, however, find a portion of the teachers who were less comfortable with technology who still wanted the step-by-step directions.  While I still strongly believed that I wanted them to learn how to "think technology" and figure out how to find the help themselves, I also recognized that some need the step-by-step to get past the uncomfortable feeling of learning a new technology.

I have now changed to doing a combination of demonstrating how to use a technology, providing some handouts (but just for the basics), and spending time teaching others how to learn new skills on their own.  I am finding that this approach differentiates the needs of educators just like we differentiate for the needs of our own students in our classrooms.

How do you best learn technology?  Please take my poll to let me know what works for you.