Getting Started for Impatient People/10 Things You Should Know About Teacher Training

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1. Bring a projector and if possible a screen. This works wonders, whether in Maho or Paraguay. Also consider bringing power strips and external mice. The mice help with the finicky XO 1.0 trackpads but also help adults who might not be so facile with the trackpad and the small keyboard.

2. Bring posters and similar artifacts. These can be effective tools for teaching things that are on-screen. Some examples might include a poster of the XO keyboard and posters of screenshots that explain various parts of the screen. You might also consider posters of various icons that they’ll see in different activities.

3. Prepare hand-outs that teachers can take home, preferably in their native language. (Even in this age of bits and bytes many people still prefer atoms.)

a. Consider including some of the abovementioned posters in the handout packet so that teachers can add their own notes to the margins.

b. Remember, this may be the first time some of these teachers have used a computer, so things that come naturally to us are a challenge to them.

c. Also, think about some general information about computers/the XO to help the teachers create a mental model of what is going on in the machine. Even after a week and a half of all-day training sessions and a week and a half of practice on their own, some of them misunderstood or didn't know fairly basic functions (such as the low-battery light mentioned below)

4. While teachers should know the basics of Sugar and the XO (and not, for example, have their laptops turn off because they don't know what a red power LED means) you shouldn't spend too much time on it. (This is a common mistake.) In other words, get to the good stuff. They are teachers first. Don’t try to turn them into techies.

5. Instead focus on how to use the laptop in the classroom. (e.g. by way of examples from existing deployments) Teachers don't want to "waste their time" in training that isn't immediately applicable to their teaching.

6. Include someone who has classroom experience as a presenter. Techies are for some reason considered to be all-knowing which might reduce the likelihood of the right questions being asked. However, computers can change the educational approach to be more constructionist. Teach in a way that demonstrates constructionism rather than teacher centric instruction.

a. If possible, have some sort of extra support in the room for when one of the participant teacher runs into a glitch. This “helper” can give individual attention to those who need it while you continue to move forward.

b. If you can’t recruit a helper, build in periods of time that the "rest of the class" isn't just sitting there but can do meaningful work and exploration on their own while you troubleshoot.

c. Also, you can develop an environment of “each one teach one” and have neighbors help one another if possible. This will provide the added benefit of reinforcing the concept to the helper.

7. If you want to introduce them to a new style of teaching then you better be consistent with it in terms of your own teaching style. (e.g. reading a 60 page PDF off your screen won't be effective regardless of how great the examples described in that text are). You should point this out explicitly rather than letting participant teachers come to it on their own. I.e. say to them, "You wouldn't lecture to an 8 year old for an hour, and I want you to notice how I am teaching... hands-on, active, short instructions, etc. This is how to effectively teach with a computer as a primary learning tool." Obviously, make this message your own.

8. Have a contact person that the teachers can follow-up with when they come across questions after the teacher training has finished. Ideally it would be someone local who they may even know already. This will make them more comfortable contacting them.

9. Point them to resources where they can find more information that is relevant to them. (e.g. wiki-pages, blogs by other teachers, things like Sdenka Salas' The XO Laptop in the Classroom This can also be part of the handouts you create.

10. Have teachers learn how to make contact with not only the deployment staff (via email) but other teachers in their schools and other schools that they work with during teacher training. Those are the people that can help them with easier technical problems and can give locally-grounded advice on how to use the laptops in class.

One of the things I notice about teaching with computers is that inevitably there is one computer that is not behaving for some reason. (User error, hardware, it doesn't matter.) The participants raises his/her hand with the problem, the trainer diverts the lesson to go see and help, and the rest of the class is left waiting. OR, the trainer has to move on, leaving that person behind to fend for themselves. There is no great solution for this, but some things that work for me is to 1) have someone else on hand as a helper to get those technical glitches worked out so the class can continue to move forward, 2) have periods of time built in so that the "rest of the class" isn't just sitting there but can do meaningful work and exploration on their own while you troubleshoot, 3) have them help their neighbors if possible, using the "each one teach one" model.

P.S. One of my favorite photos from attending a teacher training session here in Paraguay are these "cheat codes":

Last updated: ChristophD 15:50, 5 October 2010 (UTC)