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Abstract -- Training is for Dogs: Teachers Teach; Teachers Learn Education Track
D8: Professional Development and Training

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Training is for Dogs: Teachers Teach; Teachers Learn

Murray, Janet ( jmurray@psg.com)


A popular cartoon promises that "On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog." Neverthless, few Internet users want to be _treated_ like a dog, and training is for dogs. This paper will summarize how educational practitioners think they can best learn to use the Internet, and propose a model for instruction which supports the educational reform movement by demonstrating the power of collaborative learning through telecommunications.

Planning for the global information infrastructure more frequently focuses on gigabit hardware and high speed bandwidth than on the human components necessary to make it worthwhile. In order for technology to be broadly integrated into K-12 instruction, teachers must see its relevance to their curriculum and learn to use it effectively.

Teachers are adamant that training should be conducted by other teachers rather than technicians, and that those teachers who are selected as mentors should be proven, effective instructors who are willing to provide ongoing support after the training session(s). The word "mentor" was not chosen casually; ideal mentors have very specific characteristics, abilities and personality traits:

Workshops should be designed based on assessment of a school's local needs and resources and offered in blocks of uninterrupted time, either in several daylong sessions or half-day sessions over the course of a week. It is imperative that instructor/teacher and computer/teacher ratios are small enough to allow hands-on learning, although a pair of teachers on a single computer may aid learning by facilitating mutual coaching and reinforcement. It is vitally important that teachers learn on systems comparable to the ones they will be using. This may require individual outreach as a followup to the workshop to insure that the teacher's system is properly configured and operational. The best workshops will also model the methodology of collaborative instruction by engaging the participants in an inquiry-based project pertinent to their content area.

Teachers know that a workshop or training session in isolation will not result in permanent change; they must have the opportunity to use the skills they have learned, and readily available resources to answer the questions that will inevitably arise after the training session is over. Although online discussion will provide one of the most important elements of ongoing support, instructors should be prepared to provide assistance by phone and fax as well.

In a national project conducted by the Federation of American Research Networks and the Consortium for School Networking (1994), participants concluded that, the most successful training for educators involves direct, hands-on experience with relevant examples and real products made by others in education. . . . User support must be reliably and consistently available. . . . Staff who train and support educators must have some K-12 background . . . The need to train experienced practitioners who are already in the schools is of major importance. Similarly, the Internet School Networking Group of the Internet Engineering Task Force advises that, Any plan for implementing technology in schools must consider staff development. Training is often the most neglected aspect of a technology plan, and a lack of training can lead to failure of the plan. (1994) As demand for Internet access and services in schools increases, the need for qualified mentors will continue to escalate. Learning models which encourage self-directed learning in a collaborative environment mirror the cooperative spirit of inquiry which has historically fueled the growth of the Internet at the same time that they further the goals of the educational reform movement.

Works cited:
"Building Consensus/Building Models: A Networking Strategy for Change." Federation of American Research Networks, Inc. Consortium for School Networking. March, 1994.

Sellers, Jennifer. "Answers to Commonly Asked 'Primary and Secondary School Internet User Questions." IETF School Networking Group. Internet FYI RFC1578. February, 1994.