Yesterday, I suggested that teachers sometimes make one of two mistakes when designing technology-based activities for students: either spending too much or too little time teaching the technology skills necessary for the activity.
I am not referring here to how teachers might use technology to help with their lecturing and direct instruction (although one friend reminded me that too much lecturing and “PowerPointlessness” are also mistakes teachers make when teaching with technology…).
Educators who read me often know that I'm not a big fan of spending too much time teaching about hardware or software, whether it is for professional development for teachers, or learning activities for students. I'd much rather see a lesson where the students, young or old, learned how to analyze data (and leave knowing also how to use a spreadsheet) than a lesson just on how to use the spreadsheet. But those kinds of lessons only work when you can figure out how to teach the technology quickly.
Below, is the first of four techniques that will help insure that teachers are helping students succeed with their work by teaching them the technology skills they need, but doing it quickly, so that most of the time could be spent focusing on content from the curriculum.
Technology mini lessons are no different than mini lessons in any other discipline: a short lesson covering some specific skill or fact.
For a video project, they would include things like importing video from the camera, cropping video clips, sequencing them, and adding titles and transitions.
For making Web pages, they would include lessons such as adding graphics, making new pages, making links to your other pages, or making links to other Web sites.
For making brochures, the mini lessons might be changing the orientation of the paper, changing the margins, and setting up columns.
Ideally, each mini lesson is followed by a brief period when the students can apply what they have just learned before the next mini lesson is introduced.
Mike, this is something that I’ve struggled with as a technology professional development provider. I’ve found that hardware or software training is mostly a waste of time if it’s without purpose. I have occasionally fallen into the trap of spending too much time demonstrating or walking people through how to use the technology and not enough time on why they should. The technology changes so rapidly that we can’t keep up with it. We can’t possibly teach teachers or students all the technical skills they need. I suggest to teachers that their challenge is to figure out what tool will best help them do what they need to do and then figure out how they can learn it quickly on their own. There are certainly many resources available for independent learning (YouTube, forums and discussion boards, the Help menu, colleagues, students, etc.) and teachers cannot afford to wait to be “trained” on a particular piece of hardware or software before using it. I think this is the same message we must give to students. I certainly will continue to demonstrate tech skills and write tutorials and make how-to videos but it will never be enough.
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