Smile before the baby steps

The baby needs to smile before taking “baby steps” into web2.0

Yesterday, whilst I was running several sessions for the “Grass ICT Day” at Casterton, I was shocked and dismayed, by the following events:-

  • one teacher told me that she could not apply for a class or personal blog as she did not have an email address!! (She was in my blogging session and about to open a blog)
  • At an earlier session, the room was full of teachers wanting to learn MS Photostory. That was also to my utter astonishment as I had expected all teachers to have used it in some form or another and that I would have few particpants in this session.
  • When working with smaller groups, staff did not know how to open a new window or tab in Internet Explorer. (Another trait I had assumed)
  • Many staff lacked confidence in basic computer skills
  • By sheer coincidence,on twitter that same night @dswaters made similar comments about observations in her sessions that day.

So, that has made me reflect again on how we get staff on board web2.0. Many staff, still have little knowledge or skill with computers. So, they need to smile before they take those baby steps. Confidence and knowledge is the key to success.

They need to first:-

  • know how to use the internet with confidence and purpose
  • have ready and regular access at their place of work to the internet
  • each staff member must have a personal email address
  • all school communications should take the form of email where possible
  • computerised student reports should be mandated
  • PD sessions, preferably in-house, should take place regularly, with refreshments and food on offer, to make a relaxed atmosphere. These sessions should cater for absolute beginners through to more experienced levels. These should be on offer over varying times and days, if possible.
  • More experienced users of technology could be directed to online pd sessions.
  • first applications of web2.0 need to be useful and purposeful in personal lives, as this will prompt possible classroom and teaching applications. (, google apps, image manipulation (with eg irfanviewMSPhotostory for digitalstorytelling etc) 
  • educational institutions need to provide backup support

I have learned never to assume that staff know anything at all about internet and online usage. Even surveys may bring skewed results as staff are reluctant to admit they lack knowledge and before I make presentations, or conduct workshops, I must remember to gear them for all ability levels.

a comic strip!


16 responses to “Smile before the baby steps

  1. Anne,

    This posting struck me on two levels:

    1. I acquired my knowledge of computers in a very haphazard manner – two years ago, you could have been describing me! Even now, there are things I don’t understand or know how to do. I rely on my RSS feeds and Twitter friends to help when I’m at sea.

    2. “Baby Steps” will be my topic for the NECC panel I’m on, in regards to how LMCs can help their staff members become more 21st century literate.

    Your insights will be of great assistance – thanks!


  2. I know that is the case in my building. I will be sharing information about where I’ve been with our students this year. I want to give them the summer to begin thinking about the new tablet PCs, Promethean Activboard, and other equipment that we will be receiving as a part of the grand prize we won.

    I am gearing it in a totally different manner than I did in February with teachers. I must find websites that will encourage each teacher to find one thing that captures their interest enough to begin playing on their own.

    One of the teachers said, last night, that she got used to putting homework up on a website called Schoolnotes once she realized she wouldn’t break the computer.

    So, on this Friday, big smiles for all and the principal is taking everyone out to lunch afterwards. I’ll write more on my blog after the session. I may end up sharing this article with them, as well.

  3. The reality you discovered yesterday really shouldn’t exist, but it certainly does exist here in Canada. Far too many educators have managed to avoid gaining the tech skills that you and I take for granted. I run into this all the time when doing workshops.

    I think your suggestions are excellent. Non-threatening opportunities for educators to gain experience and confidence are badly needed.

  4. Yesterday I helped a widely published teacher/author attach a photo to an email. She was very enthused by learning how to do that.

    I think sometimes that people expect you to know what to do and you know that you don’t but don’t like to ask for fear that people will find out your inadequacies. One-on-one help is best in this sort of situation so the person in need of assistance can find out what they want to know but were too afraid to ask for fear of their peers finding out.

  5. Some good advice.

    I was pleased to read your note that is a good baby step into the world of collaboration. 🙂

  6. I’ve run into this same situation too many times to count. Even at an advanced institute for the National Writing Project a few years ago, there were folks there who had only limited knowledge of how to use a browser to its potential, never mind getting into blogging and podcasting and all of the other cool tools that we were supposed to experience.
    We have to remind ourselves again and again that while the world does indeed look wired to us, it may not be to many teachers. We have an obligation to take it slow and to use “differentiated learning” not only with our students of many abilities but also with our teaching colleagues.
    As Anne mentioned, many teachers still think they are going to break the computer or hit a key or command that will make the machine self-destruct. This concern stops people dead in their tracks and is a hold-over, it seems, from the days when that might happen.
    Still, not having email seems strange. But easily remedied with Gmail or Hotmail or whatever.

    Take care

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  8. Anne,

    Your comments are very apt. I have experienced that although on paper Education Qld supports digital learning in our schools, the fact is that very few teachers are adept with it. It seems to be the self-educated ones that take it on board. So despite all the resources available, teachers are not taking full advantage because they have not received the PD to give them the confidence. All EQ teachers were issued with laptops this year, but not that many utilise them in class. Also the ‘official sites’ for teachers to use in schools have heaps of resources and instructions as one teacher said to me last week “where do I get the time to learn it?” Additionally, as you experienced, they don’t have the confidence to try new things.

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  10. I think our challenge is we have to structure the PD based on the participants needs and skill levels. I do find that skills surveys help me work out their needs to some extent (here is an example of one of my surveys).

    Those that are already tech savvy (e.g. comfortable setting up online accounts and downloading/installing programs) need minimal assistance and mainly require explanations of values of a new way of doing things. And you can set up mostly online PD for them.

    The other extreme is those who have never installed programs or set up online accounts. They need a lot of assistance and support to increase their comfort and skill level. These people need very structured, almost one-on-one support initially. Overwhelm and we lose them.

    I’ve decided that I need to examine closely skills levels of individuals in my workplace and provide some one-on-one sessions for those that need it. While looking at how I can cater to those more tech savvy.

  11. @dianne I would love to see any of the work that you produce for the NECC panel and any questions that might be posed of you.
    @ann oro I am also going to rethink my approaches with staff and never assume that they anything, despite the inclusion of ICT being mandatory for all subjects over the last two years. I agree that we need to capture their personal interest, in order to get them onboard. Also, I must say that I am one of those who are scared of breaking the computer etc but over the last 6 months I have become like the students and just start pushing buttons and this has taken to some wonderful learning applications etc.
    @paul I think it is only when you work with small groups (eg 2-6) that you really can see what people’s skills are, otherwise they are like my classroom students, hiding their inadequacies and just not completing work. I am also sure that teachers are feel threatened by the depth of knowledge that students have in relation to the technologies.

  12. @allanahk I know that many teachers dont ask me what to do even on our own staff, as they dont want their inadequacies known or they feel I dont have enough time to sit down with them and share. Now that we have walk in walk out Wednesdays, time has deliberately been set aside for sharing.
    @roland thank you for your comment. How are you or your school helping to get your staff onboard web2.0?
    What approaches do you take? I wonder if I need to develop a confidential survey to gauge skill levels, but even then I dont think they would answer it honestly. Our education department has required us to complete an e-potential survey but I am sure many did not complete it, and if they did the may not have answered truthfully.

  13. @marie It is the same with our Victorian education department. ICT is supposed to appear across all subjects and VELs There is a section to report on in student reports on application of ICT and many schools are therefore, not offering Info Tech as a stand alone subject until VCE. Our school even talked about taking it out of the year 8 subject list. Now the use of IT and web2.0 has brought many benefits to our school. However, many staff still do not use ICT in their subjects.
    @Sue Waters
    I totally agree with you in that we need to offer help to others in a small group atmosphere. Jess and I are offering 1 hour after school as “walk in walk out wednesdays” and most staff have come for at least one wednesday (we have been going 7 weeks or so) and each staff has their own problem which they want solved or software tool that they want to learn more about. So, far 6 was the max number, and this is a good size for us to work with. That way, we can also determine confidence levels and skills need. Thanks for the survey I shall have a good look at that. Do you think staff were honest in their answers?

  14. Staff definitely answer honestly. I get them to complete the survey at the beginning of the session and ask them to be completely honest. I think 6 people for 2 faciliators is a good number. Tomorrow I’m working with 2 staff members closely so will let you know how I go.

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  16. I just loved your comment that the baby needs to smile before taking baby steps. How true in all life and how often we miss the simple steps before leaping.

    Thanks for a great post even though I have only just found it. Keep it up


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