Opening the Bottleneck of Technology Skills Among Staff

Opening the Bottleneck of Technology Skills Among Staff

By Ted Nellen

as it appeared in May/June 1999 School Executive

By this time, it is obvious to all of us that the need for technology training for teachers is imperative. A Time magazine report claims that schools will spend this year about $88 per student on computer equipment, but only $6 per student on computer training for teachers. Although 80% of schools have Internet access, only 20% of teachers feel prepared to use technology in their classes.

The common areas in which educators most need technology training include:
  • How to operate and feel comfortable using technology.
  • How to effectively integrate technology such as software programs, databases, laserdiscs and presentation devices into their curricula.
  • How to assess student work using technology.
  • How to search the Internet.

    Murry Bergtraum High School in New York City has actually found a way to assist their teachers to fulfill these objectives. They provide training for their teachers by using what they call "technology mentors." After-school, weekend and summer blitz workshops are often effective initial learning on how to use technology. But, this method can be considered informal training. The formal nitty gritty training needs to be in the classroom in real time done with the mentors.

    The mentor program requires teachers to job shadow teachers who use technology. Teams of teachers are created for the sole purpose of working together to form a support group. Mentors are usually teachers at the school who have already mastered various technology skills. However, an outside expert can also be brought in to train teachers to become mentors.

    The mentor program begins when teachers new to technology sit in classes where multimedia and presentation tools are being used well. After trying the software in the classroom, many teachers ask to take the programs home in order to practice.

    Often during the fall semester, the trainee observes and learns effective uses of technology in the mentor's classroom. Trainees see specific lessons that they can duplicate in their own classes, and sit with students and mentor teachers to gain hands-on experience. Then, in the spring semester, the trainee tries out the technology lessons in his or her own classes while the mentor observes. The next year, many trainees become mentors.

    The success rate with this method has been 100%. Each teacher who participated in the mentor program truly began to incorporate various technology into his or her curricula. Many teachers became confident enough about using technology to train new teachers. The technology mentoring process is far less expensive than mass training of 20 or more teachers.

    Schools are the perfect place to prepare teachers who are unsure and inexperienced with technology. Start by creating a technology team, supporting it, leading with pedagogy and tapping into curriculum-related success stories. Use the people resources that already exist in your district to move the masses into our technology-rich world.

    Ted Nellen is a cybrarian, webmaster, teacher trainer and computer coordinator at Murry Bergtraum High School in the New York City School District in New York, NY.


    The AT&T Learning Network Virtual Academy gives teachers access to web-based courses to help them integrate technology into the curriculum. AT&T Learning Network, 800/354-8800,

    College Connection features an online masters degree course from George Washington University on Educational Technology Leadership. Jones Education Company, 9697 E. Mineral Ave., P.O. Box 6612, Englewood, CO 80155; 303/792- 3111,

    Connected University;tm is an online learning community that provides a wide variety of courses to help teachers improve their classroom application of technology skills. ClassroomConnect, 221 Rosecrans Ave., Ste. 221, El Segundo, CA 90245; 800/638-1639,

    E-Z Internet Internet training course consists of two instructional audio tapes that explain in layperson's terminology how to use the Internet, step-by-step. E-Z Internet, 12918 S. Pinetree Ln., La Mirada, CA 90638; 888/638-2002,

    MacAcademy and Windows Academy uses video and CD-ROM computer training modules to teach the most popular Macintosh and Windows application programs. Mac/Windows Academy, 100 E. Granada Blvd., Ormond Beach, FL 32176; 800/527-1914, or

    NETg offers training courses that feature training on the latest emerging technologies and are developed in cooperation with technology producers like Microsoft, Netscape, Oracle and Novell. NETg, 1751 W. Diehl Rd., St. 200, Naperville, IL 60563; 800/265-1900, ext. 3,

    Teachers Tech Tutor is a multimedia program designed by teachers that uses interactive, hands- on lessons to introduce the Internet, including e-mail, the World Wide Web, newsgroups and chat rooms. Vital Knowledge Software, P.O. Box 181, Miramichi, New Brunswick, E1N-3A6 CANADA; 877/IT-LEARN (485-3276), includes over 6,000 pages of teacher-developed curricula for pre-K through grade 12. Teachers are available online to explain how to integrate these technology-based lessons into the classroom. The Teachers Network, 285 W. Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212/966-5582,

    Technology in Today's Classroom is a professional development video series that shows teachers how to bring content to life and teach vital information-gathering skills using technology. Canter & Associates, P.O. Box 2113, Santa Monica, CA 90407; 800/262-4347,