Many districts have IT positions that run the gamut as far as their range, capabilities, and job descriptions go. You may even have an IT person on your campus who serves dual roles – basic tech help (like setting up network printers, getting your projector to behave, troubleshooting computer issues) or full range help desk support. When it comes to installing software and maintaining hardware, they are your go-to people.
Then, we have the IT Specialists whose sole purpose it is to help you integrate technology into your classroom. One article likened these specialists to the Yodas of the district. Their purpose includes inspiration and direction. They come alongside teachers to help them become more than they realize they can be. Soon, you may even hear them declare, “The force is strong within you.” 😉 But those Luke Skywalkers of the campus are a totally different group too! You know the ones who need just a little guidance and then they have unlocked unlimited potential and power (hopefully to wield the force for good). Ha! Of course, you may also find yourself as the one they describe with the second part of that phrase, “You are not a Jedi yet.” Don’t lose hope! Regardless of where you fall, IT Specialists are there to meet you at all levels.
So, about your Yoda…understanding his (or her) role is essential to getting the most out of your time with him/her.
Start with understanding the task you need help with. If it is a help desk question, utilize the help desk people! Invest your time with Yoda for actual tech implementation. A good place to start is with a lesson or subject you want help with. Ask your guru for a list of suggestions or resources that may give you a jumping off place. You can even take your favorite lesson and find new and exciting ways to spice elements of it up. Don’t overwhelm yourself with 30 new things to try. Instead, start small and find one new idea to transform the way you teach it or the way students interact with the work.
Don’t be afraid to ask for one-on-one help from the IT Specialist. Part of their job description deals with helping teachers and usually that means time is built into their day to do just that. I love when I can get some one-on-one instruction, but sometimes the information overload is too much all at once. Be sure to ask for follow-up information or resources such as a how-to video you can check out.
After doing so many tutorials with teachers, I found that it was an easy endeavor to film myself walking through the steps I had given time and again. This way, I could offer instruction but also let individuals move at their own pace and revisit the steps as often as possible. Taking notes is great! But watching someone show you the steps (and rewinding that as much as you need to) can prove more helpful. And this allows some reluctant teachers to go at their own speed. Maybe they are unwilling to ask for help or let others know they are trying something new, but they are willing to check a video out on their own, get comfortable with the steps, then branch out in person.
Another great idea is to schedule department PD time with your tech guru. Some tools can benefit a multitude of individuals that have the same end-goal. You might not all need the same lesson adjusted, but you can all use the training to implement the element in a way that works for you.
I find that many teachers are open to training in the spring and summer. We need DEIC hours, so why not schedule some training that is personalized to what you want to accomplish. Taking time regularly in the spring or summer (if you are a motivated group that wants to plan ahead) can offer the time needed to just wrap your head around new ideas. I love to be inspired and then think about the best ways to use those new ideas in my classroom. When it’s August PD time, my head is in a totally different place than when the pressure is off and I have time to just digest. For the past few springs, my department will ask for time in May after school. In these small group settings, the teachers that want help and need training come for it. This is a very different crowd than the group that comes because they are forced to sit through a PD day where you are listed as the special of the day. Though I think time in those sessions is important, teaching a larger group that has to be there versus a small group that wants to be there has a far different outcome.
Remember those Luke Skywalkers mentioned earlier? Let’s face it, every campus has their own. These high flyers can take an idea and dive in. Don’t forget that they too are great resources to utilize in addition to your district IT staff. An important thing to remember though is that these fellow teachers have your same course load and busy schedule. Asking for their help is great, but don’t forget that they offer it in addition to their main job in the classroom; whereas your district IT person has that as a main part of his/her job description.