Last week we focused on settings and such. This week in the 20 Day challenge we are looking at tips for before the videoconference – focusing especially on the nitty gritty of working with teachers.
Today’s topic is how to hook teachers on videoconferencing and promote the possibilities of this technology within your school.
It’s the Curriculum!
Owston (2007), in his study of schools implementing technology initiatives, found that teachers need to see the benefit to students before they will adopt a new technology tool. So, how do you help teachers see the benefit?
- Use the correlations to national and state standards found in the popular database (Berrien RESA and CILC).
- Use the Grade Level Guides to VC. Yes, they were done for Michigan and are now outdated even for Michigan curriculum, but they give a starting point for teachers.
- Pick a couple willing teachers, find out what they are teaching for the next few months, and find a VC for them. Print the flyer or the program description for them. Put it in their mailbox. Start small like this, and then later teach them to find their own programs.
- Help the teachers see how the programs fit their curriculum and help them teach that content better. Don’t push doing VCs just for the fun of it. Find the curriculum connection.
- If you need help doing this, take Planning Interactive Curriculum Connections, a popular four week course for coordinators and teachers integrating VC in the curriculum.
- Help teachers see how videoconferences meet their curriculum and can be used in place of some lessons to teach the same content.
Of course, all of this takes time. So set yourself a reasonable goal of a few of the teachers/grade levels and target those. Then as they get comfortable, work on the others. Some teachers will probably never be enthusiastic about videoconferencing. Sweeney (2007) found that constructivist teachers were more likely to use videoconferencing in the curriculum. So, realize that and work with those who are interested.
Experience is the Best Teacher
Teachers need to see a videoconference to understand what will happen and to get over the fear of the unknown. In the words of one of our coordinators:
“It seems a little daunting until you actually go through it and then you realize this was not too bad and in fact it was really awesome!”
- Don’t just TALK about videoconference opportunities in a staff meeting or workshop. CONNECT somewhere. Don’t let the content provider just TALK either. Have them demo the most interactive part of one of their programs. Try this list to get started.
- Wherever possible, allow two teachers to do a videoconference together. Not all of the providers will allow 50-60 kids in a videoconference. However, going to the program “with someone” is much less threatening for first time VCers.
- When one teacher is doing a videoconference, have the principal help you arrange for someone (maybe even yourself?) to cover for another teacher for a few minutes so they can see the videoconference.
- For that matter, make sure your principal and superintendent experience a good videoconference too! Some principals in my area actually require each teacher to do one per year because they have seen the value to the students.
Tell the Good News
Make sure the staff hear about the great experiences by the participating teachers.
- Get a write-up in the school newsletter.
- Encourage your principal to let the teachers share their experiences at staff meeting. Let them hear from other teachers besides you!
- When participating in Read Around the Planet, put up a bulletin board with a map with all of your RAP partner classes marked. Share the success!
- Have the students present at a board meeting and share their experiences and what they learned.
Figure out ways to stop being the middle man whenever possible.
- If your educational service agency or district office provides scheduling services and sends info on an email list, get the teachers on the email list directly. This reduces time forwarding emails and soon teachers can do their own registrations (in some cases).
- Use grade level or subject team lead teachers to help you promote VC. It helps a lot when the lead teacher for a grade level or subject area encourages everyone on their team to sign up for a videoconference. Train and support these teachers so they can help you.
In all your promotion, be sensitive to how teachers are doing with work in general. Several of my schools are doing less VCs this year because the science and social studies curriculum changed and everyone is just trying to stay above water dealing with the change. In another district, so much new technology is being installed so fast that teachers are quite resistant to do anything extra. Factors like these can affect the use of videoconferencing, and are beyond your control. If this is the case in your school, give yourself and your teachers a break and try again the next year!
Finally, I’ve been sharing research results of a survey of my top teachers using videoconferencing from the 2007-2008 school year. One of my questions was – how did you come to know about videoconferencing? Invariably, their school coordinator helped them get excited about videoconferencing. What words stand out for you? (Click the picture to make it larger.)
So, Your Challenge Is:
- Find one program that meets the curriculum for a teacher who hasn’t used VC yet.
- OR Invite your principal to a videoconference (if you haven’t already).
- OR Pick another of the suggestions above and make it happen!
Owston, R. (2007). Contextual factors that sustain innovative pedagogical practice using technology: an international study. Journal of Educational Change, 8(1), 61-77. doi:10.1007/s10833-006-9006-6
Sweeney, M. A. (2007). The use of videoconferencing techniques which support constructivism in K–12 education. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 3257352)