Level 1 Teacher Technology Certification (For Beginners)

Following the three-day Trainer-of-Trainers course I lead in August, I lead a five-day Level 1 Teacher Technology Certification course at the Laguna Beach Unified School District on behalf of the Orange County Department of Education. It was not strictly for beginners, but it was a very large cohort (more than 30), with a wide range of skill levels.

In fact, this was probably the most striking thing about the training for me… I would even say it was eye-opening, or that it really put current reality in perspective for me. I’ve spent a lot of time reading, writing, and teaching about cutting edge things like blogs, wikis, and podcasts… or multimedia apps like iLife (or Picasa, Photo Story, Audacity, and Movie Maker on PCs)… but it has been a while since I was confronted with teachers who truly needed “level 1” proficiency. I had folks in this class who handn’t masted the motor skills necessary to use the mouse to highlight text, who typed URLs into search boxes (this is actually pretty common), and who had never used a word processor before.

In the course of a full week training everyone was able to create their portfolio and to pass the “test out” at the end of the course. By the end everyone had demonstrated the required degree of mastery in internet use, email, word processing, spreadsheets, and powerpoint – and everyone had created a functional blog. It was really a challenge for some, though. There were also many who were perfectly proficient, and these folks were invaluable in helping coach the participants who needed it. There were three people in the room on-and-off throughout the week who had just finished the trainer of trainers – and they were very helpful – but most of the coaching was actually peer-to-peer in the class.

I took away two lessons.

1. There are many more teachers who need these basic skills than I thought there still were. I’m glad that I’ve had a misperception corrected.

2. The most valuable strategy for improving this situation is to facilitate sharing of skills from teacher-to-teacher.

The old coaching or mentor-mentee relationships that many California high schools used during the late 90’s Digital High School days are seeming like a good idea now.I know they passed out of popularity, or formal use after the formal program “dried up” but I hope people will still take advantage of their school’s internal capacity, both formally and informally.

These things also lead me to reflect on the growing gap between the have’s and have–not’s (in terms of teachers with and without tech skills). While the certification program, originally written in 2000, covers Internet, email, wordprocessing, spreadsheets, presentations, and (originally) databases, I think that by 2005, this needed to include multimedia (photo editing, audio editing, and video editing) and the read/write web (blogs, wikis, and podcasts). Instant Messaging belongs in there somewhere, too. That’s a lot of work we have cut out for us… and, what are we going to add by 2010? How do we, or should we keep up?