For the past five years, we have had a "Technology Boot Camp" in our district for new employees. I started this so that all teachers would start off with good, consistent training in our system so that they could jump right in. Originally, the Boot Camp was a two-day affair, and covered things such as policies & procedures, the district e-mail system, technology resources in the district, basic computer operations, and integration of technology into lesson plans. As we evaluate the program each year, we have trimmed the Boot Camp, and this year I’m beginning to question its effectiveness.
A lot can happen in five years. The first trend we noticed was that most new teachers straight out of college are of that first generation that grew up with ubiquitous computers. There is no need to go over basic mousing skills. What they lack is knowledge of how instant messaging, Internet surfing, etc., can kill productivity and interfer with teaching, if handled incorrectly. Also in that time, our district has developed a technology proficiency requirement for all teachers, as have all districts in the state. Workshops are conducted throughout the year addressing these requirements, and covering most of the originial Boot Camp topics. Given these two trends, and the fact that new teachers already have a TON of stuff to get done before school, we decided to drop the basic computer instruction from the agenda, and effectively cut the boot camp down to one day.
Now, with time much more limited, we found that our sessions on district resources and technology integration really couldn’t do justice to the topic, so that session was radically altered. Now, the Boot Camp lasts a half-day, and covers only three topics – policies and procedures, e-mail, and technology proficiency. We now focus on the core of what is needed to start work in our district.
Several other districts have now begun their own boot camps. In a district that has limited staff, I can see this as an effective way to cover the basics. However, we have dedicated staff at each of our locations, so it is not as critical to bring all of our teachers together in one place. When I started the program, I did so mainly for consistency of message. I’m beginning to think we have outgrown that need.
Back in the 1980’s, the position of district or school technology coordinator was new. Many district plans called for the tech coordinators to work themselves out of a job as teachers became more and more tech proficient. I’ve seen traces of this trend as I’ve watched our program develop over the past few years. While I firmly believe that we still need strong on-site support both for the curriculum and technical sides of instructional technology, our personnel should no longer have to cover basic computer operations. At this point, I think we would be better off making this a condition for hiring, and let the boot camps fade into history.