What a great topic! My most challenging Intel Teach Essentials training had 24 teachers in it. Everyone was using a laptop. I was assured the location was ready to handle our training without any problems. (You've already guessed it! ) The wireless at our site went down every 20-30 minutes every day. Each time the onsite tech had to be contacted and it took anywhere from 20 - 40 minutes to bring the room back online. I quickly learned the importance of having ONE wired connection at the front of the room. Instead of sharing tools and expecting everyone to use the tools as I demonstrated them, I tried something different. I had some volunteers share ideas at the wired computer and we had excellent discussions.
Has anyone else had the problem of losing wireless connectivity and used a different solution? I'm interested in adding other ideas in case it every happens again.
I believe my most frequent challenge has been addressed already: difficulty understanding the Curriculum Framing Questions and their role. I think it is all wrapped up with not truly understanding what PBL is all about.
Sometimes I find it difficult with groups to be really clear on PBL. The characteristics document in the resources of the courses helps, but more often I find I need to do some critiquing of plans as they develop and give examples of how their plans would be moved toward PBA. If I see that some members of a group are coming to a clearer understanding, we can break into groups and assist one another to be sure that the plans are moving in the right direction, and this needs to be done early; before too much work has already gone into the document.
I wonder if others have this same concern and challenge. What do you do when you see participants developing plans which are really not Project- or Problem-Based?
My experience with Participant Teachers as well as Master Instructor candidates is similar to what you describe. Many are challenged to write a good "Curriculum Framing Questions." I do not think these teachers are "lazy" or do not want to write good questions. My opinion is the concept of Curriculum Framing Questions and Project Based Learning are very different from past experiences. My experience with teacher preparation courses is that they do not cover either of these two concepts. My district trainings only focus on these two concepts when an Intel Teach course is offered. Teachers, therefore, have not had multiple trainings on how to implement this in their pedagogy. I look for growth in both areas by the teachers. With growth comes more experience. My favorite replies from previous participants is when they tell me of experiences using either Curriculum Framing Questions or Project Based Learning with their classes. No matter how simple their previous ideas were regarding either of these two concepts, they grow as the ideas are used with students.
Remember an elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time.
I've had the same question that you voiced at the end of your post. "What do you do when you see participants developing plans which are really not Project- or Problem-Based?" This fall, in particular, I knew that I was going into a training where this might become a real issue, so I decided to be proactive. When we went into TwT-Module 2-Activity 2, I used LineUp to create 3 small groups. Each group reviewed information provided in the module in order to create a large poster (using text and/or pictures) to summarize one of the following (1 perspective per group):
■ Characteristics of Project-based Learning
■ Students’ role in projects
■ Teacher’s role in projects
They presented their posters to the whole group, and fantastic discussion/clarification followed. I mounted the posters at each of the following sessions for easy referral. Throughout lesson development, everyone referred back to those posters many times! I (or others) could simply ask, “What are your ideas for making your lesson project-based?” “Which characteristics from our Project-based learning posters have you incorporated (or are you considering) in your unit?”
I often find that I have a wide range of "savvy" regarding technology in the participants. Since we use the internet so much, and some candidates share some great web tools, this can be a real challenge for some learners.
I have found that often a candidate sitting near a needy candidate will step in and shepherd this type of person through the course, and I certainly try to be available and check on those people frequently. But sometimes the people sitting nearby are not in the mood to be helpful, or they act frustrated because of the need to go a bit slower.
At times I can make an assignment to be worked on independently, then help the needy learner, but there are times when that doesn't work, either.
Do others have suggestions for handling this situation?
I like to think that after living and working with a wide variety of people for many years, I am pretty aware of potential cultural differences which may be obstacles, and I can often anticipate and avoid difficulties.
BUT- I still run into the occasional Native American candidate (We are fortunate to live among a large population of Navajo, Hopi, Apache, and other tribes here in the Southwest) who does not want to ask questions during a session. I am aware of this, and try to visit with them during training breaks to see how they are doing, but once in a while I get to the end of a day, and the questions deal with the beginning of the day and go throughout the entire day. I feel terrible that they have been working with less than complete understanding all day~ it must be my fault. They need a whole new session, in other words.
Any suggestions for how to avoid this problem? I'm happy to help at the end of a session, but I'd rather keep them WITH the group than do it all over again... I believe this can happen with a wide variety of candidates and is not likely limited to Native Americans, but that's my experience. I sincerely hope I do not sound as though I am stereotyping...
I wonder if a needs assessment at the beginning of the session would help. A simple one might include:
- What do you know about PBL?
- Have you ever been involved in a project experience? If so, explain the situation/lesson.
- How comfortable are you with the following terms: project based learning, CFQ, assessment, etc.
Including a glossary of terms and a sample lesson before the course runs helps with expectation. When I work with teachers, I find that there is a huge range of experience with lesson planning. Some teachers are only required to give a short weekly plan while others are comfortable with the extensive unit plan template we use (I have found that most, however, have not had to create anything close to the detail we require).
A short email a week before a training asking participants what they are looking forward to may work. Note the ones that don't respond. Allotting time during the first few days to answer questions in an anonymous discussion forum like quicktopic.com or asking for exit cards before lunch may work too . Some of my teachers are ELLs and they need encouragement to ask questions. Let me know if any of these are strategies you have used before. I'm always looking for new ways to encourage participation!
Informal assessment at the outset is good and I usually do that. I have even used a Google Form to have them answer just about the same questions you suggest.
I really like your suggestion of a glossary and sample lesson. That would give us something to go back to continually as a reference as we work on the Unit Plans! I wonder if it would be good to give them these on a flash drive electronically to have them add their own understanding to the document as we go. It would be a way of allowing them to construct their own definitional understanding of the documents as they learn!
And you remind me that working in a second language as well as through the veil of another culture both are causes (though not the only causes) of hesitation to speak aloud in a group.
Thanks for your ideas!
What a great question! It made me have to think deeply. My most challenging student was someone who said they didn't need the training...and that they already knew everything about Essential Questions and lesson plans and so I helped them see the value of feedback instead. I concentrated on their plan in minute detail and offered feedback at a level that they were able to benefit from. I also used tools that I hadn't exposed any other groups to give them opportunities to share in "different" ways, including holding online video sessions. It was a training I greatly benefitted from because it created a need for me to reach the higher-leveled learner, which in turn, provided opportunities that benefitted others.
What a great question...I think my most common and most difficult is teacher commitment level. We always have teachers so excited to start a training and even though you tell them the time needed they never realize the time commitment to successfully complete a course. The teachers get so overwhelmed they just drop out. Some do feel bad and they give excuses but there really isn't much you can do. I have tried extended course time, F2F meetings, webinars and even peer teams with some luck. I think the craziest excuse I got was...my cat chewed my computer wires...REALLY - What kind of cat do you have - a panther! I had one lady drop out of a class 3 times so I told her she was on Intel probation. I just made it up but it did help because she thought others were watching her. Oh the stories...
I too have had the trouble with commitment and often people not really realizing what they have signed up for. If it is a participant training I have a different attitude than I do when it is an MT training. I have had to tell a couple people after completing the MT training that I just didn't feel they were ready to be an MT. Their level of understanding just wasn't there to be able to teach it to someone else. In most of the cases they realized that they weren't really ready. I often get push back on PBL because it is not really something that the district supports. The individual participant may think it is a good idea but in the district they are expected to be on a certain page in a certain book on a specific day. I try to encourage them to try to incorporate one small PBL activity and then document the progress of students during that time to share with administrators that they can learn that way.
Also, many districts in their curriculum maps have Essential Questions but they are much more like Unit Questions and that becomes a discussion.
Oh this brings back memories!
Many of you may have read the story about my Intel Essentials class of 24......eager, well-trained, tech savvy participants..,Wait, that wasn't my class!
I was given the task of training 24 teachers at our optional school....funny thing is these teachers had no option. They were told by the superintendent that they would take the course. Now I am all far the superintendent getting behind the program and stepping in, but these teachers were NOT ready.
First of all, they were told they had to take the course, second of all they found out two days before the class started they were being audited by the state, there were rumors of the school closing in the near future, and finally some of the teachers did not know how to find the Internet.
Before the class started I was already getting phone calls from the assistant principal telling me the teachers were NOT happy. I tried to stay positve and said we will get through this class. Day one.....teachers come in screaming at me, "I don't know why I am here, I am not going to do anything anyway," " Why do we have to do this, I don't use technology?" etc. etc.
Halfway through the class one participants gets up and leaves crying because she is overwhelmed.....wait come back, we haven't even discussed Curriculum Framing Questions yet!
Halfway through the course the participants' files they uploaded started disappearing from the site, half didn't know to check e-mail,.......shall I go on? (teacher training to the rescue)
Believe it or not, I think I won some of them over....I did have 22 of the 24 finish the course and several came back to tell me they were using what they learned.
Was it easy? NO Was it worth it? Yes, even if I only managed to reach a few. I think many of the participants surprised themselves with their accomplishments. Do I want to do that again? hummmmmmmmm???????
Training does become interesting at times. Several times I have been without internet. Once we had to rearrange the activities in the modules around internet connection because of online testing in the High School and low bandwidth. We used the internet when the groups switched and while they were at lunch. On another occasion, my training was immediately following a hurricane and the manuals were sent back to the regional UPS center. We worked the first day using the powerpoint, internet, and my manual. I burned as many cds and I had in my laptop bag. It was a day of sharing. My MTs did not know the difference because they did not have another reference point until the next day when the manuals arrived. This was also one of the scariest place I ever stayed. The door to my room was crooked and about 2 inches above the door jam. It was the only room I could find because of all the insurance adjustors and construction people. Each morning I would go to my car and find it outlined in beer bottles. Needless to say I was locked in my room before dark. But hotel rooms are another story. In another training, the cds were incorrect. Karen quickly overnighted me the correct cds and again I was burning cds to share that first day. It became important to pack some blank cds. In earlier years, we had to set up new laptops before the training could begin, this was very tough on the agenda. We had some very short lunches. I also had Glen's experience of internet going out every few minutes. They had wired the room and tested it, but when we had 20 people on the system it crashed. Several times I have had to ask a potiental MT if finishing as a PT would be a better fit for them. Many were relieved as they were insecure about their skill level and the responsibility of redelivering the training. I have seen a few tears, but always reassured them that it was my job to make them successful at the Intel experience. Overall, the people who plan the trainings do an excellent job to make our job easier.
Some of my biggest challenges have been the commitments from the school districts and the lack of communication. I've had MTs arrive at training and had no idea (or didn't think we were serious) about training 10 participant teachers. I also feel for the teachers who come to the training committed to Project Based Learning and Curriculum Framing Questions but their districts haven't made this a priority so they do not get a lot of support. They need support when they are back in their classrooms as well as when they are recruiting new PTs. We tend to spend a lot of time brainstorming strategies to implement the training when they get back.
Another frustration that I've witnessed is the different logins and passwords. Intel has worked hard to simplify this and they have definitely come a long way but even as a ST I still have problems remembering which username and password is for which environment. Many times when I am training new MTs the participants do not get their login information for the course before it begins and we need to spend a lot of time during the class creating accounts.
As far as the content, I would agree with many of you that the Curriculum Framing Questions tend to trip people up the most. I find that they usually have a difficult time seeing the difference between the Essential Question and Unit Questions. I really found some great strategies from the community in the discussion " Facilitator Backpack - Episode 2 - “The Curriculum Framing Question Crusade” and I'm looking forward to using some of the tips and tricks.
My experience was in a small town in Kentucky one summer. In addition to our training, there was summer school for students at our facility and at the high school nearby. On the first day of training the fire bell went off. We all got up and trotted outside. After about a half hour of sitting outside, we decided to go to lunch. I tried to talk about the training as much as I could while also trying to get to know everyone. When we returned the building still wasn't cleared so I gave everyone an assignment to do at home and we called it a day. Jeanne came to observe me and saw me doing the two-step the next day to get everyone caught up. On Wednesday another alarm went off but we found out that it was pulled by a student so we only had a short disruption. Believe it or not, everyone still managed to complete wonderful units and this became one of my most memorable trainings!
This happened to me at a PT TwT training this past fall. I got to my school early, as every good trainer does, so I could get the room scoped out and set up. To make sure I had plenty of time in the morning I even stayed at my brother-in-laws house who only lives 1 mile from the training site (I live about 1.5 hours away). I was soooooo on top of things.....or so I thought!
I got to the room, got the tables and everything I needed set up. I got out my computer only to find out that the computer in lab, where I was training, was so old that I couldn't connect the SMART Board to my computer. A bit irritating....but no bug deal, I thought....I'll just use the computer in the lab instead.
I slipped in the disk and received an error message....uh-oh. I took the disk out and tried it in my laptop. It booted up just like it's supposed to....hmmmm. I grabbed a new disk and slid it into the lab's computer. It booted.....whew! The only thing I needed now was my saved files with all of my notes. I dig in my bag and find my trusty Intel jump drive. I transfer my files and approach the old, clunky computer, jump drive in hand and immediately notice the USB drives are in the back of the computer. Again, no problem! I walk around the computer and just stop dead in my tracks. NO USB PORT!!!!! Oh-no!!!! Think Julie, think....okay, I will just email the file to myself and save it to the computer lab's computer. Problem solved, right????
I send the email and file to myself, get it saved to the computer (thank goodness I got here early!!!) and think I have the problem beat. I now have my viewer open, the file saved....NOTHING else could go wrong!!!! I file-open, ready to see my notes and get started since teachers are filing in the room by now. It loads...it loads....it loads...it loads......it gives me an error message!!! Oh $@#&!!!! I had NO idea that my "pilot version" CD that I was using, from last year's summit, was NOT compatible with the final version!!! I tried changing the extension, copying and recopying, etc, etc.....NOTHING worked!
So what was my solution? I used my laptop with the viewer open and my notes and set it by the clunky, computer lab computer that was hooked into the SMART Board, and kept going back and forth between the two. It was so much fun trying to figure out what "page" I was on and keep track of everything....but, the training went well and I learned, ALWAYS BRING YOUR BINDER!!!!!
Julie, Thanks so much for reminding us of the importance of planning for problems. How well I remember a Missouri training that had a room with a VERY high temperature. We were told the temperature could not be changed. It was easier to change training rooms than to continue in an unbearable situation. My mantra is "if something can go wrong, it will!" Be prepared for everything!