San Carlos School, a private K-8 school run by the Catholic Archdiocese of Monterey (Calif.), started a program to train its teachers in using technology three years ago. At first, the program was pretty typical: a series of how-to workshops for teachers in the computer laboratory. However, this program has evolved into what the author calls a “technology community,” a term that highlights the way the technology director works directly with teachers and their students simultaneously on classroom-related exercises that both teach a subject and raise users’ ability to use computers.

The program is built around the school’s technology center. The center has 18 computers—or roughly one for every two students in the 35-person classes. Not equipping each student with a computer is intentional, writes the author, as he has found that working with another person to learn how to use technology is more effective and satisfying than struggling individually in front of a screen.

The center’s director has created worksheets and templates that instruct students and their teachers about how to use the computer to perform basic tasks. The students and teacher visit the computer center and work with the technology director on projects defined by the teacher, using the worksheets as guides to completing various tasks. These “decoding skills” help improve the comfort level of all users, to the point where working with computers starts to become intuitive.

Perhaps more importantly, the teacher and the technology center coordinator jointly guide the children through lesson plans in the computer center. This collaborative working arrangement enables the technology director to train the teacher on using computers in innovative ways, while the teacher is imparting information on a particular subject retrieved by the computer to the students. The author calls this “transparent” professional development for the teacher, and he says it creates ongoing, interactive learning that is considered a key to successful professional development.