In 1998, the Virginia Department of Education issued the “Technology Standards for Instructional Personnel,” which requires minimum technology competency of all school personnel by July 1, 2003. However, in the case of the Stafford School District, where the author is the coordinator of instructional technology, funds were insufficient to pay for all staff members to receive training in the required time frame. The district solved this problem by implementing a “train the trainer” program, creating Technology Lead Teachers (TLT) who then would train their colleagues.
The TLT program began by selecting motivated teachers who would be trained by a local university in the hardware and software skills needed to meet the state’s standards. These courses, which were taught in the school district’s labs with the district’s own technology, were each worth one credit of graduate-level work. Teachers were selected for their qualities as educators, rather than their prior background with technology.
The future trainers completed six courses: basic skills; applying standards to instructional design; internet for educators; desktop publishing and hypermedia; assistive and adaptive technology; and technology integration. Each course required a two-day commitment.
With the training accomplished, the trainers helped design the courses for their colleagues. These became a series of 11 modules that cover seven of the eight Virginia ed-tech standards. The modules can be completed by teachers online at school or at home. Competency is demonstrated by creating a portfolio project that requires mastering certain skills. The teacher-trainers are available in each school to help their colleagues with any of the modules, for which they are paid a set hourly rate.
The eighth standard, demonstrating classroom ability to integrate technology, is assessed by teachers and principals on a school-by-school basis.
A year after choosing this train-the-trainer approach, the district had trainers in each school and the online curricula was available. In the following year, the average completion rate of teachers had reached four of the 11 modules. Total cost to date has been $200,000or far less than contracting with a for-profit company or a university to train all of the district’s 1,200 staff members.
Two challenges have emerged so far. First, the teacher-trainers have classroom responsibilities and cannot always be available to their peers. Second, several teacher-trainers have been poached by other Virginia school districts that also are trying to meet the state requirements.