DA op-ed: Tips for technology training

How hands-on, focused workshops can sharpen employee tech skills

Summer break is almost over in Texas, and school district personnel are strategically planning for the upcoming school year. Administrators are developing checklists and tackling projects, and focusing time and energy on preparing campuses, completing purchases, and developing curriculum and instructional support plans. During the summer months, district staff conduct professional development, meet with building leaders, and recruit and hire new teachers and support staff. There is one area that administrators often take for granted: the technology skill level of new employees.

Technology is prevalent in everyday tasks—from navigating to a specific location, communicating with others, and ordering meals, supplies or coffee. The assumption is that everyone has an advanced knowledge of using technology. This is the wrong assumption. Often, recent college graduates find themselves lacking a deep understanding of technology and how it can be used in classrooms. To better equip new employees, Houston ISD has created a hands-on, technology-focused workshop that provides new hires with the basic technology skills they need to be successful in the district.

This New Teacher Technology Pathways (NTTP) training was developed through a collaboration of multiple departments to provide specific, guided technology instruction to support new employees. NTTP workshops are held daily throughout the summer and are available to any new district employee, regardless of position, grade level or campus assignment. During the workshops, new employees are provided with step-by-step instructions on accessing and using districtwide technologies, including Office 365, Google for Education and district-specific applications. Participants are also given access to technology support materials, the district’s approved digital resources system, and contact information for support staff.

Read: DA op-ed: Evaluating education technology for the classroom

Due to the success and feedback of NTTP participants, district leaders created a comparable workshop for district and campus administrators entitled Administrator Technology Pathways (ATP). During the ATP workshops, school administrators are provided with hands-on training on technologies used across the district and in classrooms. ATP workshops are provided in three levels, beginning with the technology basics and moving through advanced technology skills, including digital walk-throughs, technology integration and an overall understanding of how teachers and students are using technology during classroom instruction.

This is the second year that Houston ISD has provided technology training to new hires. Each year, the presentation content and checklists are updated to reflect new applications and additional support and resources available to staff. Feedback from participants indicates that the NTTP and ATP trainings are beneficial to new employees as they gain an understanding of the applications and systems used throughout the district.  

Houston ISD leaders recognized that not all employees have the same technology skills and or experiences using technology tools. Through NTTP and ATP workshops, new and existing staffers are provided with a solid foundation on district technology use and what resources are in place to support them throughout their careers at Houston ISD.  The training also helps to ensure that all staffers are prepared for their roles in the district and that they feel supported and welcome.

Kristy Sailors is the director of educational technology for Houston ISD, and a speaker at DA’s FETC 2020. For additional information about the technology training provided by the district, please contact her at [email protected].

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