Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Painfully Ineffective

Some of the training we had today was far less effective than it could have been.

It's not that the idea was bad; in fact, it was what our faculty had asked for at the end of last school year. We wanted some practical training on the software we are supposed to use. I think all of us had used our student information system before so the lion's share of our training today was to be on Schoology (skoo-ology), a "content delivery" software. You can put links, put assignments, have students turn in assignments, have online components of assignments, have social media-like discussion fora/forums, etc, on Schoology. It's the new best thing.

To give us an overview, two large-screen tv's were set up in our library. A Schoology person was on video from New York, giving an overview of the functionality of the software; his picture took up a small window at the top of the tv while he pointed out things on the Schoology web site with a Madden-like telestrator. At least, that was how it was supposed to work out.

Before the meeting they'd set everything up and tested it. When it came time for the meeting, though, it all fell apart.

It took several long minutes to figure out why our two screens were blank--no demonstrator, no view of the web site. Black screens. Also, the audio on the tv's was somehow out of synch, so no one could understand anything until one of the tv audios was unplugged. That made it hard to watch one tv and listen to the other (try it some time, it's disconcerting), and turning up the volume on the remaining tv such that the people in the back of the library could hear meant the listening quality wasn't optimal. But somehow we muddled through it.

In the afternoon we had part two. We were split into two groups so that one group at a time could fit into one of our computer labs--the smaller venue would make it easier to hear the upturned volume on only one tv. We also had two district tech services people with us, only to find out later they were actually "teachers on special assignment". Our New Yorker started his more detailed presentation but after a few minutes I interrupted and said, "I can't be the only one who can't understand a word he's saying, can I?" and the room erupted in agreement. All I was hearing was that nasally "waw waw waw" sound from the Peanuts cartoons, others described it as "robot speak" or "underwater". The Tech Services folks then listened to him and tried to translate to us what he was saying based on what they were seeing on the TV. That devolved to silliness and one teacher asked one of our tech services "teachers on special assignment" to just give us her best shot at training. It was her first day on the job but she acquitted herself well.

These technical problems do not bode well for me because this year I will be the coordinator for at least some of the testing that will go on at school, and all of our testing is done online--including the Smarter Balanced assessments, the government-mandated tests supposedly aligned with the Common Core standards.

Who makes Excedrin?  I probably should buy some of their stock.


Ellen K said...

As with a car-the more gadgets you have, the more potential you have for failure. Our district is trying desperately to move us to paperless all online content. The problem is, when the network does drop out, we are left with no or few alternatives. Every years for the last seven years my final exam for upper level studio classes has been a digital portfolio presented to and discussed in class. And every time, for the last seven years, our network has dropped out on at least one of the test days. This is why I tell my students to back up everything on their iPod, their phone, the cloud or some place other than our district network.

maxutils said...

You expected an inservice day to be useful because why?