I am off tomorrow to Albuquerque, NM for the NCTM regional math conference. Third conference in three weeks - by now I think I have the exhibit booth set-up down to a science!
In thinking about all the teachers I have spoken with in the last couple of weeks, and anticipating the teachers I will speak with later this week, I thought I would share my suggestions to one of the most asked questions I have received: "What suggestions do you have for using the software if we don't have any money for training?" In this economy, definitely not a surprising question. And, unfortunately, I think for a lot of educational software purchases, a very common occurrence - purchasing educational software without offering training or support. But...all is not lost! Here are some of my simple suggestions to at least get started with a new software and integrating into technology, even if you have no training.
1) Go to the Help or Tutorial section of the software and find at least one or two content-related topics to study/learn/review. Focus on one or two. If the software does not come with this type of help, try the software's online resources. If you still don't get that support - it may not be a smart educational purchase (my opinion, of course!) A couple examples: Sketchpad - The Learning Center in Help; TinkerPlots - the tutorials and movies in Help; Fathom - the tutorials and movies in Help
2) Don't go it alone. Here is where working with others, either in your department or content teams or lesson study groups would be a benefit. As a group, spend a department meeting or planning time working together on some new skills or lesson from the software. Just like students, we learn better together.
3) START SMALL!!! Look at your curriculum and find a lesson that would benefit from using the software - DON'T force the software into a lesson, find a lesson where the software would be a natural enhancement to the learning. Consider using the software to review, or to 'introduce' or use it as a demo to illustrate a concept. Try one small type of integration first.
4) If that first attempt is successful, great - do it again! Go slightly bigger, for example if you did a warm-up introduction, next time do it to review a concept. But...if the first attempt was a failure, and it might be...all new things take time and practice - then find another lesson and possibly a different approach (review instead of introduce a concept for example), and TRY AGAIN. Get support from your colleagues.
It is possible to integrate technology without 'training' - it's harder and it takes more effort. Start small and build your own skills and confidence.