Monday, April 7, 2008

Free Technology For Teachers: FOSS VT Summary

As most readers know, I spent Friday at the Free and Open Source Software for Education conference in Vermont (FOSS VT). I Twittered a number of observations throughout the morning and afternoon session until the Internet connection got bogged down with too much traffic. You can read my Twitter stream from the conference here. I attended three presentations at FOSS VT, all three of them were valuable to classroom teachers and technology integrators. FOSS VT also had a number of presentations designed for systems managers which I did not attend, but I did hear great things at lunch about those presentations.

Three great tips shared at FOSS VT about getting teachers to try new technology.
1. "Avoid the trumpet." If you make a big presentation or loud announcement to your entire staff that you're implementing something new, you're going to meet resistance. Instead of making a major announcement, quietly implement a change, the average teacher will not notice unless you tell them. This is especially true when switching from Windows to Linux terminals.

2. If you have new software/ new computers/ new web application that you want teachers to use, don't offer it up until you can actually provide it. Making an offer of something new might get some people excited to try new technologies, but if they have to wait two months to get their hands on it you'll have lost most of the initial excitement and momentum.

3. Let teachers know that the students can help. Today's students are digital natives and fearless when it comes to technology. They are not afraid to push a button just to see what it does. Create a student technology ambassador team to help teachers learn new technology. Your student technology ambassadors could be a club activity or part of a technology class.

There is going to be a multi-day FOSS conference in Maine at the end of June. If you're interested in learning more about it visit the FOSSED website. If the multi-day event is as good as the one day event, it will definitely be worth your time.