Tuesday, December 04, 2012

In Which I Observe Skedula's Expert Trainer


I observed your training lesson yesterday. The lesson was scheduled to begin at 12:30. You were present at that time, but otherwise occupied, and your lesson did not actually begin until 12:40. At 12:40, you apologized for the fact that many teachers had lost the grades they had entered in your system, blamed the school for it, and promised it would not happen again.

You proceeded to explain how the quarterly marking period grades could be cumulatively averaged. You explained how Skedula could average two numbers in great detail for approximately ten minutes until being stopped by the principal at 12:52. After the principal explained to you that quarterly grades were not to be averaged cumulatively, you dropped the subject.

You then began a lengthy explanation about the grading portal, which was not available. You explained when it would be available. You followed another long explanation about "valid grades:" and the various ways teachers could establish them. You offered to schedule monthly meetings on this topic. It was clear to me that no one was interested in attending these meetings.

After that, you stated that since we offered Castle Learning, we would probably not wish to use the DDC feature. You explained that you would come back to the DDC feature later, after having explained we would probably not wish to use it. You then continued to discuss the DDC feature.

When a teacher stood up and asked what DDC was, explaining that no one had ever heard of it before, you became visibly upset. You answered that DDC was a "data-driven classroom, and offered to come back and explain what DDC was. 

Positive aspects of your lesson:

You were well-dressed, for the most part. The SmartBoard technology was functional, and you displayed competence in its use. You seemed to know your content well.

Negative aspects of your lesson:

You failed to begin your lesson in a timely manner.

Your aim was to familiarize your audience with basic grading techniques of Skedula, and for the most part, your session was unrelated to the aim. You did not consider your audience, all of whom had signed up for basic instruction. You instead spent most of your time discussing administrative matters which did not apply to most of your audience.

As a result, I observed much if not most of your audience engaged in conversation, lesson-plan preparation, reading, and other unrelated activities. You did not seem at all aware you had lost your audience, and simply continued on regardless.

Your lecture on how to average two numbers not well received. I observed two of your audience members discussing the fact that they could calculate it faster than the program, with or without paper or pencil. The fact that the calculation itself was unnecessary to begin with rendered the entire exercise ridiculous, and highlighted your lack of preparation.

You brought up DDC, or "data driven classroom," despite your own verbal assertion that they probably would not need it. You continued to dwell on a subject you yourself had declared irrelevant to your audience. In fact, your audience did not even know what it was. Rather than encourage open discussion, you repeatedly declined to answer a question, until the questioner stood up and insisted you explain the term. You then offered to explain it further, for reasons that were clear to no one.

You had clearly not completed your goal when your time was up. Though you offered to remain and answer individual questions, not only did every member of your audience need to go to another session, but you yourself were scheduled to begin another one. If indeed you answered questions after this lesson, it would have caused your next lesson to begin late as well.

Despite the facts that months ago I heard you promise an iPad app within weeks, this app is still unavailable. Most of your audience members were using iPads even as you demonstrated on a PC. I understand that you are now promising the first iteration of the iPad app sometimes this month, but given your past failure to produce, I am wary.

Suggestions for improvement:

It is our policy to offer bell-to-bell instruction. Please begin promptly and be sure your audience is immediately engaged. One way to do that would be to remain on the stated topic, for which every member had signed on.

Try to be helpful and friendly when fielding questions. Do not show hostility when being questioned, particularly when you've brought up terms with which none of your audience is familiar. This will encourage participation, engagement, and learning. Nonetheless, should you determine such terms are not relevant to your audience, it's far better not to bring them up at all.

Please determine what your aim is and follow it. I strongly suggest you engage in planning. I saw no evidence whatsoever you had done so before this session, you had no written plan in evidence, and you clearly seemed to be improvising. While improvisation may be useful as a jumping-off point, you were mistaken in thinking it would sustain an entire lesson. This cost you the attention of your audience, and resulted in largely wasting their time.

In the future, please bring evidence of prior planning, and I will be happy to discuss and review it with you. In this way, you may better engage your audience and more efficiently use both their time and yours.

I strongly suggest you observe the young man who presented Apple iTunes U. Not only was he friendly, well-prepared, easy to understand and consistently on point, but the program he was demonstrating seemed intuitive, simple, and easy to use with little or no training. This is in marked contrast to Skedula, which after several months, still perplexes many who attempt to use it.

This lesson was UNSATISFACTORY.
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