A Wild & Woolly Ride: The Texas TIFTECH Adventure

Copyright 1998 Miguel Guhlin (mguhlin@esc20.net )

"Let's just use the Internet Learning Institute model as the base for the C&I training," I muttered under my breath. My partner, Jim Baldoni (jim.baldoni@esc20.net ), got that pensive look on his face that signalled a brilliant, yet painfully

difficult to implement idea was about to be shared. "We need to make the classes more constructivist. This is what we're expecting them to do."

As I took a look at the work I'd done so far, I couldn't help but ask myself, "Does the TIF Board really expect quality training on how to use the Internet in the classroom in six days?" And, the answer isn't surprising. The real issue is HOW we are able to answer YES.

The Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (TIF) Board provided a syllabus that served as a starting point for our work.. Six educators compose the TIFTECH Team. The syllabus reflects the division of responsibility that the 3 dyads in the TIFTECH Team have. The responsibility is divided into three strands: 1) Curriculum & Instruction, 2) Policy & Leadership, and, 3) Technical, with two people from each TIFTECH Team assigned to each strand. The TIF Board explains what these TIFTECH Trainees will be expected to do:

In the spring of 1998, recipients of the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund grant, Rounds 2 & 3 began selecting people that would represent their respective districts at professional development classes known as TIFTECH TRAINING. The purpose of the TIFTECH training program is... to provide grantees the opportunity to learn how to maintain and use their telecommunications infrastructure once it has been placed in a school. Training will consist of topics such as Internet use, integrating the Internet into the curriculum/classroom, applications of software productivity programs into the classroom, strategies for maintaining and updating equipment, and finding resources and mentors. Once trained, TIFTechs will be expected to be resources for school districts, libraries, not-for-profit healthcare facilities, and other community organizations in order to facilitate collaboration and increase community participation. Training will be provided for a team of up to six people representing the grantee.

All TIFTECH Teams must attend a mandatory two-day session known as the Foundation Component. In this component, participants, regardless of their expertise, must learn how to use various Internet resources (i.e. browsers, downloading, working with graphics/text off the web, sending and receiving email) as well as become generally familiar with the three strands. How these goals are accomplished depends on the TIFTECH Training Facilitators. As facilitators, Jim Baldoni and I had the opportunity to structure the TIFTECH Training offered to school districts. It quickly became clear in our discussions and arguments that we were both committed to two principles:

1) TO KNOW IS TO KNOW HOW TO MAKE. All activities would be designed as hands-on, requiring participants to reflect on new information as well as use recently acquired skills in web page design and use of presentation to build their knowledge. The basic competencies needed for designing web pages, finding and editing various media, sending and receiving email with attachments would be interwoven into each day of training.

  1. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR KNOWLEDGE-BUILDING. Rather than lecture on the various topics, our participants, as adult learners, would take responsibility for their own learning. And, we, as facilitators, would not set ourselves up as the experts but would encourage peer mentoring and sharing.

As you can see from the Overview of Curriculum & Instruction (Table 1), each day is packed with activities that require teachers to not only listen to the facilitator, but to use what they learn from each other. This is critical to the learning process evident in the TIFTECH Training Program we designed. It allows teachers to respond to an important question as they develop skills that they expect they will use with their students.

TIFTECH Training Program:
Curriculum & Instruction

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Learning Goals
  1. Participants will learn how to use and incorporate digital cameras, scanners, video, and audio output into web pages.
  2. Participants will learn how to retrieve and edit data (text, graphics, audio, video) off the web for use in Internet & Multimedia projects. ||
  3. Participants will analyze existing web-based student projects for critical elements.
  4. Participants (in pairs) will develop web-based projects. ||
  5. Participants will develop a new Internet project based on a different activity structure.
  6. Participants will develop a table of contents for created projects. ||
  7. Participants will identify benefits of IP video and synchronous instruction.
  8. Participants will create a video introduction to their created projects. ||
Facilitator Responsibilities
  1. Provide necessary step-by-step handouts to meet learning goals.
  2. Provide access to necessary equipment (i.e. scanner, digital camera, video input source (web or otherwise)).
  3. Upload projects to website. ||
  4. Introduce issues pertinent to learning goals.
  5. Model creation of student projects.
  6. Facilitate access & provide feedback to participants.
  7. Upload projects to website. ||
  8. Model & facilitate creation of Internet projects.
  9. Facilitate access & provide feedback to participants.
  10. Upload projects to web site. ||
  11. Offer practical suggestions for use of Internet Distance Learning tools.
  12. Facilitate access, handouts, feedback to participants.
  13. Upload project to web site. ||
TA: TEKS Correlation (refer to attached pages for text of TA:TEKS)
Project Design Objectives
TEKS Correlations shown below are the Technology Applications TEKS. For content area correlation, refer to attached pages.
K-2: 126.2: b2a;b5a;b11 3-5: 126.3:b1b,d,e;b2a;b4a,b;b5a; b7c; b8a; b10b; b11a

6-8: 126.12: c1d,f,h; c2d; c3a; c4a,b; c5a; c8a,b,d; c11a,b,c

9-12: Please refer to content area correlation of TEKS.
  1. Develop an awareness of the rich resources available on the Internet for use with student-created multimedia projects.
  2. Develop the technological competencies needed for creating multimedia projects and publishing via Internet tools (i.e. email and the World Wide Web).
  3. Awareness and use of activity structures (both Dr. Judi Harris' activity structures & Tom March's hotlist, subject sampler, treasure hunt, multimedia scrapbook, and web quests).
  4. Discussion of vocabulary used for telecommunication-based projects (Dr. Harris' work), collaborative projects (Tom March's work), product oriented research (web-based reports), and information discrimination (critical thinking & cooperative grouping strategies). ||
Graphics, Sound, Video, & Web Page Design
  1. Download programs off the web and deHQX and decompress them.
  2. Create, gather and edit/crop/copy-n-paste sounds/graphics/video from various sources.
  3. Create web pages with tables, sound, graphics, and video gathered from various sources.
  4. Organization of pages into a web site and basic considerations for publishing. ||
Assessment & Evaluation
  1. Standard Evaluation Form
  2. Email to participant presenters on the quality of their product. ||

Teachers’ own goals flow directly from the goals they hold for their students. They see that students are going to have to develop a set of understandings, skills, and pre-dispositions related to using the Internet. For many teachers, this forces them to ask, "What do WE need to know and be able to do to facilitate our students' realization of the outcomes we see for them?" Emails, such as the one below, hint at the exciting content of TIFTECH Training being offered across Texas for districts who received Round 3 of the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (TIF) grant.

Hi all of you from the TifTech list,I have spent three very beneficial days...We have created a web page together and have used the web to design a student project. I even learned how to enter the URL below (check out our new web page!):
http://www.esc20.k12.tx.us/techserv/tiftech/cohort1/ci1/co-one/cohort1.htm The days have been jammed packed and believe it or not, I was eager to get back from lunch to work on my project.

-Email message from a TIFTECH Participant
Dealing with these pre-dispositions has been challenging…both for the facilitators as well as the participants. During the first day of staff development, the Foundation Component, time is allowed for a packed day of hands-on activities. By contrast, the second day involves a more relaxed approach to using the technology to analyze and share information about the 3 main TIFTECH strands. In providing an overview of a variety of topics, Jim Baldoni and I decided that it would best not to lecture TIFTECH participants on topics such as the history of the Internet, etc. Rather, we wanted to teach our classes in a way that would serve as an example of how content could be shared. An example of this was to use a knowledge-building activity that teachers could use with students. The Internet Treasure Hunt I devised, and Jim Baldoni modified, based on Tom March's activity formats (more about this later ) was a list of 8 questions ( http://www.mguhlin.net/techserv/tiftech/foundation/treasure/ ).

The format for the day focused on participants dividing up into dyads or triads to respond to the questions together. Each group would be assigned a question that they would be an expert at. The questions, listed below, address specific topics that involve the use of the Internet in educational settings:

1. What was the original purpose of the Internet? How did this purpose change over time and what were some of the benefits?

2. What are the general and technology demographics of World Wide Web use? Also, how is the web used and how indispensible is it in the lives of Web users? Provide brief summaries of your responses.

3. What are some of the main points regarding the impact of technology on student outcomes? On educators?

4. What are some of the ways in which the Internet has been used in the past to support communication projects and lessons?

5. As both adults learners and teachers of adult learners, what are some factors that we need to consider and how can we structure our staff development differently than the way we do for children?

6. What are some staff development models you could use in sharing what you know of the Internet and its use in the classroom?

7. What are some characteristics of adult learners?

8. What are the intentions of the TIFTECH Program Syllabus?

After a morning of discussion on these topics, participants return from lunch to the task of developing a PowerPoint presentation that targets subjects of their choice related to their strand (i.e. Curriculum & Instruction, Technical, etc.). For some, this is their first exposure to working with presentation software such as MS PowerPoint. You can see some of this work at: http://www.mguhlin.net/techserv/tiftech/#Participant Projects

At the end of the day, participants are asked to respond to the Treasure Hunt's Big Question:

How would YOU structure Internet staff development at your campus, and what would the content be?
Of course, these two days of preparation really fail to address the how of curriculum integration of Internet-based technologies into the curriculum except at a superficial level.

Curriculum & Instruction
As a TIFTECH Training facilitator, a successful way of providing curriculum integration involving the Internet is to structure training as a recursive process. Put simply, the skills participants learned in day 1 are used each day of the TIFTECH Curriculum and Instruction training. This provides participants with the opportunity to use in real ways the skills that they have learned. The comments at the end of Day 1 demonstrate how overwhelmed, yet exultant, educators are in learning how to use various peripherals and create web pages. Describing Day One, a high school math teacher wrote:

Well I learned to record and edit sound today, including how to modify a sound for a person who speaks softly versus speaking loudly. The level at which you record can determine the extent of magnification of sound available later. it's neat. i like dealing with sound because I love music.I worked with a digital camera and made my first web page. I drew my classroom and scanned an image of it into my web page. Well it's only my first try, but I am glad i tried it out! I am tired today...too many late nights this week... but i want to practice this at home. Good luck on your projects...

The Theory Behind the Reality:
Two broad approaches to designing Internet projects have emerged. Undoubtedly, as you design projects, you will think of others. They are based on the work of Dr. Bernie Dodge, Tom March, and Dr. Judi Harris. My understanding of these two approaches are that in March & Dodge's work, the teacher and her students are not dependent on other classes to collaborate with them, while many of the approaches under Dr. Judi Harris are dependent on collaborations with others. In the past, especially when working with the Internet Learning Institute, the only approach shared was that of Dr. Judi Harris. Unfortunately, sometimes, other collaborators aren't interested in working together on the particular project you may have developed. It's like going fishing. Sometimes, your bait (i.e. call for collaboration) looks interesting; other times it doesn't. That's why the work of Bernie Dodge and Tom March offers an alternative to using the Internet with student than that presented by Dr. Judi Harris' activity structures.

While there are certainly more than two approaches, professional development in these has been helpful for participants developing projects that make sense to them. The two approaches, as discussed in an online PowerPoint presentation (http://www.mguhlin.net/techserv/tiftech/c&i/tiftipd/sld001.htm ) shared with participants, include:
  1. Dr. Judi Harris' Activity Structures: provide you with the structure to write lessons that invite others to participate in Internet-based projects. These activity structures are explained in more detail to TIFTECH participants via the web at:
  1. Tom March’s Activity Formats:provide you with structures that enable you to write interactive web pages that your students can use rather than surfing aimlessly on the Web. You can find them at:

You can access the product of TIFTECH Participants work at:
http://www.mguhlin.net/techserv/projects/default.html organized according to one of the two approaches shown above.

As you may surmise, maintaining this type of effort over an extended period of time can be tough on TIFTECH Participants. Realizing the value of establishing and supporting online communities, TIFTECH Participants are enrolled in an electronic mail list. This list allows them to ask questions, find responses, as well as possibly collaborate on future Internet-based projects. Providing on-going support is also a goal, that while un-funded, may take the place of face to face visits on an annual basis. As one TIFTECH participant put it via the list:

This message is to all of you new [TIFTECH] cohorts that have very little knowledge of

computers. You're in for a wild and woolly ride. I am enjoying my trip, but...

I have so much to learn and not much time…I don't feel so badly

about this, because I know that the other teachers I work with will have

some of the same problems when I share what I have learned with them.

The excitement of learning together, working together is the key to what TIFTECH is about. For, if we can say with the teacher above that there are others who can share via this new medium, certainly our students will learn how as their teachers model this behavior in the classroom.

Some of the rewards for the facilitators appear in the facilitator’s inboxes, such as:

I just had to share an experience with you. Today I was checking my
e-mail and I was so excited to see that Kara Monroe, Instructional
Technology Manager for Ivy Tech State College in Indiana had viewed my
web page through a listserv. She stated that many new Amish farms had
recently moved into their area and thought this would be a neat way for
her nieces and nephews, as well as students, to learn more about the
This is so exciting to think someone across the country can view the
work Betty and I did.
Thanks for all your help!
You can read more about the Amish and other TIFTECH Projects at: http://www.mguhlin.net/tiftech