Asked to run an INSET training session just because you're an IT teacher?
So you’re an IT or computing teacher and your head teacher uses you as free technical support! Not only that but you are also expected to help other non-technical teachers on a regular basis. Sound familiar?
Yep, I’ve been there too. In fact I was asked to leave my GCSE revision lesson once to go and help the head teacher as they couldn’t connect to the OHP in another room. I didn’t even get a thank you as I was simply told to do my “geek thing and get it working”!!!
Not only that but I was also asked, with very little notice might I add, to fill a couple of hours on INSET day to train other teachers “something technical”. No instructions other than that – something technical!
I mean, where do you start?
If you’re in a similar position, help is at hand. Here are a few quick things that you can show your fellow teachers on an INSET day which will keep them happy and won’t need much prep on your part.
The three golden rules to creating a successful INSET session are:
make it is useful
make it brief
solve a problem that teachers are really experiencing.
Actually, there is one more rule I like to stick to when planning an INSET session. Make sure the session ends a couple of minutes before it is scheduled to end, so teachers can pop to the toilet and grab a drink before the next one starts. They will be eternally grateful.
PowerPoint Keyboard Hacks
Let’s start off with an easy win. Many teachers use PowerPoint and some love it and others hate it.
However, I bet they don’t know the following and if you’re totally honest with yourself there may even be something in here that you're not aware of.
Of course, you don’t need to tell your fellow teachers that you are just learning these hacks now, you can always pretend that you’ve been using these keyboard shortcuts for years. – I promise I won’t tell 😊.
For instance, the F5 key to run a slideshow from the first slide. Okay, most people do know this one already. But did you know you can also do a Shift + F5 key to run the slideshow from the current slide!
Also, most teachers seem totally unaware that hitting the Esc key will stop a slideshow instantly.
I’m often left frustrated when I watch a presenter fumble around trying to figure how to get out of their presentation and have been known (on particularly frustrating occasions) to call out the relevant keyboard keys from the audience and then instantly look away pretending I had not said anything, when everyone looks around. I am a truly dreadful person to have in your audience if you are using PowerPoint and don’t know it properly!
When teachers are running a presentation, show them how they can use the “P” and “N” keys to move to the previous slide or the next slide, rather than all that messy right-clicking and trying to use the pop-up menu to navigate. You don’t even need the control key, as long as the presentation is running as a slideshow, press the P or N keys.
How about the “B” key or the “W” key?
These make the slideshow completely black so it looks like it has been switched off or, if you wanted, completely white. This is great if you want students to get on with a task without seeing the presentation and without the teacher having to switch off the projector or stop the presentation. To bring the presentation back to life, you simply need to press any key and it will be resurrected in exactly the same place as you were.
Or even, you can show your teachers how they can change their pointer from a pointer (which clicks) to a pen tool they can use to draw on the slides. All they need is Ctrl + P. This is particularly useful to underline words, draw a simple line on a chart, circle important things etc.
Ctrl + E will change their pointer to an eraser to get rid of the pen annotations. To return to the pointer simply use the Ctrl + P or Ctrl + E again to toggle the feature off.
All you need to do to prepare for this spectacular display of technical skills, is have a very basic PowerPoint presentation (similar to that shown below, although you may want to wow them by incorporating your school’s house style). And you demo these keyboard hacks to your non-technical teacher chums, who will think you’re a wizard.
You can always be especially helpful by giving them a table of the keys which they can stick in their planner or onto their desk so they can be reminded of them - and of course your wonderful know-how.
I’ve even created a helpful printout which has 4 identical tables per page (saving you paper) that you can print and cut up before your session begins.
Honestly, showing teachers these few keyboard hacks for PowerPoint have been some of the most rewarding INSET sessions I've led. And teachers love them.
Unfortunately, these PowerPoint keyboard hacks don’t all work in Google slides, however P (Previous), N (Next), B (Black), W (White) and Esc do. So if you're a Google Slides kinda’ school, you can still show them those.
What else can you show them?
I’m sure a lot of your INSET day colleagues would appreciate it if staff in your school knew the difference between Reply and Reply All when replying to those whole school emails. And also why it is not advisable to mark every email message as important when it clearly isn’t or indeed writing EVERYTHING IN CAPITALS!
On a more serious note, having an idea of Excel functions is always helpful to teachers, especially basic formula and the SUM, AVG, MIN and MAX to get statistics for their reports.
You may even want to go so far as teaching them a few IF statements or even a VLookup, if you think it will be helpful.
Conditional formatting is also often a winner as it can make data easier to understand. Another useful skill many teachers will appreciate is how to print larger spreadsheets (including repeating titles and fit to one page) or how to filter or sort data in a list. Especially useful if you have a deputy head who is VERY keen on giving staff too much data that they are somehow expected to make sense of.
These are all useful skills that, as IT teachers, we take for granted and we often don’t realise our colleagues struggle with.
It is always helpful to look at the spreadsheets you've created for the previous year to help you see what was needed and what worked well for you. You can even use those examples in your presentations (just change the names to student 1, student 2 etc if you are demonstrating using real student’s grades).
How to have a successful INSET training session
To have a really useful INSET training session you need to think about solving a problem that teachers in your school are having. If you can solve a common problem and make their lives a little easier, you’ll have a session that teachers will feel is worth attending.
A couple of years ago, it would have been nice if teachers had training on how to teach online, how to set up their laptop at home or even how to use Microsoft Teams. If only we knew what was coming.
If your school is planning on updating a system then maybe you can find out and get a preview to help you incorporate that in your session. You may have to take the head teacher’s PA a couple of chocolate biscuits but I’m sure they would know if there are any new changes on the horizon you should be aware of.
We all know what it is like on INSET days. Teachers have a million things they would rather be doing than sitting through yet another boring and usually pointless meeting.
Make sure your training session is relevant. As I said at the start; make it is useful, make it brief and solve a problem that teachers are really experiencing and you won’t go far wrong.
If you or anybody in your department is looking for some teacher training to help become a more confident Python programming teacher, check out my course Teach Python Programming With Confidence.