Over the past three weeks, I’ve been asked by a number of administrators in the international world for a list of skills and questions for interviewing potential teaching candidates. The recruiting season for International teachers starts here very soon and schools who have decided to make 21st Century Learning a priority are looking for a checklist of sorts to find those teachers who can teach in a “new school.”
(Side Note: I wonder if any international schools take their IT Directors with them recruiting? Why or why not? If you were a technology-focused school, don’t you think you’d want them in on an interview?)
You will notice that my list says absolutely nothing about integrating technology or how the teacher uses technology in his/her classroom. No, this list focuses directly on the skill set and the tools these teachers use for their own learning. I want to know what personal technology skills these teachers bring to my school. I want to know how much PD time it is going to take to get them from where they are, to where I believe they need to be in order for the learning environment to change. This list of questions is broken into parts starting with basic computing skills and then moving to more advanced knowledge and skills. During the interview, I would also be looking at the body language in response to the questions and their responses. I want to see teachers get excited when they talk about the latest gadget they bought. I don’t want to hear “I bought a digital camera, but can’t get the darn pictures onto my computer.” Instead, I want to watch someone’s face light up when he/she talks about the new cell phone, or new iPod. I don’t care what the gadget is, it’s the body language and the tone of the response that is important.
Every applicant must first understand the technology situation at your school. Do not bother going through an interview process with prospective teachers if they do not want to or are not excited about teaching and learning in a networked environment. By starting an interview off by being up front and frank, you might save both you and the interviewee some time.
“We are a 1:1 school, meaning all students at our school have a laptop that they bring with them every day. You need to understand that we believe and expect the use of the laptop to be an integral part of your teaching and student learning. What are your thoughts about the use of laptop computers in the classroom?”
The answer, or non-answer to this question could save both of you time in the interview process. In fact at recruiting fairs, it would be great if schools that are 1:1, or see themselves as schools that truly embrace 21st Century Learning, put that information on their table, their banners, and everywhere else. Teachers should be excited about teaching in this new digital space. If they are not, then you do not want them at your school to begin with. Hiring teacher that do not get excited about teaching in a new networked space will not help to move any information literacy focused school forward.
Questions for teachers entering a technology focused school:
The Basic User: These questions are to get a simple base line of how the teacher uses simple computer tools. I use the Microsoft Office suite because that is what most schools use and these tools are the foundation for most school computer systems and communication.
Please rate your skill set for the following tools as a basic user, average user, or advanced user:
Basic User: Can use the program in its simplest form
Average User: Can use the program and can give examples of ways to use the program in the classroom for teaching and learning.
Advanced User: Can give an example of using the program in the classroom as part of the learning process. Has or is willing to teach others how to use it.
If a teacher answers basic or basic and average to all of these I’d say you have some work to do. In the 8 ½ years now that I’ve been working with teachers at all grade levels I would say that most teachers would rate themselves Average or Advanced on Word and Publisher and Basic on Excel and PowerPoint. So if you have a teacher that does just that…you have an average techie teacher who like most is going to need some support in the classroom.
What e-mail programs are you familiar with (Outlook, Thunderbird, Firstclass, Groupwise) and what do you see as the positive and negative aspects of using e-mail?
E-mail is still a major communication device in schools today. Knowing what system your school has and what system teachers are familiar with is a good way to find out if you will need to train them on a new system. True, most e-mail systems work the same but training is still needed. Also, understanding the positive and negative uses of e-mail is important. E-mail does take away from face to face contact within a school and understanding that there are some messages that are better received face to face rather than via e-mail is an important communication skill to understand.
The Average User: We all use the web today for school and for pleasure. If your teacher candidate doesn’t, well, that’s a red flag! However, does the teacher understand how to truly use the Internet? There are only two questions in this group. One to see if the candidates understand how to verify information, and another to see if their philosophy of web filtering matches the school’s.
Being able to look up information and resources on the web is an important skill. Explain how you go about looking up information on the web. How do you verify that the information you found is trustworthy and of use to you?
This question is asked to see if candidates understand the importance of verifying information found on the Internet. Do they understand .edu sites? Do they know how to check a WHOIS? Listen to their response and see if they can tell you how they verify information on the web and do they sound confident enough that they could teach this to students in their class?
What is your philosophy regarding the filtering of internet sites?
This is not a “game over” question but I think it is an interesting question to ask. Do the candidates’ philosophy match the school’s? How do they feel about information on the Internet? Do they answer that “There is nothing good on the Internet!” or “I always load pages for my students” or “We need to teach students to be safe in this new digitally connected world.” The response might tell you more about their teaching style and their own use of the internet within their classroom.
The Web 2.0 teacher: A teacher that is still standing and has you smiling this far is probably an average teacher that will take time and training to truly use technology to enhance the educational setting. However, if candidates can make it through these next two sets of questions I think you have some winners! It’s not so much the use of these tools as it is that they know they exist. Just by knowing that these tools exist puts them ahead of the average teacher.
Do you read any blogs? If so, which ones?
Of course you would have to know which blogs are out there worth reading and/or write down the blogs mentioned and check them out later. But this could give great insight into candidates’ learning stream. Who are they learning from? What are they reading?
Do you have an RSS reader? If so, what do you subscribe to?
This is a huge hiring point for me. If candidates say they have an RSS reader and they understand what RSS is and what it means to “subscribe” to something, then they are on their way to understanding how teaching and learning changes in a networked digital environment.
Do you belong to any online communities?
What communities does the teacher belong to? Twitter? Any educational Ning sites? A Google or Yahoo group maybe? If a teacher answers he/she belongs to an educational community, then you have a lifelong learner on your hands who is open to learning and thinking in new ways.
Tell me a story of something you learned from your network?
I start looking for body language and excitement level here. Do your candidates get excited talking about learning? Do they explain how they learn in or from a network of other people? How long ago did they learn this new skill or gain this new knowledge? Again, this points to the teacher as a lifelong learner.
Teacher 2.0: If your teacher candidate has made it this far then you probably have a big grin across your face and the teacher is feeling pretty excited as well, because he/she finally has found a school that understands the changing nature of education. This last set of questions takes us to Teacher 2.0. A teacher who understands that the future for our students is different and is continually looking at and trying new things in his/her own personal life to try to understand this new digital world.
Tell me how you think the future you are preparing children for will be different?
I’d love to hear the answers to this one. Of course as an administrator, you too better understand the new connected digital world we are preparing students for.
What is your favorite gadget and why?
I want to see excitement, I want to feel the joy from the person when he/she explains the new gadget.. I want it to be something that the candidate really likes and even explains how he/she couldn’t imagine life without it..
How often do others come to you for guidance in using technology?
Is this teacher viewed as a technology leader by others?
Describe the last new technology that you used and how you used it — and how you learned it?
How old is the last new technology? What passion is in the candidate’s voice? If he/she were “stuck”, was help asked for? How did he/she use it for personal use?
Describe the last thing you learned related to your work, that you didn’t learn in a classroom or from a book, and describe how you learned it.
Teacher 2.0 learns from a multiple of sources. He/she understands that learning occurs in the network and because of the network. Was it learnedt from a blog, from a group? Was it learned from a conference or a presentation? Can the teacher explain how he/she learned outside of what we see as traditional learning vehicles? If so, you have a teacher 2.0!