When we think of a cascade in nature we have a vision of big quantities of water rushing down a river. In education this image has become a metaphor for a particular training model: one teacher from a school (or a district) is trained; the newly trained one trains a few more; each one of them trains a few more, until all have received the training.
The cascade training model is an attempt to fast-track training of great numbers of teachers. Cost saving is one of the perceived benefits of this approach – only one teacher needs to attend an expensive training course. The knowledge gained on the course can then be passed on progressively to all in the organization.
When you introduce technology into your school and have the need to train all teachers in its use, this may be a tempting strategy. In theory the cascade training model seems to be cost and time effective. But does it work?
In a cascade in nature the force of gravity ensures that the all the water reaches the bottom. The force of gravity – a pull from below – is not operative when you try to empower all your teachers with technology skills.
You probably would select the most qualified person in terms of passion and affinity to technology, as well as training ability, to be at the top of the cascade. If the members of the first group who receive training are less qualified, the effectiveness of the training they offer to subsequent groups will be diluted. They can only pass on what they themselves value, remember and understand.
In many cases the envisaged cascade is reduced to a mere trickle of knowledge when it reaches the last teachers.
The cascade model may be useful for creating initial technology awareness among all staff members. When more intensive training is required, you can’t depend on this model. Teachers are at different levels of technical competency; a one-size-fits-all training approach will not yield desired results.
If you want technology training of your teachers to be effective, don’t just put a ‘model’ in place, hoping it will work. Ensure that each teacher receives all the training, coaching and support they need to make them skilled users of technology teaching tools.