One of the most frustrating "lessons" I taught was a training session for teachers. I was booked to show them how to use the internet: email and search engines. The teachers on the course were both both under-confident and lacking in the relevant experience and skills. My job was to address these issues.
I arrived at the school in good time, and the Head of IT told me to go straight to the room; he would be down later.
So the first thing I discovered was a queue of teachers waiting outside a locked computer lab. I went to see the Head of IT and asked him to unlock the room.
Once we'd got started, I told the teachers to have a go at using a search engine. In return for their efforts, they saw a "web not available" message. I went to find the Head of IT, and he told me he had disabled access to the internet "for security reasons".
Once we had overcome that hurdle, I suggested the teachers try printing a page from a website. That's when the third obstacle manifested itself: an error message along the lines of "Fatal Error 2108TZ: Please see your network manager immediately".
Needless to say, this scared the living daylights out of the teachers, all of whom thought it was their fault. It turned out that the meaning of the error message was that there was no printer set up for that room.
What I learnt from the experience
Ever since then, whenever I am booked to do a training session I clarify in advance that everything I will need for the session will be in place , even if I could be forgiven for assuming that of course it would be. For example:
- My materials loaded up in advance if possible
- Access to the room 30 minutes early
- A laptop
- A projector
- If relevant, whether I will need speakers
- If relevant, what sort of video format the school's system will support
- Access to the internet...
- ... and to printing
- Log-in details for everyone
- and so on
In short, I have found that being well-prepared is necessary but not sufficient. The best way to ensure a fighting chance of the session going well is to ask for what you would like, even at the risk of stating the obvious.