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Where teachers train

Also, which track to run on? 5_16_1001.xml hed: Where teachers train dek: Also, which track to run on? blurb: Also, which track to run on? number of pages:1 By Molly Joss

Q: I am a teacher of children with special needs. I have no formal training in computers, but I want to learn how to develop educational software. I do not have much money and cannot afford to go back to school full-time. I have looked up online classes but I do not know where to begin or which courses to take. What would I need to study in order to get a job in the field of instructional software?

A: I presume you already have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education. If so, that will help get your foot in the door. If you don’t have a college degree at all, it’s going to be tough to get into the field, given your lack of computer expertise.

To figure out what kinds of classes or training you need, start by figuring out what kind of instructional software you want to help create. Do you want to do software for kids with special needs, or reading software for elementary school students? Once you’ve narrowed the field a bit, you can scout the job postings of the companies that make that kind of software. You may find that you have enough training and experience already to get a job helping a company develop the content for the software.

To help you get started, here are some Web sites of companies and organizations that make educational software: The American Education Corp., and SoftTouch and Laureate Learning Systems.

To learn more about instructional software and the companies that create it, check out the Web sites of various publications that cater to the art of blending technology with education. Here are two: Technology and Learning and Syllabus.

Q: I am on the verge of getting out of computers altogether, despite all the time and training I’ve invested. I’ve been at the same company for 10 years and I’m ready for a change. I’m tired of babysitting a telecommunications billing system. Any suggestions as to what areas might be appropriate for a person willing to learn and needing challenge?

A: Ten years is a long time at any company, and an eternity in IT terms. It sounds as though you need a job that lets you talk about computers with people, so you can have some human interaction.

Look into some of the jobs that have evolved out of the need for someone to serve as an interface between mini- and mainframe computers and the people who need to use the data stored in them. Some of these job titles include programmer, systems analyst and data analysts. You might even find what you’re looking for as a database administrator. All of these jobs, to one degree or another, involve talking to people about what they want the computer to tell them, finding out (or creating) ways to make the computer find and report the data, and then explaining the findings to the people who requested the information.

Your next steps, given your experience and background, may be to talk with some computer programmers on a few computer-related Web sites or find a user group in your area to visit. You might even be able to speak with a few professors at a local university. Ask all these folks about database related jobs and find out what kind of training you’ll need. I don’t think you’ll need much formal training, but you will need to find someone who’s willing to give you a chance on a job that will help you get started on your new career path. Who knows, you may find someone while you’re out networking.

Q: I am currently in the CIW certification program and have just gotten done with the Foundations courses. I am pursuing the E-Commerce/Designer track, but was wondering if it would be better for me to pursue the Web Development track?

A: What track you decide to take should be based on your own likes and dislikes. If you don’t like programming, Web Development could put you in a job you can do, but dread doing. The E-Commerce/Designer track of CIW is coupled with the Site designer module. The two modules are designed to train you to get a job helping companies handle the marketing and security side of Web sites. The Enterprise Developer track (which I think is what you are calling Web Development) takes much more time and is designed to prepare candidates to put sites together and maintain them. These are two radically different types of jobs on a day-to-day basis.

To help you decide which track is for you, ask for help at the school where you are taking your training. Ask them to put you in contact with graduates of both tracks so you can see the kinds of jobs they have and how they like those jobs. See if you can sit in on a session or two in one of the classes for both tracks.

Readers interested in learning more about the Certified Internet Webmaster program (CIW) can visit the CIW Web site.

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