Technology Is Great… When It Works

Do you know what one of my most vivid memories of elementary school is? Filmstrips. Nor a specific subject, or grade, or activity. Filmstrips. Do you know why? Because they never worked. Without fail, every appearance of these clever little pieces of technology would make an appearance, the class would be forced to sit and wait for fifteen to twenty minutes while the teacher tried to figure out why the danged thing wouldn’t work.

This story continually repeats itself in our schools, replacing film strip projectors with VCRs, DVDs, smart boards, projectors, internet connections, or computers. Teachers and students that are eager to embrace technology meet with frustration by infastructure that doesn’t work the way it should.

Why does this happen? I think there are two main reasons for this. The first is bugetary. Schools do not have the money to afford the latest and greatest, nor do they have the means to upgrade and replace when things aren’t working at full efficiency. They try to keep computer labs together with borrowed parts and duct tape until they have the money to replace or upgrade.

The second reason is expertise. Most of the people that are implementing technology in our schools are teachers first with a little bit of technical expertise instead of techies that are somewhat interested in education. This means that many schools do not have anyone on-site with the technical knowledge to fix anything more than basic problems.

With  these limitations in mind, what  can teachers and schools do to minimize the impact of these technical problems? I have three ideas:

Be Patient and Persistent

As with anything else worth doing, it is important that teachers do not give up on technology because there are technical difficulties. The learning that technology can assist with is worth the trouble. Embracing technology means that we are meeting kids where they are at and provides us with the opportunity to help to guide students to be positive digital citizens as they move into their future.

Be Strategic

I think far too many schools have jumped into the implementation of technology before they were ready. They either did not have appropriate infastructure or expertise for the technology to not cause frustration. I did this very thing this year when I got excited about Google Apps For Education. I set up accounts for all of our teachers and students and did class sessions to teach all of them how to access this service. It was only after all of this that I figured out that the program was not working the way it should. Not surprisingly, teachers and students got frustrated and stopped using it. We have still not got it working properly, months later. I should have been more strategic in how we implemented the program.

Embrace A Culture Of Learning

Our school staffs will probably never be filled with techies that have the expertise to solve our more complicated problems. I do, however, feel that when a school embraces learning for everyone, that people will persist even when things go wrong and be able to better help and support each other instead of being overly reliant on one or two individuals.

This is a journey that my school and I are on right now and I am excited to be embracing change with them. If you have any ideas to share on how to more effectively weather a storm of technical issues, I would love to hear from you.

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