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Pushing the Edge

What to Do if the Technology is Stuffed in your School

Overcoming Stuffed Technology in Schools

Shiny gadgets, unbridled excitement. It’s awesomeness on overdrive.

That’s technology in Education, on the internet. Right?

Well it’s definitely not the education institutions I’ve worked in.

Perhaps I’m over-stating it somewhat.

  • My partner does say I have a flair for the dramatic. And who am I to disagree? 

But in the worlds of education technology twitter chats, it often seems like this gloriously rosy scenario I’ve painted above. 

So many ideas and insights. 

So many opportunities for connecting online – Did someone say, global connections?

So many new tools to try out.  

Tools that actually work.

 

I SO get that teachers love these technology chats.

How could they not – when the same topics seem to be on high rotation – across the year. 

I get that teaching practices are being improved as a result of these chats. They’re pretty good on that front. 

BUT…it’s a world that I mostly can’t relate to. 

Nor could most of the teachers that I work with. 

You see most of the institutions where I teach – don’t have the tools – don’t have the funds – and don’t have reliable (with decent speed) internet access.

And for the most part – technology twitter chats (in education) don’t reflect these worlds.

 

It really hit me when I returned to teaching this year.

It’s like I’d returned to a world – where technology had stood still.

Whenever I mentioned tech to my colleagues, there was often a groan (nope, definitely no change on that front in my time away from teaching).

And the complaints that I’d heard many years prior – still had currency today:

  • Our computers don’t work, they take ages to start, they’re slow and unreliable;
  • Nothing happens when we report a computer fault – nothing gets fixed;
  • We don’t have any laptops or iPads
  • We don’t even have an data projector screen in our classroom;
  • Good luck with trying anything creative Greg – because it’s more frustration than it’s worth.

It didn’t take long to see that the teachers’ complaints – had a solid evidence base.

The Technology is Pretty X!$%!!

In one of my classrooms – it took over 20 minutes just to boot the computer.

  • And then it was another 10 minutes trying to get a powerpoint to open (Nope, I wasn’t shooting for the sky here);
  • Forget trying to play multiple videos. 

In the computer lab, there were more woes:

  • Logging in and logging out of Google on the teachers’ computer – seemed an exercise in testing my temperament.  
    • Luckily, in a major advance – students didn’t have to log-on to their computer – saving endless time. 
  • A number of computers wouldn’t work or were interminably slow;
  • I pulled down the data project wall screen only to see it retract just as quickly. 
    • After numerous attempts, I had to settle for it only going half-way down the wall; 
  • Videos would only play on specific operating systems
    • And then when they finally did play – it was only very briefly;

And in the weeks’ since, across numerous classrooms, my initial impressions haven’t changed. 

Recently I was going through my old teaching supplies and came across my overhead projector pens.

I thought for a moment before discarding them. Nah I won’t need these anymore.

Big Mistake. Recently, I taught in a classroom where the only technology was an overhead projector.

I get it. You have a Point (or Two)

SO teachers groaning about the technology, I can well and truly understand.

Teachers who’d roll their eyes, at any mention of a new tech tool, I can well and truly understand, even though it frustrates me and I could never do that myself. 

Technology equals frustration – on a major scale – for many of these teachers. 

Technology is a constant reminder of the skewed priorities of admin and the lowly status (influence-wise) of teachers within the system. 

And in my teaching worlds, there’s very little likelihood that the authorities will see the light and re-employ all the IT staff laid off, and invest in sustainable technology in the classroom.

SO what do we do?

What do we do – those of us who are passionate about the possibilities of technology – who are working in systems that don’t fund up-to-date, sustainable technology, and don’t fix it when it’s broken?

What can we do if the Technology is Stuffed?

I don’t pretend to know all the answers here. It’s still a work in progress as they say and I’d welcome your ideas. But here’s where I’m at currently:

  1. Coach teachers to exceed the frustrations
  • Let’s acknowledge the source of teachers’ frustrations and coach them to work in challenging environments – tech wise;
  • Let’s ditch the marginalizing of such teachers as ‘out of date’, ‘stuck in the mud’ whingers;
  • Let’s support teachers to develop their technology problem solving skills;
    • In the environments that I teach, there’s so many options here given the range of technology frustrations.
    • It’s probably best though to keep the skill development list contained so it doesn’t appear overwhelming.  

An example: Recently I coached teachers in an iPAD Movie-Making project.

Whilst the teachers were incredibly passionate and determined – they were often understandably challenged and frustrated by systemic issues.

I had to acknowledge these hurdles but not let it stop there. Here’s where I focused:

  • What can we do right here, right now?
  • What do we know that could help us?
  • Who or what we could turn to for advice or support?
  • How might we scale back – or what other direction might we head – given these constraints?
  • What are the other ways we could meet this objective?

I wanted the teachers to see themselves as having some agency – as having room to move in-spite of the frustrations.

I wanted the teachers to know that they could still operate here. That even though compromises would have to be made, they could still produce quality multi-media.

I wanted them to learn at their point of need (or frustration). 

AND when they did exceed the frustrations – we acknowledged and shared their successful strategies and efforts with our iPad Project Team. That way we started to build a culture that amplified the positive and ‘can do’. 

Read more about this iPad Project here.

2. Bring Your Own Tools. 

As someone who is keen on creating multi-media in the classroom, I’ve learnt over and over that I can’t rely on the system to function or support me (with an adequate tech budget for example).

I have to operate in ‘what if’ mode. For example, What if the desktop computer doesn’t work? What if there’s no plugs to connect into the system?

At my last presentation, we were running around trying to find the oldest laptop around, just so we could connect to the out-of-date plugs in the lecture room.

I have to think about what tools I can bring in to at least have a basic set up.

Now I know this is problematic given all that’s asked of teachers on the classroom supplies front. 

But for me I have to bring in what I have access to. Or I have to connect with others that have the tools or supplies that I need. Or I have to find ways to raise money to get them – just so I don’t succumb and give in to the status quo of Technology No Way. 

3. Work with What You Have

Plan your program on the basis of the devices existing in your room. 

Group the students who have with similar devices (and version numbers) and teach them to work together on projects.

Using a co-operative learning structure with your students. Identify the tech leaders and problem-solvers, the organizers and encouragers within each group.  

Everyone should have a role and everyone should have the opportunity to further develop their skills for this role and beyond. 

Another point to be made in respect to devices:

Too often we can get caught up in our fan-dom for particular operating systems – like Apple.

Sure iMovie can do a fabulous job and has lots of advantages but let’s not rule out tools like Windows MovieMaker – in our zeal for all things Apple. 

4. Challenge The Silence (within Twitter Chats)

Spare a thought for those educators who don’t have what you do. 

Whilst everyone else is giddy on globally connecting, Mystery Skyping, and Coding – dare to challenge the silence around access and equity in tech twitter chats.

Dare to share how to overcome technology barriers. 

Here’s some tips to get started on that front.  Also here’s my podcast chat with Greg Michie where we talk about challenging silences in tech twitter chats and elsewhere in education. 

Further Resources

Start Podcasting with your Students

I created a 3 part webinar coaching series to help you:

  • Get clear about your podcasting ideas;
  • Craft your Goals and Milestones for podcasting;
  • Create a Step by Step Action Plan to get started podcasting with your students.

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