When it doesn’t work out as planned…

Recently, a frustrated teacher emailed me, sharing details of a failed attempt to incorporate an online technology tool in a lesson. It was obvious that she recognized the need for technology integration, but she was struggling with technical issues and was sharing her concerns about how difficult it is to use technology when you are battling with unexpected roadblocks.

Here is an excerpt from my response to this teacher:

I’m sorry for the frustrating experience you had when using the online tool with your students. You’re right, it’s discouraging for teachers to spend time planning to integrate technology only to have it not work as expected.

The complex world of computers and online tools leaves a lot of room for malfunction. It would certainly be wonderful if technology always functioned as designed. But, programs fail. And computers die. And sometimes all of the pieces that must work together for a technology tool to function properly simply don’t. Add in the extra layer of managing many machines in the district with a small staff of technicians, and you increase your chance of a frustrating experience that doesn’t live up to your expectations.

Does that make it any less frustrating? Absolutely not. Especially when you are working with students and you don’t have a minute to waste. You asked, “How was I to know it would not work?” I understand your frustration. You struggle to find time to verify the functionality of software on student machines just as I struggle to find time to do the same thing on machines before a professional development training for teachers.

I’m amazed at the possibilities technology provides for us and our students. The fast connections and astounding tools available have enabled us to have high expectations for the quality and functionality of technology. And my vision of technology integration includes classrooms where the technology is transparent and seamlessly enhances learning. Teachers could rely on the tools to work efficiently and consistently, and issues would be resolved with little to no waiting.

Please know that this is our vision in the HPS Technology Department. It is, and probably always will be, a juggling act due to budget constraints, but we are continually evaluating the need for hardware, software, technical, and instructional support and trying to divide resources among those needs.

Our students are living in a technological world. Literacy has a new definition. And our schools must provide an environment that prepares our students for the world in which they will become community members and workers. That isn’t an easy task, given the constraints of money and time in education. But, it starts with a vision. It is obvious that you understand the need for technology integration, as you have taken the initiative to provide opportunities for your students to use technology tools.

I hate to hear when teachers have bad experiences with technology because we face so many challenges as educators without additional burdens. I hope I can encourage you to keep trying and to take the time to remember the value in technology integration, despite the challenges that will certainly appear along the way.

Again, I’m sorry for the frustrating experience you had. I hope you are having a good week.

————————————–

My 30th birthday was on the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight. As a reading teacher, I planned activities related to the first flight and checked out the school laptop set for all of my classes to explore some online interactives that day. Students would be able to read and learn about the Wright brothers home, explore museum artifacts, and experience the first flights through online animations. Interactive and engaging.

Our internet connection was down all day.

My grand plan went out the window. Of course, there was an added layer of disappointment since it was my birthday. Pity. Party.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a back-up plan. (Lesson learned.) Could a situation like this have turned me against technology integration? Most certainly.

But, it didn’t. Because I knew my students needed opportunities to use technology tools to learn. They needed 21st century skills. They needed to be prepared for the future.

So, I went home, ate some birthday cake, and I tried again another day. I had a Plan B- just in case- and we used technology to enhance learning in our classroom.

It was worth it.

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