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I’ve written several posts here sharing my skepticism about technology in the classroom, and my impatience with some who complain about Teachers Who Won’t Embrace Technology. I’ve also written about some technology experiments I’m trying in our school, including next year teaching one class all with laptops (or all in the computer lab) and another of the same kind of class using my usual engaging (at least I think so) basically non-tech curriculum.

In the meantime, I’ve been teaching a Government class three-out-of-five days each week in the computer lab as sort of a “dry-run” for next year’s class. And, I tell ya’, now I really don’t want to read any more posts complaining about teachers who don’t want to use technology. It’s turning out fine, and I don’t know if the problems I’ve experienced are typical of an urban school (or most schools in general) or not, but even I was getting discouraged at the beginning for awhile. And if I was getting discouraged – someone who’s fairly familiar with technology and someone who has a close working relationship with both the District’s Director of Technology and with our school’s tech person — imagine how many other teachers might feel….

Here are a few of the challenges I faced in the first week of our class. None of the computers would allow recording with a microphone to work. Our school’s tech person, who is always very helpful despite being woefully overworked, was able to figure out that we had to manually “test” the sound in each individual computer first to enable to recording function. And, of course, that could only be done by a teacher logging-on, which my student teacher and I did one day after-school.

Then, I wanted some sites unblocked. Our District’s Technology Director is very supportive of whatever we want to do, and immediately unblocked the sites. However, there was a problem that even though the sites are unblocked, the CAPTCHA’s which students must type in to register remained blocked. Luckily, I knew of alternative sites that, though not ideal, would still be workable.

Next, on some of the sites I wanted students to use, there was a problem with the wiring of our computers. All our students would log-on to their site accounts, but in the course of using the site something would happen that would confuse all the student accounts. So Jose might start with his account, but a few minutes later his computer would say he was on Chao’s account.

And there were a number of other glitches.

Again, everything is working out fine, school and District staff couldn’t be more supportive, and my students are excitedly learning three “domains” now – English, content knowledge about Government, and how to use technology. I’ll be writing another post in the future sharing some of the projects we’re doing with our Sister Intermediate English classes around the world.

I’m sharing these challenges not to whine about them — these things happen. I’m writing about them to emphasize that there are many legitimate reasons why teachers might not want to add yet one more complication to their already challenging teaching lives.

A veteran community organizer once told me that we call people apathetic (or old-fashioned, or closed-minded) when they don’t want to do the things we want them to do. If we want more teachers to use technology, let’s not blame them for our lack of success in helping them see that it’s in their self-interest to use it. Let’s spend more time listening and less time preaching…..

9 Responses to “Technological Frustrations”

  1. [...] Technological Frustrations is the title of a post I’ve just written for “In Practice,” a group blog written by a number of us who teach in low-income communities. [...]

  2. dogtrax says:

    I think the points you raise are very valid.
    Many teachers would not push after the first hurdle and who can blame them? They have busy lives and getting involved in administrative disputes or arguing for their access is not up many people’s alleys.
    But it still needs to be one.
    We need to continue to advocate for the merits of the possibilities on behalf of our students and, perhaps just as important, bring administrators and technology coordinators on board. Make them part of the solution, not a scapegoat for the problems.
    Thanks for sharing, Larry.
    Kevin

  3. Kevin,

    Thanks for the support, and for adding some additional important points…

    Larry

  4. Joel Zehring says:

    Great post, great perseverance.
    It all boils down to friction. Emotional friction, mental friction, relational friction. Teachers are masters of cobbling together exemplary lessons, activities, and experiences, but when the tools refuse to be used, I can’t blame teachers for defaulting to more cooperative solutions. A book doesn’t refuse to open, and a sheet of line paper is never “read-only” (unless the kid forgets her pencil).

  5. Jerry says:

    As a technology specialist in a public high school, I have to admit, I do get frustrated by the lack of excitement from the teachers with regards to technology in the classroom. Our district spent a lot of money this year equipping all of the classrooms in the district with ceiling mounted projectors and audio systems in every classroom. It is my job, as a tech specialist to facilitate the use of technology in my school. There are too many teachers who are unwilling to even try anything new. I believe we are doing a disservice to our students if we are not using the tech that is available to us. Kids do not learn as we did when we were kids. No longer can a teacher stand at the front of the class and lecture for 90 minutes and expect the student to have a clue about what’s going on. Students need to be engaged visually and technology is a great way to facilitate this way of learning…I just don’t see enough people willing to step out of their comfort zone to make this happen.

  6. Joel,

    I love your line:

    “A book doesn’t refuse to open, and a sheet of line paper is never “read-only” (unless the kid forgets her pencil).”

    Jerry,

    I’m generally not willing to go outside my comfort zone unless I see clearly that it’s going to help me do what I want to do.

    I can understand your frustration. During my nineteen year career as a community I was often frustrated by the difficulty I had getting people engaged in public life. I always found, though, that I ended up being much more effective, and less frustrated, by focusing more on learning people’s self-interests through building relationships with them. I was then able to not only learn a lot from others, but I was also able to reframe my propositions in the context of their own agendas — not mine.

    You might, or might not, find this post useful. I talk about the same topic there:

    http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2008/02/09/the-best-ways-for-students-and-anyone-else-to-create-online-content-easily-quickly-painlessly/

    Larry

  7. Joel Zehring says:

    Jerry,

    I led a workshop on projectors in the classroom. Many times, teachers just don’t know what to do with them. You’ll find ideas for classroom uses here:

    Projector Ideas (K-3)

    Projector Ideas (4-6)

  8. alicemercer says:

    Larry, a lot of tech trainers talk about “click quotas” how many times a user is willing to click with the mouse before getting to their intended destination. Good programmers and designers know you can’t have too many “barriers” like clicks or users will be frustrated. I think many of us using technology, no matter how adept, do not like to face barriers, especially random, stupid, or just plain puzzling ones.

  9. Alice,

    I hadn’t heard that term before. Thanks for writing about it.

    Larry

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