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…..