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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

"My screen is blue."

"My computer froze and I lost all my work."

"It didn't save."

"It's blocked."

One of the biggest distracters of technology integration is what I like to call the "technology fails." They are frequent, inevitable, and frustrating. This reason alone is why many teachers avoid integrating technology in to his or her class.

Technology fails are inevitable, but can be prevented by putting in place procedures that will allow your classroom to progress smoothly. I recently spoke with several Instructional Technology Specialists and asked them how they handle these daily problems. Their overall perception is that technology will occasionally go awry, it is inevitable, but regardless of the technology, lessons have always had their fallouts. This is how we learn and get better.

Rich Kiker, Instructional Technology Specialist from Bucks County, PA notes that, "attitude changes everything" when integrating technology into one's classroom. Kiker adds that teachers must persevere and not just give up because technology went wrong during one lesson.

The more we fail with technology, the more we will learn from it. This can only be accomplished by trying, even if that attempt requires training wheels. Teachers must take that first step and use technology, knowing fully that it will most likely go wrong.

As with any life lesson, it is a rare occasion when we get something right on the first try. Steve Anderson, an Instructional Technology Director in North Carolina, states that, "The key is to expect the failure, and have a back up plan. Now, that isn't to say to live and teach and present in fear but to think, what am I going to do if "x" happens?" Plan B must always be available whether you are using technology or not. The ability to adjust and adapt is one of the qualities of being a solid teacher.

Teaching is a profession where you have to constantly adapt and adjust on your feet. It is a profession in constant motion between the hours of eight and three. If you are trying technology for the first time, and your school is lucky enough to have an Instructional Technology Specialist in the building then take a moment to sit down with him or her and go over what you want to accomplish with this lesson. Don't simply ask them to create it for you, but have them give you some guidance on some ideas for this particular lesson. Present them with clear objectives and how using technology can enhance the learning process and produce quality outcomes.

We must realize that not trying technology is doing our students a major disservice. Again, using technology will be frustrating at first, but give yourself some time to get used to it and set up some time with your Instructional Technology Specialist. Technology is not something you have to use everyday, but sprinkle it in when you feel it is applicable and will enhance your teaching and students' learning.

Understand that the first day you attempt to use Google Docs in your composition class, you will most likely encounter one of the quotes from above. It happened to me on occasion, but it did not deter me from using technology and learning from my mistakes. In the end, technology integration made my job easier and allowed the kids time to learn in a dynamic environment and with tools that will be essential to the 21st Century Job Market.

I can also guarantee that your school will block and filter many sites. If your school blocks a site that you use don't just huff and take it. Write a short, effective proposal to your Administration and Technology Director as to why the site should be unblocked. Give them the lesson plan, standards, and outcomes. Show them that technology and this site is essential to student learning. When you put the framework around the students' learning, there are few Administrators that will turn you down.

I challenge you to try something new. Choose three tools (maybe more, maybe less) that you will commit yourself to learning this year. When you feel comfortable, integrate these tools into your lessons. Stay focused on these tools and don't try and use something just because someone told you it works in their class. Stay focused and maintain a comfortable pace. I promise you, your students will thank you for it.

Comments (39)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Heather V.'s picture

OOPS! Sorry for posting twice. When I signed up I did not see my original post, so I thought it did not post.

Kristin Taylor's picture

I teach Spanish through the integrative use of technology. I am in a computer lab full-time, and totally understand the "technology fails"! You hit the nail on the head when you said that teachers must be flexible and adapt when things don't go according to plan. Teachers usually have plans A and B, and should do the same thing when using technology. I do agree the most important thing we can show our students is how to be flexible, as well as how to problem solve when using technology. With our help, our students will learn that problem solving works not only with technology, but also in life. Thanks for the article! It was well said!

Jennifer Cawley's picture

I do understand and agree with the integration of technology in the classroom. However, how do you handle a student who is listening to music when they should be working or walking around the room instead of staying on their computer? Is whole group instruction efficient enough for the integration of technology or should it be individualized.

Rachel Burkett's picture

Technology frustration seems to be more rampant among those who did not grow up using computers at some point in their life. It's harder for some to adjust to this technology and its uses. Many staff at our school get frustrated easily and take very few steps to problem solve the issue. Some just simply give up after a few tries and don't even call on other colleagues for help.

Technology can, and inevitably will fail at some point. With teachers being required to integrate more and more, it's not something that is going to go away if we wish hard enough. It also means that more teachers are finding they have to learn and adjust. Technology is changing all the time, and teachers have to adjust to new versions of programs and new operating systems. For some, technology failure is a good thing because students have an abundance of knowledge they can share about computers and it gives them a chance to impart some of their knowledge. They learn that they too can be teachers.

Tayna Miranda's picture

Jennifer, In my classroom I have very strict and firm rules about the use of computers. They are not allowed to get on Youtube or music sites. If they are caught their parents will be contacted. I monitor the use of computers closely especially the first few weeks of school. In my classroom computer work is individualized so you will find that each student is working on something different.

Shawna Fischbach's picture

As a teacher of kindergarten, I find it hard to incorportate technolgoy, but maybe I am wrong. I will admit that I am one who has never cared for technology and has used it as little as possible. It is frustrating to me when things don't work right or go wrong and I don't know why or what to do about it. I also get frustrated when tech terms are used and it's like I'm listening to a foreign language - it doesn't make sense because I have nothing (or very little) to connect it to for building meaning. I do see the importance of technology and teaching it to out students because almost everything we do is turning technological. I am steping out of my comfort zone by enrolling in an "Integrating Technology into the Classroom" master's degree. program. I have just received a HoverCam and started using it in my classroom. Although I only know the basics of using it so far, I can see its usefulness already. I must say as a person who dislikes technology and will avoid it if I can, I think it would be useful to have "technology mentors". Just like most schools provide their first year teacher's with a mentor, I feel it would be beneficial to provide those who are technologyically challenged (like myself) with a one-on-one technology mentor. I know I would benifit more from meeting on a regular basis with someone who would explain and teach me new things so I would feel comfortable using and teaching new things to my students. I would get a lot more out of that than sitting in a tech presentation with 50 other teachers for an hour. I am hopeful that I can present this "technology mentor" idea and make it a reality in my school.

Sherri Snow's picture

Shawna, I too am a Kindergarten teacher. Our school just recently installed Mimio boards in our rooms. We also have document cameras, which by the way are really cool. They were both installed around the same time, leaving little time to learn to master either one. I have found both of them to be extremely helpful. Our math program has a wonderful website that we can go to for virual minipulatives, games, and even our worksheet pages so we can enlarge them on the big screen for the kids. I do find it difficult to learn it all though. Which button does what? How do I get it to do that? How do I get to a new screen? These are all questions that crop up during my day usually when I am working with my kids. They think it's funny, I guess that's the joy of Kindergarten. Our school corp. has put a technology person in each building, separate from the computer teacher, as a go to for information and problem solving. They trained those teachers to be there to help out. Maybe that is another form of your mentor idea. I think you are definatly on the right track. So much money is spent,we should be able to use these tools effectivly. I am intrigued by the hovercam? I have not heard of that before. Please explain.

Hannah Bray's picture

I agree with Heather that the professional development and support is not where it needs to be. In my school we are pushed and pushed to use technology, they have even gone as far a mothly techonology focus, without and examples of how these techniques are implemented into a daily lesson. I am more than willing to try new things and most things do not always work out as planned the first time, but before I can get comfortable with one technique, they throw another one in. I think more time should be spent to support teachers who are trying to infuse technology. The kids love new idea and technology so I would like to be able to use it more often. I would also like to have some valuable professional development to assist in this process.

Jessica Malek's picture

As a newer teacher, I have found technology to be very helpful in the classroom. I also become frustrated when things do not work out the way I think they should. I am currently learning how to use a smart board. I am finding lots of new ways to incorporate it into my everyday routine. The smart board is very interactive and the students love to use it!

Jessica Malek's picture

Hannah,
I agree that it is important to have that support when trying to incorporate something new into the classroom. If the support that you need is not there I would find someone within the building that is tech savvy.

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