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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.

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