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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

Ginger Jones's picture
Ginger Jones
8th grade math teacher

Andrew, you must have met my students, because those comments sound as if they came straight from their mouths. When I pass out laptops, I now give the following instructions, "Please do not start calling my name if you start encountering problems. I promise you that you know as much as I do, if not more, about alleviating the problem. I will be circulating around the room, and I will get to you as soon as I can". Most students have already found a solution to their problem before I get to them.

You were right on about the filtering of websites. I find great websites at home and plan my lessons around them, only to find them blocked when I get to school. This is not a problem, because I make sure I get to school a few minutes early to set everything up. If I find a site blocked, I email our tech guy and he has it unblocked in a matter of minutes.

Thanks for the advice about only trying a few new things at a time. My school has been the recipient of several grants over the past few years and has experienced a large influx of technology. I am extremely grateful for the technology, but it has been very overwhelming at times. I feel I have mastered most of my equipment, but am now faced with a brand new STEM lab. I plan on doing just what you said and will only tackle a few things at a time until I am comfortable with them.

One thing I have learned is to pay close attention when our tech guy comes to fix a problem I am having. In the future I will be able to fix the problem myself and not have to bother him with small problems.

Julia Hill's picture

I feel the technology frustrations! There is a program being used for K-2 students that we monitor in our classrooms. What frustrates me is when the computers freeze! It will not "come back" unless you x out of the program, which cuts it off and you have to restart everything!
I am learning more and more about technology intergration and am s l o w l y pulling more and more into lessons through the use of the promethian board. There is so much out there and our tech coach is wonderful!

Julia Hill's picture

We have a wonderful tech coach that help the teachers at our school. She is really good at keeping us up with all the new "stuff". We meet with her weekly. This helps me to stay intouch with all the things that are out there and available to our students.
We pushed for our students to have a computer lab so they can learn all the basics they are expected to know and use. This has been wonderful! We're so lucky to have this at our school.

Dawn Perry's picture

I love that I came across this article. As a 2nd grade teacher I always fear the "spinning wheel of death" as we like to call it. We use MACS and there is that beautiful rainbow wheel that just spins and spins when the computer freezes! Many times I hear teachers say they don't want to take their class to the computer lab because of the "what ifs" but I know how important using technology is for these children. They are growing up in a society that is a lot different and knowing how to use technology is so important. They also need to understand what to do when things go wrong. There are times when I am using technology for a lesson and it goes wrong and my 2nd graders are actually able to help me fix the problem!

Gina Moore's picture

Great blog. Technology is becoming more of a daily part of life in many ways. It is important to be able to use it in your classroom. I like that you mention to not give up when technology fails. It is inevitable that something might go wrong. The best thing to do is come fully prepared by testing the technology before you bring it into the classroom. Also if something unexpected goes wrong it is essential to have a Plan B. I love the advice about writing a proposal to administration and to your techonology specialist about why you would want to use a certian web site or technology. This all in the end will help the students be more engaged with learning. Students like to learn in different ways and technology is the perfect way to do that.

Danna Sabolik's picture

I was instantly attracted to this blog. I have learned over the past year that you absolutely must have a plan "B". I use powerpoint presentations for all of my lessons with links to United Streaming and other video in the presentation. If the system goes down, which happened often last year, you are really have to think fast. One thing I do is have anything from the internet on a flash drive in case the internet is down.

Our computer lab was set-up this week. I took my 2nd graders to explore IXL math. Some didn't know how to log on to a computer. I usually have a teacher computer hooked up to projector so that they can follow what I do as a class. This saves a lot of time. They are hooked on this website now. It is a competition within my class "Who can get the more awards?" for learning math. The funny thing is they think it's a game.

Margonthem's picture

Andrew, this was a great blog with a lot of wonderful suggestions from everyone. I agree with you that it is very important for teachers to always have a "Plan B". I use technology daily in my special education classroom, and it really does make a difference. The students are so engaged when technology is used verses when it is just "chalk and talk". Just like you said, "teaching is a profession where you have to constantly adapt and adjust on your feet"; therefore, I know that I must always be ready for my computer, interactive SmartBoard, or the overhead projector not to work, as well as any other mishap that I may encounter. So that I am prepared for any technology malfunctions, I always have my lesson broken down into two parts, with technology and without, just in case. I also make sure that I check to make sure everything is working before homeroom, so that if there are problems, hopefully, our IT department can come to the rescue. Bottomline, you cannot give up on using technology, even if you do occasionally have tech issues. The students benefit so much from the use of technology, because the students open their minds up so much easier, to let in the knowledge. Before they know it, they have become active learners with increased motivation.

Lisa Mims's picture
Lisa Mims
5th grade teacher /Education blogger
Blogger

You are right about asking to unblock sites. I always complained about certain sites that were blocked, but never did anything about it. That is, until they blocked Edmodo. I immediately got in contact with our tech person in the district. Not only did he take care of it, but asked me if there was anything else I needed unblocked. I got him to unblock Blabberize and Tagxedo! Who knew all I had to do was ask?

VeronicaZ's picture
VeronicaZ
Veteran teacher/graduate student from Texas

I'm a veteran teacher with 25 years of experience...just not with technology! Yes, it's scary and frustrating and you feel like just giving up...but then you do your students a great disservice when you do give up. When I reflect on all the changes in education and technology, I think it's awesome that our students will get to use great tools in their classes! I just got my first "smartphone", and though I feel like I'm not that "smart", I'm determined to master it and add that new skill to my personal life list!

VinceS's picture
VinceS
Instructional Tech

Of course, there are failures. Failures and problems can be mitigated and eliminated. When integrating technology into a lesson, it helps to collaborate with the teacher and model the lesson once to identify and workout out any potential problems. Teachers should be empowered. I think it is important to instruct teachers how to troubleshoot and fix minor tech problems themselves. If I always fix the same tech problem for teachers, I am not building their capacity and confidence to successfully use and integrate technology. Teachers are stakeholders in school technology and should take ownership.

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