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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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How Much Does Your School Use Its Technology Pool?: Chances Are, Not Enough

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

It is summer, and I am trying to get back to Maine from a conference in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, storms have caused Atlanta's airport to shut down for an hour or so at just the right time to mess up my travel. Ah, well, it is summer, and this is the southeastern United States. Such things happen.

As we circled Atlanta before heading over to Columbus, Georgia, to refuel, I looked down at the houses, highways, and farmlands and noticed one feature of the suburban neighborhoods we were flying over: swimming pools. Behind so many big, brick houses, there were swimming pools, and each looked blue, cool, and inviting.

But I suddenly realized they were all empty. Each one. I said to myself, "Hold it, Jim. Have you ever seen anyone in a swimming pool in any of these neighborhoods you've flown over?" I had to admit I had never seen a single person in a backyard swimming pool -- and I fly a lot.

Conversely, there are pools like the one at the hotel I'm staying at right now as I wait to restart my travel tomorrow. This pool is jammed with what looks like an extended family enjoying a reunion. There are kids and adults playing, talking, jumping, splashing, dunking, floating, throwing balls, and relaxing in deck chairs. They are having a blast and using the dickens out of that pool. What a difference from those beautiful show pools I see in relatively affluent backyards across the United States.

This observation prompted me to compare the use of technology in schools to these swimming pools. Some schools acquire and use technology because of a strong desire to further the knowledge and skills of its students. But if a school implements new technology simply to follow suit with neighboring schools, there is a good chance the technology will be underused like the pools I saw from the air earlier today.

So, here are some questions for you: How much does your school use its technology? Is it in demand like the pool at my hotel -- perhaps even insufficient to meet that demand? Are things just right, with plenty of technology available and widely used across all curriculum areas by students and teachers to support teaching and learning? Or is it like the swimming pools I see in those backyards -- unused because of scheduling challenges, curricular rigidity, or other school-specific issues?

Hey, the water's great. Jump in and let me know what the technology pool is like at your school.

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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Comments (62)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Andrew Churches's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

How much do we use the pool. This is a very varied. It is completely dependent on the teacher - their digital literacy, personal motivation, trust in their class and students and I must also say by their age.

We have a one to 1 program through the middle years so we have some brilliantly enabled and capable students. The students can and do quickly adapted and understand digital approaches. The challenge is whether the teacher can allow the students to lead from their suggestion. By this I mean the teacher just has to start the activity and the students will run with it and become the classes resource. This is a big step. But if you can trust then you can dive deeply into the pool

Prensky's and Jukes work on digital natives and immigrants shows the struggle for the older teachers. Often if the environment they work in is not supportive, or they lack motivation they become digital emigrants - this realisticly means they seldom if ever dip their toes in the technology pool.

However, if you trust, if you have seen the light and are motivated, have supportive structures and management - then you can dive deeply into the pool, experiment and know that should it fall apart (computers always work and your browser always has the most upto date patches and plugin) feel confident that you will not be crucified - then you can explore even the deepest reaches of the pool.
I am lucky - i can swim and dive

LizO's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think with anything in life we have to use moderation. I know the importance of using technolgoy in school, but I don't think it should replace a curriculum. It should be used as a tool to help the students. In my first grade class I have a smartboard and have access to the computer room at least two times a week. I find it useful when extending a lesson in class. I don't feel it neccessary to incorporate in every single lesson.
Otherwise the students' would get bored

Teresa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Our principal encourages us to integrate technology as much as possible. The district provides the technology for all students with Instructional Technology Specialists to help guide the teachers who are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with how to use or when it can be used.
For the past five years, I have taught a computer basics class to Special Education students. We learned to keyboard, make PowerPoint presentations, researched information on the Internet, and used digital cameras to name a few of the things. Many of my students feel comfortable with blogging and a few even have MySpace accounts. Most of them can download songs into IPods and MP3's, but struggle in academic areas.
Technology for them is the motivation to do better than they can by reading books or doing math problems on a worksheet.
This year, my students point to an empty computer and I encourage them to explore and read and learn and do.
Is there any greater thing an educator sees than a group of students engaged in learning?

Christine Z's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I love the analogy of technology to pools. I wish it were summer again...

I teach earth science to 9th graders. Technology to me seems second nature and I don't know how to teach science without it. To those who use the technology in my school, we don't have enough of it. Teachers, like myself, want computer projectors and laptops for every classroom. I love to show my students computer animations and use powerpoint for their notes. I also try to get them on the laptops at least once a week. They love it and are so engaged in the lessons. We have 2 computer labs and a cart of laptops for the science department. Only 2 other teachers beside myself use the laptops. So in our department there are plenty of computers to use. However, there are more technologies that we would love the school to invest in.

There are many 'older' teachers in our school that are afraid of technology. We recently changed over to a web-based attendance and grading system. After 1 year, there are still teachers complaining about the system because they are afraid to use it. Since there are so many teachers with computer anxiety, the 'technology savy' teachers can use the computers labs freely with their students.

Our district is very supportive of computer training. We even have a teacher in our school whose sole job is to help teachers integrate technology into the classroom. So it really baffles me.... why aren't all teachers using the technology available???

Dana's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I feel that my school is more advanced than others in the area of techology. I teach French to high school students in a rural, southwestern Virginia school district. This is my tenth year at this high school. First of all, I feel very fortunate to have my very own smart board in my classroom! Actually, every classroom in the building has a smart board! This is my second year to be able to use in my class and honestly, I do not know what I would do without it! The Career and Technical department have had theirs now for four years. I have completely eliminated the chalk board and the overhead projector from my teaching. The smart board is connected to my computer so anything on the computer, is projected on the screen. I can write on the board and then save everything I write. This way, I can print out the notes for any students who are absent that day. We also have a homework page where we are required to post our homework online everyday. I can link my smart board notes and voice files to my homework page so students can access them at home! It is fabulous!

We have also gone paperless. All memos are sent by email from the office. We also take attendance online. We have been entering grades in the computer now for several years. I can access any information about a student from my computer. I have access to their schedule, address and parent contacts. I have not heard any teachers, novice or experienced, complaining about the technology at our school. Everyone I talk to, uses their smart board every day.

We also have a specialist to help us with any technology concerns we might have. Sadly, she had a podcast in-service a couple weeks ago and only four went from my planning block. I feel that in most cases, the technology is there but it is up to the teacher to take the time to become familiar with it and to utilize it in the classroom.

Matthew Babnew's picture
Matthew Babnew
I'm a student at Father Judge taking the introduction to programming course

There is a fine line between incorporating technology into the classroom, and having your class depend on that very same technology. Some modern day technology is used by students as a replacement for basic skills, such as a calculator replaces addition and subtraction. In certain types of classrooms, such as a high powered science course, requires a certain level of technology. There is a fine line, and certain teachers pass this line technology can be harmful. Dependency on certain technological advances have grown in popularity. Teachers should try to incorporate new age technology into the classroom, but should be mindful of this fine line.

john breslin's picture

I feel that schools can not use too much technology. Technology is progress and by using the most cutting edge technology we are preparing our students for the future. Our future is based on technology and by having our students use technology we are teaching them how to be a part of the future. By using technology we shape our own future and for that reason technology is so important to be taught at schools. As technology helps students see a problem in new and untradtional ways. Instead of writing an essay on a peice of paper a student can use a computer to make a power point presentation and can add pictures and sounds. In this way computers help students be creative and express themselves in new ways.

James Edmund Long I's picture
James Edmund Long I
Computers, computers, computers!

I find it really interesting that you happened to noticed that nobody with the nice backyard and home did not swim in their pools. It seems as though they take if for granted. Which seems to happen with some schools today. Although I am only at one school, I can only choose from my current example. But I agree with the observation that it may be possilbe that a school is just updating technology for show in open houses in order to meet the standards of other area schools.
In my school, it seems as though we have gradually introduced more and more technology since I started here three years ago. With four computer labs and a library with sufficient computers, I believe they are all implented the correct amount with the curriculum. Some class within the technology department use them too daily to teach each lesson, e.g. Java Programming or Computer Apps. However, there is one downfall. With a smartboard installed in every classroom recently, I am almost positive that not every class takes advantage of this. But I do believe, as the years go on it will be more and more common for a teacher to use these tools to help with the curriculum.

James Edmund Long I's picture
James Edmund Long I
Computers, computers, computers!

I find it really interesting that you happened to noticed that nobody with the nice backyard and home did not swim in their pools. It seems as though they take if for granted. Which seems to happen with some schools today. Although I am only at one school, I can only choose from my current example. But I agree with the observation that it may be possilbe that a school is just updating technology for show in open houses in order to meet the standards of other area schools.
In my school, it seems as though we have gradually introduced more and more technology since I started here three years ago. With four computer labs and a library with sufficient computers, I believe they are all implented the correct amount with the curriculum. Some class within the technology department use them too daily to teach each lesson, e.g. Java Programming or Computer Apps. However, there is one downfall. With a smartboard installed in every classroom recently, I am almost positive that not every class takes advantage of this. But I do believe, as the years go on it will be more and more common for a teacher to use these tools to help with the curriculum.

Conor Brophy's picture

I feel like my school does not utilize all the technology at its disposal. Every classroom has overhead projectors hooked up to computers but about half of the teachers here still use transparencies. The school's computers are all wired into the same network, but this network is frequently down or dramatically slow. In my three years here, I have seen three different computer techs. With each new one, there is a different network, new wifi access and different restrictions. This leads to many problems that could easily be avoided. Many of the computers on our labs are slow to the point of holding up lessons while programs and files load. I believe that technology at my school would be uses much more if we had faster computers and a stable network. No one is openly opposed to using computers and tech, its just that they are more trouble than they are worth.

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