We live in an age of seemingly constant connection, in a time when technology is never out of reach. The truth of the matter is that technology has opened up a whole new world to us. With it, we are able to do things that we never could have dreamed of doing in the past. We can bring people from all over the world together to podcast or video chat. We can ask a question and receive a huge number of responses in real time. We can have students collaborating in real time from various locations.
At the same time, though, I’ve sensed in myself a growing impatience when technology doesn’t cooperate. I have a hard time waiting for my MacBook to connect to the internet when I open it at school. I get frustrated when the iPad adapter doesn’t work properly (as has been the case for the last week or so…maybe I need a new adapter). I need to work really hard not to lose my cool when a video I want to show has been buffering for way too long and I can see my students’ attention drifting.
Despite all of its benefits, technology has many downfalls, and I sometimes wonder whether we are really using it effectively in schools. With students spending so much time on their screens outside of school as it is, how much screen time should we be allowing in the classroom? If something were to happen, and we no longer had our tech, could we still teach with excellence? As someone who loves technology and wants to embrace it and learn more about it with my students, this is something I continue to struggle with. Increasingly, I’m being more deliberate about when I do and don’t incorporate digital technology in the classroom.
Now for some funny stories of technology fails, because those are things we remember anyways.
#1: I learned about Nearpod in 2014 and wanted to introduce it to my students. I created a full, interactive presentation for my students to participate in and dreamed that night about all the wonderful things that would happen the next day. We started our literacy class, the students grabbed their iPads, and the proceeded to log on. Except…the process of logging on took forever. Students would get in, but then get booted out. Of my class of 28 students, I maybe had a handful that could see the “start” page on their screens. This continued for about half an hour, until I realized we had already wasted too much time and our router simply wasn’t robust enough to handle all my kids logging on at the same time. I have yet to use Nearpod again.
#2: For a stop motion animation task, I downloaded iMotion onto the iPads, as they were already in our board VPP catalogue. My students started to film their stop motions, and then a few groups started asking me about editing and deleting scenes. We fooled around with the app for a bit and realized…the editing functionality is TERRIBLE on the free version of the app. Students couldn’t move frames around or review their work without completing the video. I promptly did whatever I could to get students using the superior StopMotion studio app.
And one more courtesy of today’s math class…
#3: To finish up our data management unit, we were working on creating and using spreadsheets. I showed students how to use basic functions, how to populate cells with autofill (I love autofill), and how to use the sorting tool. I was working off my MacBook, so I quickly took some data and created a graph. I encouraged my students to do the same. That’s when I heard, “Uhh…Mrs. Tang? We don’t have the “more” button.” Not a problem, I thought – it must be under something else. We tapped around. We tapped everywhere. Verdict? You can’t create graphs and charts on the iPad Google Sheets app. Fail.
I hope these stories provided some comic relief. Perhaps you can relate to them. Better yet, maybe these stories can be hobbled together into a case for why we should get Chromebooks…just kidding.
To sum up, technology is wonderful…except when it isn’t.