Expectations, Realities, Possibilities

While my personal relationship with technology could be considered contentious, I do not want to carry that attitude (or my bad luck in ending up with manufacturer defective technology 80% of the time) into the classroom. I understand both the need for and vitality of finding new ways to engage students with technology as it becomes more deeply integrated into our schools and daily lives. I find the potential for collaboration, project based learning, and creative problem solving through technology very exciting.

My current use of and access to edtech is pretty limited and traditional. I regret to say that my daily use of technology is pretty much showing videos and presentations and using the document camera. I know there are ways to be creative with English and technology, but without everyday access to computers it is easy to fall into doing things the paper/pencil/book traditional way. There are several computer labs at my school, but there aren’t any iPads or laptops or Chromebook carts that can be brought into the classrooms. Most of the time we can go to a computer lab, but there isn’t guaranteed access if the teacher doesn’t book the day.  If they do get access, students may have to use different computer labs if the teacher can’t book the same one several days in a row, which can cause some confusion.  Sometimes it can be good to get students out of their routine and into new spaces, but it would be more efficient to bring the technology to our space so we could rearrange the room into table groups  to work collaboratively and have easy access to classroom materials. Teachers all receive a Macbook, have a document camera in their rooms, and are able to check out things like cameras and recording devices when needed, but that’s about it. 

Despite a lack of daily access to technology, there is a push from the administration to be as paperless as possible. They encourage teachers to use programs like Google Classroom for assignment submissions and sending information to kids and parents. They are no longer investing in scantrons, so they want teachers using the testing features of Synergy in their place. This is a good idea for multiple choice tests in theory, because the students get immediate feedback and the program adds the scores from  right into the grade book. However, it is difficult to solely implement those methods without 1:1 access to tech. Students have to use personal phones or computers, so students who don’t have them are at a disadvantage. Plus,  it makes it difficult for teachers to monitor what they’re doing and muddles the already unclear cell phone policies.  

I’d like to learn how to more creatively use the resources I have available to me, as well as understand a little more about what possibilities exist outside of those resources. I want to be able to function in the tech landscape of whatever school I end up in, and use what I have to enhance the language arts experience. I also hope to learn  a bit about how to be an advocate for equality of access to technology–for example, how would I find grant money, and how do I make myself or my school a competitive candidate for that money? I’m excited for this course and the open-ended possibilities we can explore together.

Photo Credit: The great growling engine of change- technology. Alvin Toffler by  Kate Ter Haar on Flickr


5 Replies to “Expectations, Realities, Possibilities”

  1. Applying anything that we are exposed to in the class concerning technology will definitely be a challenge should you not have access to the necessary resources. I also find it interesting how your school is pushing towards being paperless despite not having the resources to do so. It’s a valiant effort at saving the environment (I’m assuming) but won’t do any good if there aren’t enough alternatives available to the students.

    Regarding cell phone policies I agree that in some schools they can be quite muddled. My CT collects them at the beginning of the day and hands them back when school is over; however, as discussed in class, my school is on the higher end of the tech continuum, so they can afford to be without their phones for majority of the day. I wonder if those policies should be revised if the school is pushing for a more paperless environment but lacks the necessary tech to do so?

    I’m sure you’ll be able to make your class as fun and engaging as possible even without iPads, Chromebooks, and the like. It sounds like you’re doing very well despite not having these things, and you’ve been working with what you’ve got. Keep up the great work, and I’m sure your students appreciate the effort!

  2. First off, it seems like a missmatch between admin goals and classroom realities. Not surprising given my experience.

    I’m alway baffled by the “no smartphones allowed in the classroom.” Imagine students walking in with more computer power than what was used to put man on the moon. And we take it away instead of finding productive ways to use it to meet our instructional goals. Here’s a post I did on the subject – Smart Phone, Dumb School

  3. The push for paperless without enough access to technology is really interesting. How can they expect you to accomplish this without providing enough resources? Even if you wanted to do a fun, interactive activity on the computer, it seems like it would be a hassle to get students to the computer lab and logged in, especially if you have shorter periods.
    The use of phones in the classroom is one thing I get confused about in my school as well. It seems like most students have access to smartphones, and without computer carts to bring to your classroom, it would be convenient for students to just use their phones if necessary. With this push for going paperless and using technology, it would be easy to let students use their phones, but then there are the teachers who will not tolerate cell phones in the classroom even if it’s for a learning benefit. I can see it being useful if all students have access, but at what point will students just become distracted and mess around on their phone? Maybe if there was a way to monitor phone activity, teachers would be more open to letting students use them in the classroom for activities and such. I know I would.

  4. I’m having the exact same problem in my classes with the subject mater, Bekah. English translates so poorly into the sphere of technology compared to STEM and even History. The most success I’ve had in lessons thus far were having students use image searches (without using the title of the work) to collect a series of pictures to express events/themes from the text. I’d love to do more.

    Technology demands itself to be an interactive medium for student learning that when access is so troublesome, one can be left reeling, feeling like not enough is being done. I’m looking forward to searching for workarounds with you on this topic.

  5. I’ve had some similar experiences at Barlow. I thought it was great that the administration tried to save money by getting away from scantrons, but they really needed to invest a little more into the technology available to students to allow that to happen. Additionally, I found the test-taking feature on Synergy to be very difficult to use. I was also frustrated that Barlow had quite a bit of technology available to teachers, but not as much for students.
    My CT and I started the year with a no cell phone in class policy, but we softened this rule as the year progressed. Oftentimes students just wanted to check the gradebook during class time to see if they had any missing assignments or low quiz scores so that they needed to retake. It seemed silly to deny students the right to do this.

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