Monday, October 15, 2007

Baby Steps with Technology

I just overheard two teachers discussing a lesson one of them taught today. Her students are researching endangered animals and she is having them do their research independently (they are fifth graders). Ahead of time she set up a list of bookmarks for them on the server so that they had approved websites, including search engines, to get started.

This morning she got one cart of laptops from nearby and another cart from the second floor of our other building, not an easy job, so that each student would have a computer. Then, during the lesson, she showed them how to log onto the server to access the bookmarks. Only about five of the students were able to get logged in. For some reason, the other fifteen or so were locked out. She got them started on another website, but found the experience very frustrating, especially after so carefully setting up bookmarks. (As an aside, I've shown her for future use.)

I know that many educators, parents, and others are frustrated by how little many teachers use technology in their classrooms. I know that I don't use nearly as much as I should. I also know that my school district has done a pretty good job of supporting teachers with this. Each elementary school has a technology specialist full time who is there to support the use of technology in the classrooms. Each school also has another tech person a couple of days a week to do the troubleshooting and to fix problems. However, our full time person often gets stuck fixing things around the building because he's here more often. He's done a ton to offer workshops before and after school to help teachers and he's willing to work with anyone who asks. But most teachers don't. They have a lot on their plates already. I'm not sure how we move forward here. I'm about as open to using technology as possible and I read plenty to keep me up to date with the options for web 2.0 tools, but I still can't pull off what I think I should be doing. How do we manage to support teachers in a way that really helps them integrate this? What's the first step?


organized chaos said...

I'm going to send this to my mother. She's a fabulous teacher and I've learned so much from her, but the technology piece is making her consider retiring from teaching. She's in a county where they've been given the technology equipment but no support. No one's showing her how to actually use the smartboard. She and other teachers her age feel they are being pushed out of the classroom because they don't have technology skills. There has to be a way to introduce technology to our great teachers without making them quit. You say it so well. How do we move forward from here?

Anonymous said...

Markds of PLCweb ( said …

I feel your pain. In our overly large school district, we have the same problem.

Trying to organize technology integration in an elementary school is like being put in charge of organizing the kissing booth at the annual company picnic for the Center for Disease Control.

Some folks are very comfortable with students using the computers (just as long as they go through a chemical detox rinse before and after and put on one of those full body microbe-proof suits).

It’s difficult to have a secure login that a bunch of 11 and under-year-olds can remember/use. If they all have individual logins, well half would forget them and the teacher would need to carry a list of usernames and passwords (the folks at the CDC, um I mean IT, would have a problem with that lax security).

If they all use the same classroom login, well that’s fine. Unfortunately they run headlong into another security protocol which locks out an account if someone tries to login unsuccessfully three times. With 22 kids in a classroom, that’s bound to happen. I called over to the server guys and asked them to remove that 3-strikes-and-you’re-out policy, but they said it could not be done. It’s to keep highschool students from sitting around all day trying to break into someone’s login.

The wonderful thing about being a server jockey over in some non-descript building (with no one shorter than 5 feet tall) is classroom concerns don’t get in the way. When you get a call from an exasperated elementary school technology support person, you can easily trump them with the “it’s a matter of student security.”

Of course, if students are so secure they can’t use the computers, well that doesn’t work either.

Most schools around the country don't have a full laptop cart to have this problem. There is little standardization of network protocols and procedures because we are the one's creating them.

Luckily, in our overly large school district, most of these decisions are made by groups of people who haven’t been in an elementary school classroom in years. So we have that to be hopeful about.