Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What is Holding You Back? Part 2

Doesn't Work Properly

For part two, let's look at all those frustrating things that aren't working properly.  Sometimes it can be fixed with a little planning ahead, sometimes you have people who can help, and sometimes it just needs to be fixed.  All that and more, dear reader!  

You may notice some of the comments from the survey that fit this category were also included in part 1 (and you might notice some of the same ones in later posts).  This is because many of your comments fit in several categories.  If it fit at all, I included it.  Thanks again for all the feedback!  

Sometimes, this is a valid concern.  Other times, it feels valid, but really it could have been avoided.  Let's separate those out, shall we?  

First, all of those comments about network connections, slow connections, dropped connections, etc. are valid and understandably very frustrating.  I'm happy to report that they should all soon be a thing of the past.  Larry is working hard right now to ensure the network has a beefy upgrade when you return next fall.  He's not just getting it up to speed for today, he's planning for what we might need down the road.  You should notice a big difference when you come back to school.  

On the other hand, for all of those things that you tried at home and then they didn't work at school, or you tried it in one place but it didn't work in the lab, PLAN AHEAD.  My first year teaching, my principal frowned at me when my lessons weren't on my desk for him to easily find, and told me that if I fail to plan, I must be planning to fail.  Some famous coach said that first, but it is true for us, too.  If you're going to use it with students, it's imperative that you test it on the same things they will use.  How else will you be able to anticipate problems that might come up?  Many people voiced frustration with not being able to fix things on the spot when they happen.  Testing it first, you'd have encountered those issues and worked through them, and they'd be in your plans or taken care of ahead of time.  If you plan to use the lab, test it in the lab.  If you find a site at home, make sure it works at school.  

There are a few things you can do to help yourself.  Remember the zone of proximal development?  It's that range where a learner can work slightly above their own ability before becoming frustrated.  That's where real learning takes place.  It isn't too easy or too hard.  As soon as frustration sets in, you back off or provide the help to get them where they are going.  You need to give yourself the same leeway to back off when you get frustrated.  There is no reason for you to fiddle with things for hours when there is someone in the district (me) specifically placed here to help you with things like that.  As soon as you get frustrated, let me take over.  You've got more important things to do.  I don't want frustration to get in your way while you learn to use technology any more than you want it to get in your students' way when you want them to learn your content.  So ask.  I'll help, and I'll be happy to do so!  

Another thing to remember:  you can get sites unblocked.  If you try a site at home, but it's blocked at school, just ask Larry or I to unblock it for you.  We'll give it a look and make sure it isn't something that needs to be blocked (there are a number of reasons why legit sites are still blocked) and then we'll simply remove it from the filter.  Just don't ask us to do it "before next hour".  Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency for someone else.  Again, plan ahead and all will be fine.  

I'm sorry to say that, at least for the foreseeable future, we can't do anything about BPU turning off A/C on hot days.  We can, however, keep things from overheating if they are simply turned off.  That makes them difficult to use, but it keeps them from getting damaged.  

Lastly, I'd like to address one specific comment about the districts "narrow definition of technology".  I don't know where you're getting a definition of what the district views as technology, or what you think it is that we supposedly don't, but I can guarantee that whoever made that comment hasn't talked with me about technology use in their room and what would count as "technology".  I know it's not just computer driven.  The abacus was cutting edge technology at one time.  That's not the point . How is this a roadblock?  It seemed like a shot at me personally, so I thought I'd take a moment to say "you missed".  

Here are the survey comments that fit this section:
"Little glitches that take too much time to fix leaving little time for work on the activity"
"Time is limited on using the equipment. When we have a class of more than 20 students, we are unable to use laptops, because many are not in good running order.  This leads to frustration for students and staff.  Staff is not trained in all the aspects, nor do we have the time to learn it all.  It would be great to have a tech person that could teach students."
"having a reliable internet (airport access)"
"In August when air conditioning turned off in building, per BPU request as USD 418 an interruptable customer, equipment overheats.
Difficulty in connecting and staying connected to wireless airports.
District's narrow definition of "technology". Today's technology is more than something computer driven.
Classroom computers loose connection to server.
Limited training opportunities during contractual time. Have second job to complement low teacher salary. Can not do training outside of work day."
"When technical issues occur and I cannot fix them on my own in a timely manner it takes away from instruction time.  I have concluded that it is not worth wasting my classroom learning time trying to trouble shoot technology.  If I had more training, I would like to incorporate more technology into my classroom, but at this time the pros do not outweigh the cons. "
"I find really great sites on my computer and then take the class there and the lab computers don't have the plug-in needed to run the program--this happens a lot!  Very frustrating."
"Time to learn all I need to know to be able to trouble shoot problems that come up."
"Lack of properly functioning hardware combined with large class sizes.
Some days it seems that even the newest machines seem to be hanging on by a thread.  Or they work a certain way one day and they work a different way the next.  Or half the computers are desktops and they work a certain way.  The other half of the computers are  laptops and they work a certain way.  I spend most of the time giving every direction two times.  One set of directions for the laptops and a different set of directions for the desktops. I might start an hour with 27 students and 27 machines, but end the hour with 27 students and 24 functioning machines.  You have to do so much trouble shooting that you don't spend time teaching the lesson. (In case you can't tell - I am at the middle school!)  Which of course also lets you know that some of the discrepancy can come from the user - the students can be just as fickle as the machines! :) It can be a challenge to be sure all 27 students and all 27 machines are working in harmony - but when it all comes together the computer lab can be a thing of beauty!
I am not necessarily scared of technology. I can usually pick up on new things quickly and I also don't mind the trial and error method of learning/teaching."
"There is not currently enough computers to use with the students.  When I have asked for computers, I get the old computers that are not able to connect to the newer airports and do not have the capabilities needed to run the programs I would like to use."
"Laptops to use in the classroom are older so they don't hold a charge long enough and with some of the larger classes the number of lap tops does not equal a class set."

No comments:

Post a Comment