Saturday, August 4, 2012

Journal 10-"Sure you're resilient, but should you have to be?"

This journal article meets NETS 5 (Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership).

Click here to read the article!

Fingal rants about one of the most aggravating drawbacks to technology: when it doesn't work. Teachers have been encouraged to be patient, have a back-up plan, and be adaptable when it comes to technology in the classroom. The author points out that this mindset is hypocritical if teachers are to successfully use technology to its potential in the classroom. Although the author doesn't present a solution to the problem, she challenges tech users and producers to improve by raising awareness about one of technology's most enraging problems.

How does this article relate to you personally?
For instance, in a digital-age where we are becoming more and more dependent on computers and internet speed, consider how helpless you felt the last time there was a power outage. My internet didn't work properly the first 6 months I lived in my current apartment, claimed to be due to "old wiring" by Time Warner. Over the next few months, the back-and-forth between my landlord, Time Warner, and SDG&E was so enraging, I considered moving. Magically, Time Warner futzed with some wire, or box, or something else vague and, either proprietary, or more likely the "technician" tapped it, shook it, and spun on his head three times while whistling "I've Been Working on the Railroad" instead. Anyway, it's been working, knock on wood, for the last few months as I type this now on my laptop in my kitchen wirelessly.
 Maybe that's an extreme example of a technology glitch but I certainly can relate to the inconvenience (to put it mildly) of technology glitches, breakdowns, and other so-called "fatal errors" in the classroom. More and more, schools and educators, as well as society, are integrating technology into their workplace and lifestyles. Undoubtedly, it can make our lives more convenient, efficient, and productive, but Fingal points out the danger of becoming too dependent on technology that is still unreliable. For instance, at many schools, especially at the secondary and college level, students enroll in their courses on-line. In the article, Cale Birk, a principal from Canada, describes his frustration when their system froze just when freshmen were in the computer lab signing up for their courses next semester. I certainly have experienced similar glitches when trying to submit homework on-line. In fact, I believe the computer to the right of me hasn't been usable for the entire term I've been in this class (Education 422).

What's the solution?
As an educator, you have to be one step ahead. I don't just type on my lap-top without making sure my autosave is turned on every 5 minutes. That's just common sense. In the classroom, I, as a teacher, have to be prepared. That goes for teaching in general, not just with respect to technology. I'm not psychic, and I will never know what obstacles are going to be in my way to conduct a successful lesson plan. But I can prepare for common pitfalls. I like to prepare for Murphy's Law--when I drive to work, I expect it take an extra 15 minutes, due to getting lost, not having a place to park, or traffic congestion. (And, boy, do I love when my GPS re-routes me due to detection of a traffic jam up ahead! An example of when technology works!) I use a similar approach to help me think on my feet in the classroom. If I want to do a lesson plan on the circulatory system, for instance, I might have 3 different possible variations prepared so that I can choose the best one for those students and that particular day. One might be a video embedded into a Prezi presentation, but I would also have a PowerPoint presentation of the same thing, backed up on a flash drive. I would also have a handout, a group discussion, an activity planned. This would be way too much for one day, but I would never run out of great ways to teach my students what I had intended. Just like a teacher has to consider how to adapt when a student is absent, a teacher has to be prepared for unexpected technology glitches as well. If I take the same approach to prepare for both, it doesn't seem like such a big deal.

This meets NETS 5: "Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership".

Links to Related Articles:
Ferriter (2012): "Technology is about efficiency".
Ferriter follow-up to technology efficiency article
Oschner article about the future classroom.

Fingal, D. (2012, May). Bloggers beat: Sure, you're resilient, but should you have to be?. Retrieved from

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