Remember the LiveScribe Pen? That was a great tool. For about a year, and then it was an expensive fad. What about SmartBoards? Or did you prefer Promethean ActivBoards? Epson BrightLink? Maybe you were the first teacher in your school to get an iPad? You probably felt like the coolest teacher in the school. For about a year. And then the iPad2 came out with dual cameras, a faster processor, and a nicer body shape that was both lighter and easier to carry around.
As new technology comes out it’s easy to fall in love with a new gadget, device, or piece of software. The problem with this industry, however, is that a new item seems to become available every 15-20 seconds. From MacBooks to MacBook Airs to MacBook Pros to MacBook Woes, you’re lucky to have the “new thing” for an entire calendar year.
The problem with these fickle waves of technological advancements is that we sometimes go a step farther than falling in love with a new device. Sometimes we get married to it. This is exceptionally dangerous in our dynamic fast paced work place. It’s not uncommon to see arguments break out between EdTechs that prefer Smart Notebook to Promethean ActivInspire. Support specialists are quick to judge users in their school by whether they have a Droid phone or an iPhone. iPhone User!?!? Ever heard this – “You must be an “Apple Fan Boy”, I can’t help you, you’re a Mac User, you don’t think like me.”
These divisive forces can quickly tear apart a team of educators.
So how do we keep an open mind about all the possibilities that exist to help us do our jobs? How do we balance “falling love” with “making an informed decision” as we select technology for our schools?
The answer is in our questions. As we look at the technology that is being purchased for schools we need to consider three specific “ingredients” to ensuring it’s success. Conveniently, these ingredients come in “cans” –
Can the current infrastructure support this
Can we afford to maintain this item?
Can the item connect to curriculum.
The reality, however, is that unlike with marriage, there is rarely one simple answer. Instead, we may have to look at more than one device. An iPad, for example, is an excellent device for our younger students in Pre-K, Kindergarten, and grades 1-2. But when a student starts more complex writing activities and doing more online research it might be time for a Chromebook. And then, when the third-sixth graders move on to secondary schools they may need more robust machines like Windows based laptops or MacBooks.
To make matters, worse, if the support structures like a strong wifi network and ample funding for professional development aren’t in place then there’s pretty much no chance of any money spent on buying technology having any positive impact on student learning what so ever.
The only magic answer is this – be open. Be open to trying new things. Be open to thinking outside of the box with technology. Be open to working with other school districts who may have had experiences beyond your scope. Be open to sharing. Be open to listening.
Listen to your administrators, curriculum specialists, teachers, special education teachers, and most importantly – listen to the students.