Choosing the Right Technology for Schools

For the past week I have been giving a lot of thought to the conversation my professional development partner and I had with some folks in Northern Michigan when it came to the implementation of technology in the classroom with informational writing.  Teachers there were worried about not having the training necessary to use the tools properly.  Not tools like Twitter, Google Drive, or Celly.  They were worried about the hardware itself. For instance, laptops, tablets, or smartphones.  For over a week now I nave been talking with parents, teachers, and other colleagues about this very topic. I have been very shocked by the conversations and the reactions I have received from others.

 Choosing what technology to use within in a school is a difficult task, it can’t be a knee-jerk reaction for any school district that may feel the need to implement technology.  Any school district is heading down the wrong path if they are simply implementing technology for the sake of saying “We have the latest and greatest”.  It isn’t going to work out well for all parties involved, especially the students.  Districts need to examine what is going to work well for them.  After talking to several teachers about Ipad implementation, there seemed to be more gripes and groans about them, then positive feedback. Teachers are not liking chat features that can’t be taken off the Ipads, apps like Google Drive work, but is limited.  In addition, anyone with an Ipad knows there is not a flash plugin on the Ipad.  Other conversations revolved around bandwith space and tech support at individual schools, which aren’t completely out of the hands of the teacher, but can certainly be a struggle for teachers to get a listening ear on the situations.  The comments by teachers were not a real huge surprise to me.  I know launching a 1 to 1 program can be difficult in any school and there are going to be gliches along the way.  

Teachers themselves though, want a say in what gets implemented. There are school rushing to implement Ipads and other tablets and then finding there are limitations to using the tablets.  Teachers are crying foul in some instances because they never had a voice in the decision process.  Others expressed to me that they did have a voice, but it was ignored.  I deem it crucial for their to be discussion on what gets implemented into schools in terms of technological hardware. My school has a mobile lab and it looks as if we are going to be getting another one.  The decision to buy more only came after a year of the first mobile lab being in place.  Prior to the first one being bought, we had staff meetings discussing the needs we had for technology and what we would like to see. Our superintendent even asked this past fall what we needed, it was amazing.   Don’t get me wrong, it has been a bumpy ride to get where we are at as a district, but I really am not interested in getting Ipads or a tablet because I don’t see those meeting the needs of our students.  We have students who don’t know how to use Microsoft Word correctly, so why would I want to waste the time showing them how to properly use a tablet. This doesn’t mean tablet won’t work in other districts. Finding out what fits for the students and the district itself is the best route and we can’t forget about the parents.

Parents I talked to were frustrated and actually down right angry. One parent from a district who has implemented tablets (not Ipads) was furious because her daughter was chosen for the pilot program and has never been taught how to use it.  As a parent, she was given a one sheet handout on the program and asked to sign a contract for responsibility. No where on that sheet was there a discussion on being a digital citizen or how teachers were going to be using it in there classrooms.  At the moment, the parent told me the tablet sits on the counter at home, not being used. Now, I don’t jump the gun and automatically take one parents word for it, so I did dome digging and talked to a teacher from the district and the teacher was just as frustrated because they never received any training on the tablet either, so they couldn’t instruct their students properly.  In addition, they have had tech and server issues without a tech person able to assist them.  The teacher relayed to me that many other teachers are just as fed up and are not using the devices.  So why are districts advertising in newspapers that they have they new gadgets to use when teachers, students, and parents don’t know how to use them?  Is it a marketing ploy to get more students to enter their district because numbers have been falling around school districts here in Michigan?  

What ever the reason may be, districts shouldn’t be so quick to force the use of technology onto their teachers, students, or parents unless they are willing to do some research on what works best for their district.  Students and parents need to be involved in the decision making process and parents need to be EDUCATED on the device and being a digital citizen.  They big question should be “why” are we looking to use this type of hardware and what what are our intentions.  Tis the season for implementation!

 

Cheers!

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