Can your class survive a week without Technology?

Scenario 1: The wifi and router at school is dead and needs to be replaced. Your entire grade’s work is either on the now inaccessible School server or sitting online on one of 10 Web 2.0 tools you have been using. The collaborative online discussions the students have been having on Edmodo have been cut off from the real world and our reflective blogs are now in no mans land at school. The class has bookmarked 30 top quality references to support the projects they have been researching for the last two weeks. Panic stations or alternatives are planned for?

Scenario 2: There has been a spate of “accidental” screen breakages on the shared laptops and iPads. Several stern messages have been delivered to the grade with no change in care and the screen carnage continues. The decision is made that the only choice is to ban access to all ICT to drive home that there are consequences for a lack of responsibility and accountability and that next time you’ll really be a friend by stopping the mistreating of equipment or reporting incidents to teachers. Your entire grade’s work in either on the now inaccessible server etc etc……. Hesitant to ban or necessary to have gain through pain?

Scenario 3: Being the early adopter that you are, you have spent the last 6 months trialling a truckload of Web 2.0 tools with your grade. Like 99% of the population, you don’t read the terms of use ( I certainly didn’t this time last year 😱 ). Days before all of your class are to hand in their Glogs/Prezis/SlideRockets/Xtranormal/GoAnimate/Animoto videos, you receive emails from these companies informing you that you have breached their No Under 13s policies for free accounts and all of your students work has been deleted as per the clearly stated Terms of Use and Privacy policies you didn’t read! Your entire grade’s work ………. you know the drill.

Before thinking I’ve overdramatised, I know from personal experience that these scenarios can, have and will continue to happen.

The question is – are we prepared for these scenarios to happen?

Clearly from the subject matter of this entire blog, I am an absolute advocate of technology integration into all aspects of education. I’ve been a driving force of change in ICT in all the schools I’ve worked in. In the Contemporary learning environment of the cliched “21st Century Classroom”, there is no turning back. We live in a tech driven world with a tech driven society.

But I also taught in the Luddite era of the late 80s and early 90s before the Internet existed and computers were barely accessible to most schools. The students managed to learn and learn well. Through Facebook I am now in contact with many of those former students ( they found me, I’m not a stalker😁) and they all live happy, successful lives.

When I look at the access and opportunities to tech our current students are getting in Primary (Elementary) schools and look at what they are moving to in High School ( hint: in many cases, it’s far less than we offer), I sometimes do ponder are we setting them up for disappointment in a couple of years. ( Don’t lose faith in me, I quickly come to my senses and realize we aren’t preparing them for high school; we’re preparing them for life beyond so we are doing what is right for them.) Exams are still pen and paper, tests are still pen and paper, we still have to make sure they can handle pen and paper.

So do we at times go too far with this technology push? Can our students research without Google? Can we teach them without our interactive whiteboards and flipped videos and online lesson delivery systems? Is it that bad if the students hand up hand written reports with crossed out words and bad paragraphing and have to rewrite it all over again just like we used to successfully?
Do we have to force the artistic children in our grade to make a kitschy Glogster poster when they’d rather paint, draw, cut and paste their way to their own creation? Can a kid with an infectious personality, an engaging voice and some effective hands on props and snapshots outdo the kid with the whiz bang but superficial-in-content Prezi or PowerPoint? Are we breeding a future generation who won’t cope if their boss expects them to listen to his voice and not watch his presentation? Can our students – and us – survive in a classroom without tech?

Contemporary teaching and learning – is it about the 4 Cs – Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical thinking – or the 4 As – Apple, Android, Acer and ActiveInspire? Obviously, I believe in both ( maybe not the Android/Acer bit😜) but I think we do need a bit of balance in our classrooms. Sometimes it just humans. We can survive.

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DISCLAIMER: I am a self proclaimed Apple disciple. I just completed the full set over Christmas and my household is now the happy owner of 1 iMac, 2 MacBook Pros, 2 iPads, 2 iPhones, 2 iPod Touches, 2 iPod Nanos, a iPod Classic and now an Apple TV, all linked by a network controlled by an Apple Airport Extreme. The point: I was always going to be asked  to do this!

In mid 2011, my wife’s boss invited us over to dinner to get me to set up his new iPad. At the time, I didn’t have one but as a long time iPhone user, I was up to the task. The following week, after having a good play that night and getting used to it, we got ourselves a brand new iPad too. It was meant to be a shared experience for the family…but it quickly became an extension of my body at school and the good wife had to wait for after dinner to get her fix of Flight Control HD!

At around the same time, the iPad entered the scene in our local school area and the principal was quick to seek them out, having seen me use it constantly at school. Being a rational thinker, I asked her to explain her rationale for wanting to purchase the iPad. Being unsure, I suggested that I would put together a proposal to present to the Leadership team, outline the pros and cons of the wonder tablet ( Apple disciple or not, I’m careful not to pretend there are not issues!)iPad-proposal

After the presentation, which was much appreciated by all, I was asked what to do next. I proposed a small purchase of 8 test iPads to put in the hands of willing testers. The next day I was handed 18OK, so I had 18 iPads to set up and distribute but who for? We decided to get them in the hands of the teachers first but set up a user policy and testing program that was open to anyone prepared to follow my rules.ipad-agreement They were allowed to hand them over to the children to test as well.

At least one teacher from each level took on the task of testing the iPads out, as well as members of Leadership and the PE teacher. On different levels and for different reasons, the initial reaction was very positive and many uses were quickly discovered. They quickly became note taking tools for assessment, task organisers/calendars, book readers, video cameras, story creators, and as I started adding educational games to the iPads, many games were tested out for their usefulness. Enthusiastic teachers attended Techie brekkies to learn how to use them and ask questions. It was all going well…until endofyearitis set in! It was then I realised it was time to get the iPads in the hands of the children – it was their turn to show us what tech can really do. The challenge for 2012 is how to get the children involved.