Implementation Without Support

Josh Ginter, writer of The Newsprint, wrote an interesting piece entitled "Analog's Stranglehold of the Classroom." Here is a quote:

"Classroom teachers, professors and instructors generally hate digital devices in the classroom. I can’t remember a time when pulling out my iPhone or iPad in class wasn’t met with a questionable look from an instructor or classmates."

Josh argues that students should be allowed to learn the way they learn best, whether it be using an iPad, Mac, or a notebook. As a former student, I heartily agree with him on every point.

However, I gained a new perspective on this subject while working on my Masters in Education.

The Teacher's Perspective

I started working on my Masters with dreams of using technology in new, innovative ways — I wanted to use my techie-ness 1 to help students learn in a way consistent with the real world. I believed that if kids started using devices in the classroom, their engagement and participation would go through the roof 2.

However, during my student teaching in middle and high schools, I heard an overwhelming cry of help from almost every teacher I encountered — veteran and inexperienced alike.

The moment I revealed my passion for technology, teachers came to me for help. I enjoyed helping them, and would support them in any way I could, but I usually didn't have the time they needed because of my other responsibilities.

One of the great things I learned during my time as a Genius was how to give technical support in a simple and understandable way 3. The teachers' response to this kind of support was similar to giving water to someone stranded in a desert. After doing everything I was able to do, I would then suggest they go to their IT person for more help.

Many times, my suggestion was met with a look of despair.

No Support

It was then I discovered that the IT staff, at some schools, were extremely difficult to work with, acting like every support call was a huge inconvenience. They offered hasty solutions, gave them a fraction of the time needed to truly help, and either didn't explain what they did to fix it, or explained it in a way that made them feel stupid. They descended upon a problem, deus-ex-machina style, and retreated to their ivory castle as quickly as they appeared. Poorer school systems have a handful of support technicians for an entire county holding dozens of schools, sometimes taking weeks to get a response.

Sadly, I have the feeling this happens in more school systems than I'd like to imagine. The IT support team is stretched beyond thin and can barely keep up with the needs of the schools. These stressful circumstances can cause great technicians to communicate in a way that is not received well.

If only every school had a Bradley Chambers or a Frasier Spiers, two guys who are blazing the trail for iPad rollouts into schools 4. Unfortunately, schools are embracing the technology without investing in the technical support.

Drowning While Kids Play Flappy Bird

So on top of everything we ask teachers to do already for their meager salary — teach students, deal with parents, grade papers, fill out paperwork, attend meetings, coach sports, and lead after-school extra-curricular activities — many schools are providing iPads, with no support, and saying, "You must use these. Figure it out. Oh, you say you have a question about it? Sorry, we'll get to you next week."

Teachers are drowning in an ocean of expectations, and we are throwing iPads at them instead of life jackets.

On top of that, students love to take advantage of teachers. During lessons I personally taught and observed, I repeatedly saw kids abusing the privilege. I tried to use devices in my lessons as much as humanly possible, and without fail, kids would be playing Flappy Bird instead of working. Some students even chose to take the hit on their grade, pretending to work the whole time and turning in garbage at the end of class. Just so they could check their Instagram.

After this happened enough times, it became easy for me to see why some teachers would hate devices and prefer the analog: a notebook can't check Facebook.

What's Best for the Kids

Think about it — we are asking veteran teachers to give up ten, twenty, or thirty years of bread-and-butter, tried-and-true, "analog" methods for something that is unproven, untested, and unsupported.

Administrators are spending inordinate sums of money on hardware and software under the pressure to adapt to the 21st century, without investing in a support structure. They then pressure teachers to use the new systems so that their money isn't wasted.

Some great teachers are rejecting devices in the classroom because they care more about their students than they do about whatever the latest trend is 5. They are unwilling to let their students not learn for even a single day trying to get the dang iPads or computers to work.

I'm not saying I have all the answers, but I do feel that I've heard the heartbeat of today's teachers — give them a solution that benefits students, is easy to use, is not easily abused, and supports them at the same time, and they will embrace it without hesitation.

Heck, they'll even be your biggest champions and cheerleaders.

Students: What To Do Until Then

So until that day comes, try to empathize with the judging glance that comes your way as you pull your iPad out of your bag. Know that they have probably been taken advantage of countless times, and have seen dozens of bright students do poorly because of it.

Prove them wrong by staying focused, paying attention, and making the grade. Show them the amazing things the iPad and Mac are capable of in your projects or presentations. Make yourself stand out from the others by going above and beyond what they expect from the average student, using your technology whenever possible to demonstrate what you learned.

Teachers: Stay Hopeful

If you are in a situation where you do not feel supported, my heart goes out to you. My hope is that this article will encourage change, and possibly lead to getting you the support you need.

Don't allow the lack of tech support to keep you from experimenting with new technology. Know that your kids have grown up with technology, and that it may be the only way some of them connect. Don't let the misuse of a few students take away the benefit from the rest — kids can get just as distracted doodling on a notepad as they can on an iPad.

Don't be afraid to ask for technical support, and don't let a stressed-out, overworked IT guy discourage you from asking again.

Until you get the help you need, know that you are not alone.

Here are a couple of resources that may help you immediately:

  1. Lynda.com — For $25 a month, get unlimited access to all of their training videos. They have 80 courses focused on Education, containing almost 4,000 videos.
  2. Out of School Podcast — This free podcast is for those "at the intersection of technology and education." Their Deploy 2014 series is a must for any educator using iPads at their school.

The Future

The Internet gives everyone access to infinite amounts of knowledge at the touch of a finger. I truly believe that teaching students how to harness this knowledge is the way of the future. But we must move forward, heeding the words of Spiderman's uncle 6. We must go into the digital future without trampling the ones fighting for the future of our kids, every day — our teachers.

Show a teacher something that is genuinely better for their kids, and I'll show you a teacher that will "get with the times" at whatever cost. All they want is a safe place to ask questions, get help, and feel supported along the way.

And for their kids to stop playing Flappy Bird. 7

  1. I like to make up words occasionally, like this one.
  2. I still believe, that if done correctly, this is true.
  3. Most of these teachers had umpteen degrees and were brilliant people. They could make me feel stupid in just about any other area if they wanted to.

    Just because you know more about technology than another person does not imply that you are more intelligent.

    In fact, I believe the alternative to be true: If you think you are more intelligent because you know more about technology, you most definitely are not.

  4. Bradley and Frasier have a fantastic podcast called Out of School. If you are standing in the gap of tech and education, you must listen to this podcast. Yesterday.
  5. Education is infamous for changing for the sake of change, going from one fad to the next, and circling right back where they started.
  6. "With great power comes great responsibility."
  7. ;)