The challenges of Technology in the Classroom

As is true of most of you, I wear quite a few hats at my school. They all pose interesting, and different, challenges. Tonight I want to think out loud about my role as the chair of a digital learning committee. I work with our lower school colleagues on this committee. Three years ago we decided to move toward 1 – 1 implementation in our middle school (grades 5 – 8 here) and we decided – after a great deal of deliberation – to go with a modified BYOB plan. Many of our middle school teachers are Mac proficient and use quite a few of the applications and programs native to the Mac environment. Our BYOD options are Macbook Pro, iPad, or another PC laptop. Parents were encouraged to consider the Apple products since our teachers had more hands-on experience with those. We introduced this program with a required device for 5th grade students during the 2012 – 13 school year. For this year, we require a device for 5th and 6th and we expect to continue to roll forward. As is to be expected, change produces some discomfort. Discomfort for our network as more and more machines are tapped in. Discomfort for our students as they try to balance the fun and distraction that technology introduces with the responsibilities of being a focused student. Discomfort for our faculty as they try to navigate technology glitches in a classroom packed with young students and packed with curricular expectations. We are doing a fine job of helping each other out and sharing our growing pains, but I know that we can improve our focus and do a better job. This, of course, is a perpetual feeling with any aspect of schooling, isn’t it? As I began preparing mentally for our next meeting I ran across the following blog post from Sean Nash . I urge you to flow that hyperlink. It’s an eloquent and thorough discussion of the patterns behind failed technology initiatives. I especially appreciate his telescope/microscope image. This is probably because I use this language to discuss problems students have in their study of calculus. Students struggle and the tighten up and focus in on little details (look through the microscope) rather than step back and really try to get a bigger picture (look through the telescope) of the binding themes of their study of the calculus.

This post has now been shared with my committee members and I am optimistic that it will generate some powerful conversation and help us to keep our focus.