Thinking of the many barriers that I face in integrating emerging technology in my classroom, it has led me to develop a list of criteria to make sure that this adoption is successful. This criteria is based around my current teaching situation, and as such, is influenced by the resources I currently have available to me.
The biggest hurdle has been trying to make things work with a limited number of capable systems, shared between too many staff members. Here is a chart that shows my current decision process when using my school’s computers:
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The computers in my classroom struggle at the best of times, so it can be tricky running a program that requires some processing power! I find that after going through this process, it is often easier to just forget about using computers, unless it is for a very quick demonstration. Because of this, my first criteria for adopting emerging technology is that it must be able to be integrated into my current technological setup.
I was at a staff meeting recently where we discussed the possibility of creating a wireless network connection for our school. It was met with a mixture of indifference and mild curiosity by most of the staff members, with a small minority making a case for the many benefits that would come from this addition. Many staff members were frustrated that the few funds we had allocated to technology were being misspent on devices that were quickly becoming outdated before teachers had a chance to become comfortable with them. Without proper training, or trailblazing teachers to lead the way, many devices were left on the shelf after a few weeks of experimentation.
Before I arrived at this school there had been a number of technology initiatives that failed due to a lack of funding, and a lack of teachers willing to engage with the technology, and model its effective use in the classroom. A perfect example of this was the adoption of Mimio interactive whiteboards, that are sort of like a less reliable smart board. They had been purchased by the school a year prior to my arrival, and had been living in the computer lab’s storage room ever since. I spent half a Pro-D day with a few teachers trying to get them up and running, with mixed results. The reason many of these units were not in use came down to the fact that any bump to the projection unit (which mounted onto the side of a whiteboard) meant that the whole unit had to be recalibrated, which took a couple of minutes. Talking with teachers who had tried these projectors, they said that the calibration time messed up any flow they were trying to achieve in their classrooms, and became a big disruption because of it. This leads me to my second criterion: the emerging technology must aid in the flow of my classroom.
We have recently acquired a classroom set of iPads for our school, and are in the process of developing systems to share them between teachers. I am hoping to use these iPads for lessons in Science and Math units. I have had to wait a while as the iPads make the rounds through other classrooms, which has tested my patience, but allowed me time to develop and refine a plan for when I finally get my hands on them. Planning to get the most out of any new device is an integral part of its implementation, and my time waiting has made me evaluate what I want my students to get out of their experience with the iPads. This leads me to my final criterion: emerging technology should be used as a means to an end, rather than the end itself.
My Criteria for adopting emerging technology in my classroom:
1. Works with existing technology.
2. Achieves flow for myself and my students.
3. Should enrich student learning.
With these criteria in mind I hope to be able to select technologies that will be useful to me in the short term, with the goal of creating initiatives within the school that will lead to wider adoption by teachers in the long term. In an ideal world I would be doing a lot more, but realize that I need to play the cards that I’ve been dealt, and work within the constraints of my current teaching assignment.
I think that the easiest way to get more teachers on board is to model what is possible with emerging technology in our own classrooms. By being an advocate and model for the best practice use of emerging technology, we will be able to support fellow teachers in making that leap towards introducing new technologies into the classroom. I think that this will be a process that happens gradually, even as technological advancements go steamrolling ahead. As educators we need to remind ourselves that newer isn’t necessarily better, and always look for the way that we can leverage these new advancements as tools for learning rather than as toys for distraction.
I really enjoyed getting a tour through some of the student’s worlds that Greg facilitated, especially the Ancient Egypt creations. As was said during his seminar, our students will often be the ones teaching us in these environments. With just a bit of structure and direction it is amazing to think about what some students are able to build. I could relate to Greg’s mention of a student who was not motivated in class, and given a bad grade, who then turned around and built a whole virtual classroom. I have students like that in my class who just need a little spark, and a series of challenges in a novel environment to get them going.
I think that the freedom to create and play in one’s environment is exciting to many students. The ability to “master” the rules of a virtual world must be appealing, especially when there are many aspects of the real world that are out of our students control at their present ages. With no limits beyond the technical skills to realize what they imagine, virtual world presents opportunities to build and make mistakes that need not carry over into their everyday lives.
I think that it is tricky to say exactly what students are going to take away from learning within virtual worlds, and this is going to ultimately be decided by how much these virtual worlds begin to interact with our traditional world in the future. I can see being able to play and create in these worlds being very helpful in developing critical thinking and problem solving methods, and a great way to get quick results when learning new skills. I can also see it being very frustrating for students who get used to that level of freedom and flexibility that a virtual world may provide, when contrasted with the real world.
I think that as with all emerging technologies, there will be students that are drawn to these tools, and those that do not see the appeal. I think the potential is there to enrich learning opportunities, and provide a level of freedom and control that many students will welcome. I can also see many students who would view this as more of a gimmick, and not get too drawn in to what these worlds offer. I myself am still on the fence to a certain extent. If these worlds become more commonplace it is important that we are somewhat literate in their uses and potential misuses. Much like social media, if our students are going to be engaging in them regardless, then we owe it to them to teach them how to participate in these worlds effectively and safely.