Tuesday, May 05, 2009

And what about when technology fails you?

Days of foul weather have caused disruption to our line. So...

Had to cancel tests for three classes. Also had to cancel the live blogging we were set to do from one of my Latin classes.

And now I sit here at my desk, slightly despondent.

This is the type of thing that some folks point to and say, "That's exactly why I don't use technology."

But that's like seeing a car with a blown-out tire on the Interstate and saying "That's exactly why I don't drive."

Things go haywire occasionally.

I was asked a while ago by a teacher about what I do when the technology fails to work properly. And my answer was two-fold.

First, it rarely happens. At least it rarely happens in such a way as today where I had to shut down three classes. Generally, I've found that most tech issues are related to students' having forgot to update something or leaving a machine on and wearing out the battery. Sure, these things happen; you can't pretend they don't. But one student being without a computer for a day isn't going to destroy your paperless classroom. Just pair them up with someone else while the computer is fixed.

More pressing is a case like today where we're having issues with our line. As I type this, I'm having to ignore the lag between what I type and what appears on the screen. But these issues are temporary. They'll be fixed.

And the threat of a flat tire won't keep me off the road.

The second part of my answer had to do with what you do when everything does fall apart. Well, you improvise. Right now, my students -- who were able to get onto their online texts -- are working together in pairs and actually completing what translations they would have had on their test today. They'll post these to their blogs and I'll check 'em this evening.

So, all is not lost; they get an extra day to study and I get an extra opportunity to check out the state of their translating before they take the final plunge.

Except that it's not a plunge. It's all part of the process. Even the bit about the technology going haywire: that's part of the process.

Because if I were to just throw my hands up and say "The hell with it," I would be doing a disservice to my students. One of the most important 21st Century Skills we can model for our kids is how to deal rationally with technology when things don't go as planned.


  1. Plunge vs. process. Hmm...might have to blog that one too.

  2. Yes, well, we had something like two weeks worth of snow days here last winter (a snow day is a day when the school is closed because of the bad winter weather). Online students, of course, were not interrupted by snow days.


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