Technology in Week 1: The Sour Taste of Failure

Every year that I have taught, the first week of school is always a race. Students are getting into the groove. Teachers are exhausted. And to make matters even worse, technology never ceases to fail. 

This year, apparently we implemented a new security “feature” and they are still ironing out the bugs. This summer, my own computer no longer recognized me as a teacher and locked me out of many applications. Now, students can only use their computers at school. Once they leave the local network, then they can only log in from a generic student account. This has caused many issues with students not saving their work, or just not being able to access what they need access too.

The problem with this isn’t so much that these issues can’t be overcome, the problem is that it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of those students who are frustrated by technology. As if school wasn’t stressful enough, they now have this added stress of technology not working. It is another level of torment. Some of them just get so aggravated that they want to quit using their laptops all together.

It is in those moments that I simply say the mantra, “there’s nothing we can do,” and I tell them to remain “Zen.” Everything will eventually work out. But we all know how it goes. We’ve all seen the video… which I would insert, but ironically, scribefire froze as I was trying to add a youtube video! I let my frustration go, quit, and restarted… thankfully to find that my writing hadn’t disappeared. I might have had a case of teh rages if it had. Here’s an old fashioned link to the video if you are interested in seeing what I almost ended up doing… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZLCoYrmZwk

The point is that technology continues to “improve” but as it does, so do the problems. We’re constantly reaching for the next thing. Our school has never had technology functioning fully to the point where you could count on it working every day, every time.  Last year it was close. But then they updated to Mountain Lion, and changed the security, and piled one thing on top of the next making everything a bit more difficult to use.

I’m sure it will all iron itself out. Soon, most students will be okay with the technology, but they’ll never rinse the sour taste of failure out of their mouths. 

Choosing the No Laptop Option

Today I encountered a student in our one-to-one school who has decided not to get a school-supplied laptop. This created a minor speedbump in my creative writing class because we were just figuring out how to use Google docs to share our writing portfolios.

I found out that it wasn’t an issue with technology; she wasn’t Amish or anything. She pulled out her iPhone to check her gmail and to log in. I let her use my laptop to finish the sharing process, so she was eventually able to connect.

I had a brief discussion with her about why she chose to do this, “I just didn’t want one.” And how other teachers were handling it, “They’re making me copies of stuff.” I explained that we’d be using Google Docs for group day, to which she replied that she had a notebook and she could make copies as needed.

We’ll make due.

Another teacher questioned why the student would choose not to take a laptop. My question is what if fifty or one-hundred students chose not to? I mean, we can’t force them to take laptops, can we? Or do we? Does your institution?

If a student and his or her parents don’t want to take on the burden and responsibility that comes with signing contracts and paying for damages, then is it up to the educational institutions to force this upon them? To use a popular comparison, could a student opt out of taking a textbook for a class? Is this the same thing?

I’m just wondering what the politics are of this type of decision and how schools deal with a backlash toward technology?