Tech Poor or Rich?

I’m about to meander here….want to join me?

I’m a techy kind of girl. My laptop is attached to me, I use my iPad, love my iPhone, can navigate most websites and tools with no training. I love to try new things. I love to have my kids try new things.

Beginning about four years ago, my best innovation at my previous school was to hang my large whitesheet up for a projection screen because there was none. The first SmartBoard we had rotated from class to class. Then we had four and those all rotated. The school then got a bit of  money and we were able to get projectors and document cameras for half of the classrooms. Still, no teacher laptops except for mine in the library. No hardwired interactive whiteboards, projectors, document cameras, wifi, etc.

The students used CD players and digital voice recorders during any technology enhanced lessons. I scheduled the computer lab like everyone else when I wanted to work on digital storytelling, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.

I lamented to co workers that as teachers we couldn’t always afford the new tech tools personally to play with so that we would be knowledgeable to write grants to get new tech for our students. It was hard to read about schools with 1-1 initiatives, sets of iTouches, iPads, netbooks, or laptop carts. We had one computer lab and very few tech resources. We used what we had.

I started this blog in part because it felt like all of the voices, the gurus, the innovators were the ones piloting 1-1 initiatives, e-readers, skype, etc. I wanted to know where the voices were of quality library instruction in the trenches. I’m not saying I’m one of those voices, but if we are intimidated by technology we do not have and fail to speak up about our best practices, we are letting down those who are out there also seeking inspiration.

So here I am a few years later….no longer in a Title 1 school with access to occasional doses of funds. In an environment that seems more technology rich.

But after a year in the environment, I find the similarities far too disturbing. I sometimes find myself losing my inspiration. I feel like I can’t do a ‘good enough’ job for my students because I feel tech poor. I need some motivation.

So, here’s what I’ve got….. a school with 4 laptop class sets that are out of my domain. I can access a few at a time if I need them, but setup is tricky and requires at least 30 minutes in advance of a lesson. It can be done, but not regularly. Access to one computer lab on a first-come, first-served basis. The problem is our students take a large quantity of unit and benchmark tests on the computer. The schedule is jammed. The unit I’ve planned for my current classes for media literacy and digital storytelling is a rarity. I’m not sure I can hang on to my lab time. I have one personal digital voice recorder, a few flip cameras that eat batteries, a few digital cameras, and five student computers in the library. An interactive whiteboard with laptop. No skype, outdated IE (found out EdCanvas won’t work the hard way this week), and blocked access to anything cool except YouTube.

Here’s what I’ve been motivated by: my iPad. It’s a refurbished 1st gen that I most often use to stream news in the morning as I get ready for work. But I was in a brief staff development the other day when the presenter used hers to show an ebook. I use TumbleBooks with my students and my document camera to zoom in on pictures, but the quality of this presentation caught me. I’ve been trolling for cheap and free. I downloaded samples of all of the state book award nominees for the next year. I’m thinking that showing a preview of each chapter and the cover in this format will be a good tool for book talking. The problem is my 1st gen iPad won’t support the doodangle (technical term!) cord to connect to a projector.  A lost cause.

But, beyond that? I feel a bit lost. I feel again like the voices out there are the voices with cool things to show because they are tech rich. I’m not saying the instruction isn’t quality–it certainly is! But I find it hard to be motivated to try a similar lesson because I don’t have the basic tools to even make an attempt.

I said this would be a meander…. here’s where I am now after a few days in the doldrums.

1. I’m going to troll around for great lessons. Lessons that I love the idea of, but might include technology that would intimidate me. I’m going to analyze and then post an interpretation of sorts–how could this lesson be adapted for a tech-poor environment? Have ideas for lessons I should tackle? Post the link!

2. I traded in my 1st gen iPad and forked over the cash for a refurbished 2nd gen that will work with my doodangle (technical term!) cord. Very excited to try using a few ebooks or apps as demonstrations this spring. 

3. I’m looking for ideas! What can I do with what I’ve got? Our students need more authentic instruction with technology integration. I just can’t get to that magic moment in lesson planning where I feel I’ve got it.

Thanks for listening. If you have ideas or your thoughts on tech poor vs. tech rich, please speak up! Tweet me or post a comment; I’d love to hear from you.

Comments

  1. Great post! Love reading your blog! Please be thoughtful of the term “bad-school money” in that those of us in these schools that receive this $ are working hard with students. The term bad school money implies that the reason the students are not achieving high test scores is due to the school whereas we all know that so many more factors come into play with a student’s performance.

  2. Jenny,

    You are absolutely right! I taught at our school for over a decade before moving on to something else. The staff there is fabulous. I shouldn’t throw around a term that was a joke to us in public…off to edit my post because you are 100% correct!

  3. I love it that you are committed to providing authentic tech integration experiences for your students! I love it even more that you are keeping it real on your blog. Sharing our successes is essential, but I think it’s just as important to be honest about our limitations (which are often beyond our control) and how we’re dealing with them.

    Pairing students up and using your 5 library computers as rotating centers is one option (though not ideal) that I’m sure you’re already using. I want to keep adding to the Library Centers Idea Wiki, so please keep sharing! http://ljune.edublogs.org/wiki/library-centers/

    p.s. I was not offended by the term “bad school money” – I took it as tongue-in-cheek. I’m just sad that our district redefined the criteria for receiving those funds this year, so even though our population did not change, my school lost all our Title I funding. :(

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