Imagine this scenario: You come back from this great EdTech conference brimming with ideas, and you have access to computers at your school and you are going to fundamentally change the way your students learn and then…
…they don’t buy in. Introducing technology into the classroom is a disruptive process for a reason. It is bound to change the way your students learn, but the reality is that students love routine. When you break that routine, it’s important that you can concretely back up why you are doing it. If you don’t go slow with the introduction and just toss it in there, they won’t see the point.
But before we continue, let me introduce myself. First off, if you’ve taken any time out of your busy day to read this—thank you. I’m Chris, a third-year algebra teacher at Benjamin Franklin High School in Baltimore. I’m an alternative certification teacher, meaning instead of a four year degree in teaching (mine’s in business administration), I went through an intense 6-week training program, and then was placed on a residency teaching certification for two years. Now I’m officially a certified teacher in the state of Maryland and am currently working towards my administration degree at the University of Indiana (online, go figure).
I’m here because of you—like you, I’m a teacher that works hard to meet the needs of my students. I put in more hours than there are in the day only to often feel discouraged. I’m also a big fan of educational technology. Hopefully you meet one of those three categories, and hopefully it’s not the middle one. My affinity for technology may have to do with my age (I was born in the 80s…the late 80s. Okay, 1989), but I think that many of our students are already so adept at using technology, why not bring it into the classroom?
I’m a big fan of all things technology, especially when it comes to math because I think there are so many functions that technology can perform for my students that I cannot (rewind, self-paced learning, etc). In the past, my students have taken control of it, but it’s still challenging. It’s always challenging trying something new, so that’s what I’m going to talk about in this blog: the challenges of EdTech (I’ll offer solutions in May or so when I figure it out too!).
So, like I was saying—you come back from this great EdTech conference inspired to change your approach, but then your students don’t buy in…
…and you have no idea what to do next.
Without further ado, here are five challenges I’ve noticed when it comes to implementing EdTech in the classroom:
1. EdTech isn’t a cure-all.
Tech can only go so far in the classroom—it isn’t a silver bullet. Without proper presentation and preperation, students won't buy in. The challenge is knowing when technology is a supplement and when it is a complement and when it is the curriculum. It takes a lot of planning to implement EdTech in a way that will actually work, and planning is hard.
2. There is literally too much technology!
Technology is everywhere these days. My toothbrush, the settings on my bed, even my clothes brag about technological advances (stretch? Maybe). One of my biggest challenges as a young teacher was actually getting too much feedback. I didn’t know who to listen to. Technology can be the same way. There are so many programs that claim to fix the same problems, so how am I supposed to know which one is the best? Who do I believe? It’s a challenge to work through the clutter.
3. Even you aren’t sure about the best way to use it.
New technology is exactly that—it’s new. I claim to be savvy when it comes to technology, but sometimes it’s just downright confusing. I think a program is great, but I can’t even find out how to use its basic functions. How are my students supposed to get anything out of this program if I can’t?
4. I have way too much going on already.Look, I get it. I’m planning a wedding, going to grad school, renovating my house, teaching for more time than all of those combined and now I’m trying to add tech into my classroom? What? It’s so easy to be enamored by the idea of technology when you first see it, but it’s a whole new ballgame when you need to plan the implementation. It takes time. More time than I have. But sometimes we have to put in extra time on the front end in order to save time and make leaps forward down the road.
5. Technology fails you
You know it happens. Every laptop fails, or they all shut down simultaneously, or someone else checks out your laptop cart that day and you don’t have a backup lesson plan ready. Old tech is unreliable when it comes to using new tech on it. New tech is unreliable when you only have old tech to use it on. It’s a paradox—or something. You get the point.
Technology is hard, but I don’t want this to make you nervous (that’s why I didn’t call this post: WARNING: TECHNOLOGY!). The way I see it, our students know too much about technology for us not to use it. It’s literally at their fingertips. The challenge is harnessing that technology to make it useful, and it’s made me a better teacher to think about the ways it can be implemented in my classroom.
I want point out I used the word “better” above. It hasn’t made me a great teacher—yet—but it’s certainly benefitted my practice. I still have so much to learn about technology: its do’s and don’ts, and its best practices. I hope you’ll join me on that journey throughout the course of this spring semester, and maybe I’ll figure a few things out along the way and give you some advice. Or maybe it will be advice from you and I’ll just copy and paste your comments into a blog and claim them as my own (just kidding!).
But there’s only one way to find out! Thanks for reading this time, and please join me next time for my next installment in this mini-blog series I'm doing in partnership with LearnBop.
Chris Brida teaches mathematics in Baltimore. He'll be blogging for us throughout the spring semester, so stay tuned for more!