Teacher iPad Survey Part 4: Attitudes Cont.: The Failed Spin


hammer_head2. The Failed Spin: YOU MUST USE TECHNOLOGY NOW!

I can’t think of any other way to put it except to say that this was a colossal mistake in the way some of us promote the iPad and technology in general. The problem stems from the difference between people comfortable with technology and people not so comfortable with comfortable.

I know, duh.

One thing I think people with technology don’t realize (and I place myself in the camp of these comfortable, clueless people) is that when we keep on repeating that the iPad is the wave of the future, that they need to start using it or a big crater the size of Chicxulub will fall on their heads and leave them in its pedagogic dust, well, that is not so helpful. In fact, it is downright intimidating.

A few teachers I talked to mentioned how this kind of talk has almost paralyzed them. The 2001-a-space-odyssey-ape-monolithiPad has become has big and scary as the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This is not good.

We all see it in the students: how anxiety can cause the brain to shut down. Well, we have inadvertently done that to our own colleagues by touting its greatness and not reassuring them that it is simply another tool in their toolkit. And I will repeat this until my voice is dry and crackly, until I sound like Tom Waits with strep throat: a tool is only as good as the task you use it for.

The iPad is a great tool for students: they can research, write, study, create projects on it.But it is a little different for teachers. The fact is, many of the tools that can be useful for students have to be created on a laptop or a desktop. Look at iBooks- you have to use a desktop to create the iBooks that your students will view on their iPads. The role of the teacher when it comes to the iPad implementation is, in my humble opinion:

  • to be familiar enough with the tool to be able to help students who need it though many times it will be the student helping the teacher and that is totally okay, nay awesome!).
  • *****To use it when it makes sense– using a whiteboard app to present and record your lecture, to record students (which many are already doing). To bring it to meetings to take notes, or roam around the class helping and evaluating students. To use it to project to apple TV. Make your notes and hand outs into pdfs and stick them on the portal so the students can download them to their iPad. All the stuff that is easier to do on an iPad rather than a laptop. In science using it for measurement  or attach it to probes. In English use something like Haiku deck for the photo essay, or in history make a movie for a presentation.
  • To create lesson plans and workflows for the student to complete on their iPad. An iBook for the notes and paper handed out so the students always have a reference on their device. See what the lesson plans used now can be translated and made better on the iPad.

That is all. I think we need to be aware of our own attitude when we implement a new technology. It is good to be gung ho about something, to show enthusiasm. But we also have to show some humility and understanding when our colleagues don’t immediately jump on board or see how it can be useful to them.

Which bring me to the next attitude I have observed…

3. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Fair enough. The teachers at our school have been teaching for years and are very good at what they do. I know this as a colleague and as a parent of a Traf student- seeing the time and commitment they put in to helping the students is awe-inspiring.

And I agree, you shouldn’t try to fix what isn’t broken. But what about enhance? I was talking to a teacher the other day who teaches a subject with a very rigid curriculum ( more on this in following posts) and who has very little leeway to experiment inside the class. But as we were talking, we realised that she gives a lot of paper worksheets out. Paper that the students inevitably lose and then are forced to waste classtime going to photocopy again. What if those sheets could be distributed through the iPad? What if the students could write their answers on the sheet and simply email her their homework?

She would be continuing with what works in her class, but the experience would be streamlined.  I am in the midst of looking for suitable solutions to this problem. Will keep you posted if it works out!

4. I don’t want to rely on technology

How many times have you tried to load a movie and the internet is slow. Or pulled up your presentation and half of it is missing? Or used an app that is having bugs and keeps shutting down?

Technology is great. It makes life so much easier. But sometimes I want to throw it out the window.

A lot of teachers have negative experiences with trying to implement a project that requires tech in the classroom and have a whole period wasted because of technical difficulties. I get how frustrating this is. And alas, all I can say that nothing is perfect. yes, sometimes it bugs. Sometimes it won’t work.

Is there any good solution to this? Alas no. The only thing you can do is to go have a backup plan.

A lot of the time, these tech glitches can be avoided by a bit of prep. Trying the technology out beforehand. Going through the whole workflow for your students from downloading the app (or whatever) to how to submit it in the end. This might take some initial time, but once it is done it is like any other lesson plan- another tool in your toolkit, ready to be taken out when needed!



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