When Your Tech Goes Off the Rails
Well, I’ve got my first week of school in the books, and… it went pretty well! Having been out of the classroom for a year, it took my teacher brain a few days to engage, but now I feel back in my element.
What struck me this year, after my hiatus, is that there are so many logistical items to be taken care of in a classroom. One nice thing about having a 1:1 classroom is that those paper logistics are nearly gone - I didn’t have pages and pages of opening-week activities to photocopy, I don’t really need turn-in baskets for my students’ papers, and the file drawer built into my teacher desk suffices for all my paper storage needs.
But the technology logistics. Those are a thing. I honestly believe that technology glitches are hugely responsible for some teachers’ reticence to try a 1:1 environment in their own classroom. And they’re not wrong to feel that way - it is so inconvenient and nerve-wracking when instructional technology doesn’t work!
In the spirit of trying to develop my resilience and grit in dealing with those types of problems, here are some tech glitches I experienced last week, and how I handled them:
My LMS (Learning Management System): When I was notified that I had been granted a cart of Chromebooks for my classroom, I was encouraged to enroll in a self-study course on how to use the Canvas LMS. What I learned is that Canvas is pretty sweet - it seems user-friendly for both teachers and students, and it has a ton of features. Only problem was, the district hadn’t quite gotten the knack of connecting Canvas with PowerSchool, and it didn’t look like it was going to be ready for the first day of school. Solution: I bailed on Canvas, at least for this semester. I went back to what I knew - Google Classroom. Lesson: If the shiny new thing you’re trying to learn isn’t working, it’s okay to go back to what you know in the service of getting the job done.
My Printer: Even though I have a 1:1 classroom, I still occasionally need to print things! For example, I needed to print audition forms for the first play auditions of the school year. I had been issued a new laptop from the IT department, and I plugged the existing printer in my room into this laptop via USB. Only trouble was, the laptop didn’t really recognize it (this is when I miss my MacBook). Solution 1: I relied on a friendly colleague next door for my printing during the first few days of school. Lesson: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes you don’t have time to mess around with figuring it out yourself. Solution 2: After the week calmed down a bit, I spent 10-15 minutes doing a more thorough exploration of my computer, and I found a way to get the computer and printer talking to each other. Lesson: Don’t be afraid to poke around and try fixing things yourself, when you have the time. The best way to become more comfortable with technology is to use it, break it, and fix your mistakes.
My Students’ Logins: Right from the first day of school, I had several students whose logins didn’t work on the Chromebooks. This was problematic, since I wanted to start instruction right away, and I had things set up for us to heavily utilize the Chromebooks. Solution: I asked Chris (technology guru that he is), and learned that when a student is new to the district, they must first log in to a full-featured PC before their login will work on a Chromebook. Lesson: It’s a good idea to plan some buffer activities for those first few days, so that any initial login glitches can be resolved.
The Big Lesson
Overall, what all these glitches had in common as they played out in my room is that they were things I just had to deal with. No gnashing of teeth or cursing or throwing Chromebooks out the window was going to help - I had to find a way through the problem.
And finding a way through problems like these involves:
Knowing who in your building or district can be most helpful to you - in my case, it’s our instructional technology coach and our assistant principal
Staying cool, especially in front of the students - letting your anxiety get the better of you while you’re trying to manage a roomful of kids never ends well
Tinkering around with unfamiliar hardware and software - this is the best way to learn
As the days go on, these things will get easier and easier. Login issues will resolve themselves, and the kids and I will become more fluent in our processes. However, these tips are worth remembering throughout the year, as I’m sure I’ll be experimenting with new technologies and processes along the way.
Here’s hoping some of this was helpful, or at least good food for thought.
What are your biggest technology hurdles? How do you handle them?