I am on this course because I believe in the power of technology to help us develop and improve the education of our children. Pretty simple really. The truth is that as with many things in our education system, change is very difficult and can be very slow. There are good reasons to not jump into things. Often we get it wrong, we can be too quick to embrace something before it is fully developed or given time to grow. I know why we must be careful, but it seems like the topic of Educational Technology causes some to become especially fraught at the thought of change. Maybe the opposite is true too – that change can be far too fast and embracing tech before it is fully understood can set us back. I don’t know but it makes me think a lot
For someone like me who has been an early adopter and passionate supporter of embracing new technologies in my classroom I have come across lots of obstacles when it comes to integrating. They seem to happen at 3 or 4 levels. Grade level, School level, Authority or District level and Nationally. I wanted to write about my personal obstacles as I think they mirror the ones which I have read about.
At a grade level, there are numerous obstacles to integrating technology into our planning and teaching. The biggest one has been a lack of resources, and I include teacher support and training in that category. Lack of communication between staff, which fails to create a supportive team environment has also hindered the process of trying new things and attempting to integrate new ideas and technologies. Staff like myself who are keen to integrate, can sometimes be too pushy and not understanding enough of the fears and anxieties of our colleagues and make it difficult to implement new ideas and approaches.
At school level, the single biggest factor which impacts and provides obstacles is the quality and support of the school leadership team. When they don’t understand the potential that technology has to improve and support learning, then the school ethos and environment suffers. If funds and training are not directed towards technology integration then there is not a whole school approach. Without a whole school approach then everything is harder.
In towns and cities across America, local school districts control and set both policy and budget. This directly impacts the schools and their ability to embrace new technologies. There is huge inconsistency across the country. It only takes 5 minutes reading online about the state of the Chicago Public School district and the condition of many school buildings to realize that, one-to-one policies, high speed internet, teacher training etc are pretty far down the list.
Nationally there are many voices and special interest groups shouting and trying to influence policy. More and more the value of echnology integration seems to be valued and is apparently here to stay – but we all know that politics plays games with education and so predicting the future is difficult.
Now how does that impact the integration of technology cross-curricularly into a 5th grade classroom? It does and it doesn’t. I scrap, beg, borrow and . . . never steal what I can to try and find the resources I need to integrate the technologies which I feel will benefit my pupils. I make it work by being resourceful, pedantic, and probably annoying. I know I am a reflective practitioner and so I think about what might work and then when I have tried it, I share the good and bad with my colleagues. It works. To an extent. However, without proper investment in resources this year, it has been a struggle. Failing internet connections when lessons are planned. Only 14 computers working out of a set of 20. It gets frustrating and despite the best will in the world, supporting and inspiring others is not always easy, especially when the technical aspects don’t work.
The secret is to just keep going, to step back and ask yourself if you believe in what you are doing and then to try and find others link you to connect with. Twitter is great for making connections as are different online communities. From there, just don’t quit. Model to your pupils the residence that they will need when they enter the world and find a way. You don’t have to have the best, newest or fanciest technology to improve a lesson. You just need to have enough, determination and a can do attitude. I used to stress a lot more than I do now. I step back and remember that my pupils are with me for under 200 days of their education. If something doesn’t work and the tech fails. It’s not the end of the world.
As a subject area, social sciences have a wealth of resources and tools available to teachers. Sometimes it is hard to decide what to try and use and other times, it can feel forced to and link different areas of the curriculum. The difficulties lie in the areas I have mentioned and in one I have not yet. Personal responsibility. Each and every individual teacher has to look at themselves and ask if they are doing everything they can to prepare their students for the world they are going into. Most are, some are not. In a perfect world everyone would be perfect. We are humans first and teachers second so we get it wrong. As long as we persist in trying to be better then we will get there.