What is your best contingency plan (or horror story!) when your technology is unavailable?
Tara, Science in the City:
This is a tough one. I think it depends what the technology issues are. I try to have a list of missing work printed out for students, since that is something they can work on if the technology isn’t working. If they are doing research, its a good idea to have the corresponding pages in a textbook, or a few printouts that they can use. If possible, maybe download some resources onto your computer so you can project them on the screen if needed.
My most recent ‘horror story’ was having the kids do a webquest on tsunami. We were using netbooks, and evidently they weren’t charged. I knew the activity would run about an hour. About 45 minutes in, kids were raising their hand one after the other to tell me that their computer was out of batteries. First I had them partner up, but that was no longer feasible. I ended up grouping them, and having some use my computer and watch a video on the screen, some use my computer charger with a netbook to finish an earlier section, and take turns, working on other assignments in between. It was far from ideal, but they handled it well!
Just as spark plugs create ignition needed to start a car, technology sparks most of my class engines into motion. I invite students to use hash-tags for discussions, design and share videos, engage us on list-serves and create innovative proposals.
Technology often sparks innovation – when I prepare for it ahead.
When technology breaks, or slows students’ progress though, I encourage us to move on as if it never happened.
Sudden surprises tend to follow lack of planning.
On a day that I had too little time to preview a documentary, I trusted the introduction to the brief video.
Imagine my shock when five minutes in – several players began to disrobe. Forget sparks – I pulled the plug.
Technology had initiated another kind of explanation – one about the importance of planning ahead – brought about by my inattention to preview the entire video.
Clair, High School English on a Shoestring Budget:
When I was student teaching, we had scheduled the computer lab. But, when we got to the lab, the internal intranet was down. Students were used to saving their work on the intranet in their designated folder. They also could no access internet to email files to themselves. Bascially, they could work, but they couldn’t save anything. No one wanted to work on their drafts– even if they finished and printed it out, they’d have to re-type it for a final draft. Ultimately it was a wasted class period. One thing I learned from that was to always have a back-up plan in case the technology isn’t available. For example, I would have added a short project that related to the current work that they could complete during (what remained) of the class period and print off, pt even draw and color by hand to submit.
If I am using technology to enhance a lesson, like showing a Youtube video, and am experiencing difficulties, I will just move on to another activity. After teaching for awhile, you build up quite a few tricks in your bag of how to use your time effectively. I may end up practicing vocabulary with the students by asking them questions.
If the whole lesson is dependent on technology, I make sure to have a backup plan. Usually this involves moving to the next day’s activities or creating a backup activity. Of course, you can’t plan for everything, so I tend to do my best thinking on my feet, any create an activity spontaneously.
Jackie, Room 213:
Instead of sharing a horror story, I’m going to share a cautionary tale. One Monday morning last spring, teachers arrived at our school to find that the system was down. No access to our computers at all. After the initial panic, teachers left their classrooms and gathered in the staff room or our various TPC’s. We chatted about the weekend, laughed and actually connected with each other–instead of our machines. Yes, we had to do some juggling to get things ready for first period. We couldn’t use our lessons on the Smart Board, or show that youtube video that we wanted to use, but that was OK. Really. That day, we could have given into the panic, but we used the time to relax and have fun with each other. Technology is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong, but sadly our e-connections sometimes keep us away from the real connections.