Thursday, March 13, 2008

Will Web 2.0 Be There When I Need It?

Warning: Normally I don't use this blog post as a forum for venting frustration, but I'm writing this today to ask, "Has this ever happened to you?"

My position here at St. John's has me spending a great deal of time working with teachers and helping them integrate technology into their lessons. While some of our teachers L-O-V-E technology and all the possibilities it offers them, many still approach these new tools with trepidation. It's a big step out of their comfort zone. While I applaud them for their willingness to take a leap forward and try something new, I'm frustrated when things just won't work as planned.

This happened last week while I was away at CUE Conference. I convinced our second grades to use Voicethread instead of Power Point for their Important Book Project. Classes worked for weeks making their pictures and recording video comments. When the teachers tried to present their final projects on Grandparents Day last Friday, Voicethread locked up and would not play. (NOTE: This Monday Voicethread added the ability to download and save projects locally. Timing is everything!)

Earlier this year 8th grade was all set to use for a literature project. The site worked perfectly the day before, but when the time came for the students to start working on their projects, all that came up on their screen was the "Page Cannot be Displayed" message.

Today in the lab I had a class come in to work on a project using I've used this site before and never had any problems but today it just wouldn't open. I posted my dilemma on Twitter and a few other colleagues shared that they were having the same problem. As a result I had to switch gears quickly and do another activity. While I can roll with these little annoyances, many of my new technology adopters see it as a reason NOT to use these new web tools and stick with "more reliable" crayon, pencil & paper projects. I can understand their feelings.

I've done enough trainings and presentations to know that the nature of all things online means that the one web tool you need might not work when you need it most. If that's true, how do I convince a timid teacher to replace their "always reliable" paper project and integrate these new web tools when they just don't trust them?

How do YOU handle this? I'd love to hear your thoughts. If nothing else, let me know I'm not alone here.


Jenn said...

You are not alone. I can't say that I have had this experience many times specifically with web 2.0 tools, but it has happened nonetheless.

Here is my advice, straight from the girl scout handbook...

Be prepared - always have a fall back web page, lesson idea, or downloaded Discovery video to show. In the case of an important presentation, like Grandparent's Day - take a Snapz Pro video capture - just in case.

Don't panic - When the tech teacher remains calm and tells a little joke in the face of tech problems, everyone feels better. Explain that this happens to all of us. Sometimes those technophobe teachers feel better knowing that these incidents are not reserved just for them.

Make analogies - ever been in a Kindergarten room? Sometimes the whole jar of paint gets spilled and we ALL have to start over. Sometimes little Suzy throws up and we all have to leave the room for an unexpected recess. OR you jump out of your car and the beautiful book of stories that your class made for Grandparent's Day falls into the gutter, which is filled with rushing water from a sudden downpour and is swept down drain into the sewer! Gone! (true story from my first year as a teacher) Why should using technology be exempt from the unexpected? Life happens. Don't cry over spilt milk. When life gives you lemons... OK you get the point.

I hope these anecdotes will help you and your teachers role with the technology and non technology punches.

Oh and feel free to vent - it always makes me feel better!

James Gill said...

I agree with Jenn. Be prepared, and with the Internet being so huge, and you very knowledgeable, there is bound to be someplace good to go. I recently had to do a presentation on Web 2.0 and its uses with learning disabled students, and my ISP's server went down! It went ok, because there was still a lot to show based on some stuff I had downloaded prior to that day.

I read some quotes from the late 1700's where educators lamented that students were losing the ability to prepare bark properly for writing upon. What happens when the students run out of paper? They won't be able to write! Later, in the 1920's other people in education wrote that students were becoming too dependent on store bought ink, and what happens if they run out and can't get to the nearest settlement to buy more? They won't be able to write.

Good teachers are good teachers, even when the power goes out, when you have run out of ink, and when you're out of paper and the kids don't remember how to scrape bark properly for writing! This is why teachers cannot be replaced. We find a way to keep moving forward.

Jane Krauss said...

Can you send the link to your voicethread?