Edtechutopia Far from Near

How do you conceive an edtechutopia? My own short answer is this: I can see it but I can’t reach it. In fact, daily I stumble over hurdle after hurdle attempting to cross what should be a very short distance. I feel like I’m wearing lead boots in the 50 yard dash. When I do finally reach the finish line I barely have the strength to begin again. The future has arrived but the barriers are succeeding in keeping me restlessly at bay.

Every job has it’s challenges but I’m beginning to get a very clear picture why teachers are resistant to incorporating technology into their pedagogy. It’s quite possibly just too difficult! From an outsiders view I have a well equipped 21st century-looking classroom. You may even start to salivate over the potential if I was to enumerate the variety of edtech tools within my students grasp. Yes, I am fortunate to have ‘the stuff’ but having stuff isn’t enough when every step I take to include tech causes friction.

Let me give you a window into my world. This is not a rant about my school tech specialist who happens to be the most patient, accommodating person on the planet serving 120 educators and 1100 students. Yes, he is a very, very busy man. If I have a problem I can’t solve myself he is there in a flash. The hurdles I encounter daily are primarily system based. They have to do with permissions, compatibilities, bandwidth, updates not being automatic, student computers without the capacity to upload or download for their own protection or not being able to update the flash player. Ugh, it’s unnerving, aggravating and such a BIG waste of my time to try and find work arounds just to get my students to post anything online. Even printing is a nightmare. We share printers which are perpetually jammed or out of ink. Edtech is currently very counter productive and as a teacher, counter intuitive when you are aiming to give children a quality education.

Interactive whiteboards offer there own special hurdles. The firmware is out of date and you try everything in the book to calibrate the screen. The bulb on the LCD goes out and it costs a fortune to replace it so you wait… A student accidentally looses the whiteboard pen stylus and no one can find it! So you wait tick tock for a pen replacement.

I was fresher in the fall and found a way to get my students to post audio podcasts but it wasn’t easy. They recoded, I edited, and then I had to take the files on a thumb drive to my home and upload them from my own computer. It’s just an extra step and when you add up all the extra steps needed to create some sense of 21st Century school environment it amounts to a Herculean effort.

I know my county is considering ways to package the perfect edtech classroom equipment and I’d rather they didn’t. In my edtechutopia the less hardware we have the better off we’ll be. I suppose printing would still be a necessary evil. If I could just use any wall surfaces and some little LED handheld projectors, Kindle-sized kid computers with web based text books and assessments and the capacity to stream, record etc…The hardware would be minimal, inexpensive connectivity devices both durable and requiring little or no maintenance. If one had a problem we’d simply swap it out immediately instead of waiting for some sort of tech support. As teachers we have more important things to do than waste our time trouble shooting ineffective edtech.

If our techs didn’t have to deal with the hardware issues then they could find the time to address the more important issues of connectivity, data management. I vote for a web based classroom. The wall of my current room are confining, frustrating and impracticable. I just don’t see how we can pretend to be so high tech when in reality nothing works the way it should to support this model. Anyone else as frustrated as I am with this whole mess of hodgepodge hardware and inefficient software medley purported to be ‘modern’?

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