I often envy 1:1 schools and schools with unlimited WiFi. I would love to have classes that can instantly download something, search for information, or watch a tutorial on their iPads. Using technology in class is a game-changer, but my school currently lacks the bandwidth infrastructure (though it is coming!). Despite not having WiFi at school– yes, you read that correctly– my students have done a great job learning to use their devices (especially with Evernote) independently.
Thirty years ago, my school was built on the side of a mountain. It’s not a Rocky Mountains’ mountain, but an Arkansas mountain nonetheless, and for the original school leaders, having a reliable Internet infrastructure was just as high on their must-haves list as was installing field turf for the football field. It just wasn’t an option.
Fast-forward to today. Due to our geographic location, our current bandwidth is pretty limited, and WiFi just isn’t an option for our students. Even though we want our students to use technology in class, it’s just not convenient for them and they have had to work around some issues. For the students without 3G devices or unlimited data plans, using technology at school is sometimes (often) less convenient and very cumbersome.
However, I still have pushed my students to use their devices at school. For my class, Evernote has been great for several reasons:
- Students create notes and sync later. It’s not uncommon for students to create a note on Evernote but then ask if they can share it with me when they get home (aka have WiFi).
- Students have developed a rhythm of syncing their Evernote accounts before heading off to school. They’ve had to learn to think proactively and plan ahead.
- Premium account members have offline notebooks which allow notes to be stored on the device as well as in the Evernote cloud. (We began the year hoping all students would be given Premium accounts, but that didn’t work out. Some students did choose to pay for their own accounts, but most still use the free account.)
This has been a good transition year of using technology at school– sort of. Next year we’ll have WiFi and the proper bandwidth for our campus, and we’ll move forward. It would have been really easy to stockpile classroom ideas for next year and wait for the perfect conditions– you know, playing the “if only… then” game. However, I don’t regret pushing the envelope and encouraging and/or requiring my students to use technology this year. It’s been great for me and for them.
5 Lessons I’ve Learned By Not Waiting Until Next Year To Implement Technology in my Classroom:
1. Be Patient— Sometimes I have to wait a day for something to be submitted electronically. Things get lost, deleted, or sent to junk mail. To help us through this, I’ve had to work with my students and help them figure things out.
2. Be Creative— Students have found if they stand by my window and hold up their devices, they sometimes have access to one of our school’s wireless routers. I don’t have a router (limited bandwidth, remember?) in my classroom, but the occasional signal really comes in handy. This is just one example of the many creative ideas we’ve had to make things work in class.
3. Be Flexible— The way I like to teach and have students submit assignments may not be the best. Sometimes our classroom needs to be flipped and students need to be able to work from home. Also, when students have “technical” questions, it’s really important for me to take the time to help them out.
4. Be Honest— “I don’t know” is a common response in my class. However, I follow it with “but I’ll figure it out.” I don’t have all the answers, and when the students understand this, they try to figure things out for themselves.
5. Be Adventurous— Trying something new and different is hard, takes time, and is guaranteed to fail at least once. It’s often easier to just not try than to try and fail. We’ve tried many different apps that simply didn’t work. Oh well. At least we tried, right?
These are great lessons I’ve learned, and aren’t they all lessons we’d like our students to learn as well?
Next year will be so much easier, but we’ve made things work this year. It’s easy to look at all the reasons why something won’t work. However, finding a way to make something work is way more fun.