Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Technology Tale of Horror

Today I participated in a meeting designed to brainstorm some ideas for infusing technology into a unit of instruction for social studies teachers at various levels from elementary through high school. Overall, I felt the day was very productive and our group is going to piece together a very fun culminating activity for the unit.

That, however, is not the focus of this post. I wanted to share what was, from my perspective, a horror story that some fellow educators are living with on a daily basis.

I had an opportunity to engage in conversations about learning and technology with two teachers from a different school district. The discussion was disheartening to say the least. The teachers indicated their disgust at being under such stringent controls that they cannot even make purchases with their own money to try and enhance the environment for the students. They have only one computer in the room which is used for e-mails, grading, attendance, and a few other mundane activities. They have been waiting for a long time to receive some technology that was supposed to have been purchased long ago.

Here we have some teachers that are willing and eager to begin using some technology in their classrooms but the district seems to be uncooperative from their point of view. As a technology specialist myself, I reflected and shared some of my philosophy about technology integration, and was genuinely sad for these teachers. I truly wish that I was able to do more for them but it is really out of my hands.

It seems to me that many of these types of lockdown situations are a knee-jerk reaction to something that happened in the past which perhaps caused the district a little more grief than they wanted or possibly a fear of such a situation in the future - maybe even a little of both.

The reality is that if we, as educators, are going to be expected to train today's youth for their future, then we ought to have all the necessary tools we need in order to make that goal a reality. Certainly, out of respect, I would expect at least a reasonable amount of support.

Do any of you have a story about your districts not allowing access to powerful, relevant, and engaging technology tools for the classroom? Does anyone have a success story of how they overcame such a situation? I look forward to your stories.


  1. A few years ago I managed to acquire a lofty donation of several Pentium 4 desktop computers for my classroom and school. While used, they were still well within the performance needs of our students and staff. I told my school principal about the donation, she was excited but she was also leaving for another position. She forgot to relay the message to our district technology coordinator. When it came time in the summer to pick these machines up I called the technology coordinator who was upset because he had not been informed. He then raised the district performance standard for donated equipment to a level where these machines were no longer acceptable. I ended up with nothing.

    Last year, in a new district, I found myself in a position doing technology integration with teachers who were working with mostly obsolete equipment. Much of my training was of no use to them since they could not adequately use it with their students. I found http://computersforlearning.gov to be a solution to this problem. Committing myself to a daily routine of checking this site for government surplus computers I was able to acquire enough slightly used machines to replace all of our computer labs and place a fair number of mini labs in classrooms.

  2. Thank you for sharing this resource, Carl.

    It is unfortunate that there is so much opposition and reluctance to embrace the technology and the potential it holds for our classrooms. We need to stay the course.