Disclaimer: Most of the articles I will be linking to my blog today must be accessed through the Doctor John Archer U of R library database. You will need to sign-in to your account in order to access them.
So for this week’s blog entry, we decided to focus on the CONS of our topic. That means I’ll be investigating and identifying some of the negative or difficult aspects of bringing technology into a language class. Since we’re dealing with a pretty wide scope, I realize that many of the issues I’ll be discussing today are shared in just about every or any topic relating to the integration of technology in a classroom setting. Whether it’s math, science or team teaching; there’s a lot of common ground when we’re talking about obstacles.
For my blog this week, I decided to identify some questions and concerns that came to mind when reading some of the articles I picked out this week. Many of the articles I ended up finding spoke of the successes of bringing technology into the classroom. Of course, with every success, there must be at least a couple slip-ups and hiccups that we fail to mention. The following observations will serve as a “devil’s advocate” perspective. I truly believe wholeheartedly that tech is the way of the future, but without at least identifying some of it’s major flaws, we can’t be expected to bring technology into the classroom without any issues.
The first article that I read, coming from the District Administration, focused on presenting some successful examples of blended learning integration in classrooms around the States.
The article itself was compelling and gave me hope for the future. Many of the examples focused on math and language/literacy classes (awesome for me!) and showed how well students are doing by bringing blended learning into the classroom.
But as we often have these conversations, the same type of questions come to mind. The first questions that came to my mind were those of technology availability and funding. One example in particular really brought things into perspective to me. It explained how most of the students in this particular school have access to computers at all times (all students from grade 4 to 12 have an assigned computer! That’s NUTS!). I can’t ignore this, especially when we’re talking about how successful this school is. As we all know, assigning all students a personal computer will never happen in Saskatchewan anytime soon (especially with the budget cuts. Oh, who am I kidding…regardless of budget cuts or not, this ain’t happening either way!), so the question of tech availability and funding NEEDS to be on the list of cons.
A lot of examples presented in the article talk about implementing blended learning at a school-wide level. In just about all the examples, the schools are using the same resources, software and online platforms to conduct their business. In other words, everyone is working in unison, using the same tools and basically working TOGETHER to do to the same thing. It’s a matter of consistency, and in these cases, things were VERY consistent.
I like this. Actually, scratch that…I LOVE THIS. I mean, if you truly want to implement blended learning in the classroom effectively, it should definitely be at a “global” scale, not just in ONE classroom. There should definitely be some level of continuity, and if we want these things to truly work, we should be implementing these systems in ALL classrooms.
BUT, I am going to be realistic here… in order for this to happen, not only do you need an administration to push their school in this direction, the teachers would need to be on board with this move and have the skills to go along with it as well. Unless you’re starting from scratch and have nothing but “new” teachers working at your school, there’s no question that admin would run into some heavy resistance from teachers who either don’t feel comfortable teaching this way, or are not willing to change everything they know about their profession just to meet these modern-day demands.
This then leads to the question of training and support…not only do you have to get everyone on the same page, everyone needs to be able to use this tech at a proficient level. Then we need resources (in this case, either purchasing access to online resources or paying subscription fees for specific online platforms and software) and digital tools that are readily-available to students at all (or most) times. Ultimately, it always becomes a question of money and funding, because unless we’re going to be depending on students bringing in their own devices, we can’t expect to have such easy access to devices.
Oh, by the way, if you are like me and are interested in the whole B.Y-O.D. argument, my classmate Kyle will be focusing his entire directed reading study on all issues concerning the topic.
Furthermore, the following article I read for my readings also discusses B.Y.O.D. in much greater detail.
Anyway, back to the article…
Although having an entire school adopt blended learning into its’ classrooms is incredibly ambitious, it also requires a great deal of planning and preparation (not only on the teachers part, but admin as well). Admin would have to have a vision and a plan set in place in order to make this happen. They would also have to “sell” this idea to their staff. Although this shouldn’t be something that stops anyone, it’s definitely something that any administrator would need to take into consideration.
As mentioned before, not only would you have to get everyone on the same page, you would also have to train them. Although this shouldn’t be so difficult, realistically, when and how would you do this? School boards only assign an “x” amount of PD time for teachers, and teachers are only given a small amount of prep time per day (if at all) to plan out their lessons. I’m just wondering how you would train an entire staff to bring these things into their classrooms when there’s literally no time to even do this. Are teachers coming in on their free time to train? Are administrators providing their staff with training sessions or are they expected to learn these things on their own? Are teachers only given a half-day tutorial on how to use these tools, or is there legitimate support being provided at all times within the school?
I don’t know…unless the school is literally made up of newly-graduated millennials, I can’t see how an entire staff could learn how to use all of these resources through a quick tutorial. The only reason I’m “good” at tech is because I’ve spent my entire life fooling around on a computer. Unless you’ve had a similar upbringing, you won’t be able to just “pick these things up” and go. I guess my biggest thing here is…what about the “older” teachers who aren’t comfortable using tech?
Also, just to be the devil’s advocate that I promised you I’d be…what about money? Who’s paying for this? How are we paying for all this training? Do we have funding for all the extra support we might need to put these things into place?
Another part of this article that set off some alarms was how one teacher mentions how they love how EVERYTHING is just online. No books, no paper…just online “everything”. Okay, so yes, that IS pretty incredible, but…. what if wifi is down? What if the bandwidth doesn’t allow for an entire class to log in? What if the online resources are temporarily unavailable or the website is down? I mean, these things happen constantly, and I couldn’t rely JUST on tech if I knew that it could blow up in my face. I guess what I’m trying to say is, there are already so many unexpected things that can happen in a classroom (which don’t even include tech issues), so why place all your bets on something that can so easily fail you at any moment?
Okay, so I realize I only focused on one article, but I’d end up writing a book if I keep going. I also didn’t intend to pick on one article, but to be honest, the article did a good job of bringing up many of the very same arguments I saw in the other articles I read. I think what we need to remember is that bringing technology into the classroom will no doubt benefit students, but it will undoubtedly bring a whole lot of other issues with it as well. Funding is ALWAYS an issue, we see it in articles such as this one where schools are so underfunded that the only way to gain any form of funding is by lucking out and winning it through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
I would have loved to have talked more about my other articles, but I honestly think I’m reaching critical mass on blog length here. If you are interested in reading some of my other resources however, please click on the following links:
Thanks for reading my blog this week, and if you have any questions or concerns, please hit me up on the comments section. Have a great week everyone!