Over the past year, I’ve been analyzing and learning about tech in the classroom from different angles and perspectives. Today’s post however, will take on a somewhat different and more flexible approach, as I’ll be spending my time discussing some of the interesting finds I’ve come across over the past few weeks in my directed reading course.
Tuesday night’s class was very helpful to me because the discussions that came up during the meeting brought to my attention some aspects of tech I failed to even think about or address in my blog a few weeks back. The discussions we had in class definitely allowed me to connect more of the dots to some of the questions I had asked myself in my previous posts (take this one for example).
Dr. Alec Couros joined us this week and mentioned a few interesting facts relating to tech availability.
Dr. Couros shared an article with us that ended up bringing some interesting things to my attention.
“The L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD) bought approximately 40,000 iPads at $768 each, and pre-loaded with software from Pearson, a major textbook publisher and online educational tool creator. But while all iPads and mobile Apple devices use its iOS software, the problem wasn’t with Apple but Pearson’s product that teachers complained was scarce on content, riddles with bugs, and difficult to use.”
In this example, we see how even purchasing state-of-the-art tools can result in some major issues. The L.A. school district bought these devices with the intention of having them perform one simple task. Although Pearson is partly to blame here, this example shows us that we can’t always rely on tech for the answers and solutions were looking for. In this case, the school district dumped A LOT of money into this investment only to encounter these major issues of functionality and reliability.
One of the other interesting points that came out of our meeting on Tuesday related to attaining tech and other digital tools for the classroom. For my blog post last week, I brought up how we could apply for technology grants or seek outside funding to purchase class computers, laptops or tablets.
My classmate Kyle however, mentioned how some districts actually have rules and restrictions relating to these types of classroom purchases. I learned that the reason for which teachers are sometimes restricted or flat-out denied permission to make these types of purchases is in part because school boards are often unable to repair or provide support to devices as they may sometimes differ from the “universal” brand or model that they are trained to repair and support. What this means is that for school boards, having teachers bring new types of personal devices (primarily laptops and tablets) can lead to more problems than anything else.
Let’s take the RBE tech support for example. For them, bringing in devices that they haven’t worked on could potentially require additional training and additional costs (warrantees, software issues, machines that are more vulnerable to viruses, etc.). For a school board, this isn’t necessarily solving any problems, but causing new ones instead. This could potentially lead to you not being able to do much with that grant you were just given by Best Buy. Bummer.
This actually reminded me a lot about the L.A. school district article, as it addresses some of the same issues regarding support and functionality.
This also led me to think about how obsolete our tech becomes in a matter of years. The following article got me thinking a lot about the quality of the tech we are providing our students:
If we’re going to provide students with tech, it should be of best quality, otherwise why bother? Furthermore, if we aren’t going to provide students with tech, and we’re taking the BYOD approach, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves what type of tech our students are bringing into the classroom?
Failing to realize that not everyone is bringing top-of-the-line devices to school could result in issues with compatibility and functionality. Students from higher income families bringing in brand-new state-of-the-art tech can be problematic for families that don’t have the means to afford these types of tools.
I’ve actually experienced these issues myself, as some students will often bring the latest Apple phone and products, while others will still be using older IPhone 4 models. At first this might not seem too serious of an issue until we start running newer software and apps on these devices that simply don’t work or are not supported by older Apple products/models. This often results in students not being able to use their personal tools and devices the same way a student with a “better” device could. This brings up all sorts of questions, whether it’s about student equity or the fact that simply bringing a device to class doesn’t always cut it.
This article definitely got me thinking about the whole “quality” argument. I mean… what is quality?
You may have bought the most powerful laptops in the market, but how long will this tech put up until it becomes completely obsolete? In connection to my previous point about tech support for devices that may differ from those your school board may use, this could further lead to these devices breaking down and becoming utterly useless due to lack of support.
Whether the tech isn’t being maintained or updated, these devices have a short lifespan and become difficult to use the older they get, especially if we aren’t actively taking care of them.
Another interesting point that came from our discussions brought up the quality and functionality of our products. We brought up netbooks, and whether or not they are that useful at all, or if they’re simply glorified web-surfing devices. Although these devices are excellent tools for simple word processing projects and research, they are unable to run legitimate PC or APPLE software. If you are wanting to do some photo or video editing, or you’re wanting to try your hand at some 3-D animation or coding, you’re not really going to get too far with these things. The computing power is nowhere near as adequate as it should be to be running those types of programs.
This led to another interesting point: if these devices are unable to provide its users with an adequately powerful and up-to-date creative tool, what’s the point of really using these things?
I’ve actually experienced a few issues relating to these very same problems in my class.
This fall, I had my class create video artifacts for their health projects. Students were given the opportunity to use digital tools on the Chromebooks we have at our school. A lot like some of the video artifacts I’ve done for my previous tech classes, I showed the students how to use a couple of the tools I’ve used to create my own videos.
Although my students ended up creating some cool videos, the process was actually very tedious and frustrating for them and myself.
First of all, the tech is not strong enough to process the large volumes of data that usually go into video editing. Files were taking fifteen minutes to transfer from their phones to the computers. Kids were unable to use certain files, and converting them was taking so long, that many of them ended up having to do these things at home on their own computers. To make matters worse, since so many students were connected to the internet, and there was such a high volume of data taking up the bandwidth, even the WIFI was cutting out.
What this actually ended up leading my class to do was use their own devices to create their videos. Most of them have IPhones, which means most of them were able to do their assignments on apps such as iMovie. Luckily for me, everyone had a device (and ones that were capable of performing these tasks with relative ease).
So how useful were the netbooks in this case? Not really to be honest, which is a little frustrating considering these tools have replaced the laptops we had a few years ago. I understand why school boards often make these types of purchases, but it is a little frustrating to realize they can’t do some of the things you’d hope they’d be able to do.
I really appreciate the discussions we’ve been having in class, it’s definitely opened me up to new angles to some common issues we experience when working with tech in a classroom. In the coming weeks, I am hoping to make more connections to my area of focus and draw more conclusions from some of the observations I’ve been making.
Thanks for reading everyone, have a great week!