The First Five Things You Should Do When Your District Hands You A Device for 1:1 Initiative: Advice For The Angry or Fearful
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For some of us, a 1:1 initiative is exciting. For others, it is scary and overwhelming. Often our reaction to being scared and overwhelmed can be sadness, despair, anxiety, or anger. If this is true for you, here’s are my suggestions for the first five things you should do with your new device.
#1: Do nothing.
That’s right, put the darn thing on a shelf for a few days or a week. Be defiant. Don’t even turn it on. Look at it occasionally and call it names. Stick your tongue out at it. Go ahead, “flip it the bird”. Do what you need to express you anger fully to that device and what it means to you.
# 2: Turn it on.
If you can’t bear to turn it on without someone there to help you navigate through the basics then make an appointment with one of the fabulous teacher-support or IT people in your building. Maybe ask a close colleague who might be more comfortable or experienced with technology to be there with you while you turn it on. They LOVE this stuff and would LOVE to help you out. Do it over cocktails if you must. Have a “Turn The Darn Thing On Party” at someone’s house. Make the event of turning the device on as joyous and stress-free as possible.
#3: Play With It.
It’s just a very expensive and sophisticated toy but don’t tell any IT snobs you might encounter. OK, Edu Jargon dictates we don’t use the term “play”. Then EXPLORE the device. Explore the desktop, pages, pull down menus, and settings. Just check it out. You don’t have to do anything with them except read. If you get lost and can’t get out, turn the thing off then on again. IT people will scold me for telling you this but you can’t break it by shutting it down this way. If you do, they got the wrong device. In general, if you break the device, as long as it’s by accident and not malice, the district will replace it (check your district’s policy that you signed when you got your device).
#4: Do one thing you already know how to do on another device.
Get a feel for something you know how to do on another device but are learning or experimenting with on this new device. Try opening the browser and log onto your email (ok, that’s two things but you can do that). Once you have that one thing, close out of the software, log out and properly shut down your machine and do that very thing you just did all over again. Then, shut down and put the device away, this time for a shorter period of time than the last.
#5: Do one new task.
The next time you open the device, do that very same thing you did the last time and then try something new. Maybe open a piece of software and just look at the pull down menus to see what that software can do. Maybe open a new file and learn how to save that file. Just do one new task or explore one new thing, and master that.
The single most important thing for you to do is to try to get excited about one thing you can do with this new device with your students. You should NOT have to change your curriculum or your pedagogy. The device should be a new tool that might enhance what you are already doing. Your colleagues who might be more comfortable or more experienced with the technology may have many things they are doing that they can show you. Just try one thing. Try one thing in one semester, in one unit, in one lesson. It might be a total disaster but so what! Every experienced teacher has had disastrous lessons before. This is how we learn. If your district expects you to do more than one thing in one unit in the course of the first year with your device, they have expectations that are too high and are doomed to fail. New technology initiatives in business and education fail more times than not. Yes, there are studies already out about this. You should look to be successful for yourself and, hence, your students.
Your district should be offering Professional Development opportunities for you to learn your new device and new software. Hopefully it will differentiate instruction to your teacher’s learning styles. My school has done a brilliant thing this year and have the same topic offered in three different ways, individually through online learning, group instruction for beginners and group instruction for intermediate to advanced users. Then they offer individual instruction and support at the teacher’s convenience and availability. No matter how your school or district offers Professional Development, it should eventually be specific to your subject from a professional educator in your subject who integrates technology into their curriculum. Find someone who is in or has been in the trenches for a long time. Teachers respect other teachers more than they will professional consultants who have never been in or barely taught in the classroom. A good professional development expert should concentrate primarily on one thing, to get you excited about the opportunities new technology can bring you and your students. Yes, learning the specifics about the technology tool or software is important but excitement generates a desire for you to go out and learn and experiment on your own. Excitement generates excitement and we want our students to be excited, too.
New initiatives for education come and go. Sometimes they return masked as something new. I used to get so upset about the “Initiative Du Jour” imposed on teachers every two years with a new Board of Education or new superintendent. Inevitably, it increased or changing expectations for me as a teacher and for my students. That translates to more work for all of us. One day, a very wise, and experience teacher, Dolores O’Callaghan, said to me, “If you wait long enough, this will go away, too”. More often than not, she was right. Technology and its use in the classroom are not going away. Technology will change about every 9 – 18 months depending on the device or major advances that might arise. You should just concentrate on one thing and be proud of that accomplishment. Get excited and do what you can to stay excited. Only do what you can handle. If it’s one thing then do that. If it’s more, then try it. Do not get yourself stressed and angry. I have seen many districts put the cart before the horse in technology implementation rollouts and then expect teachers to implement immediately and show data. If your district is pushing their teachers to do more than they can handle then shame on them. They set our students’ up for failure and us and, eventually, this reflects on their technology initiative implementation and rollout.
Professional development, technology rollout whatchamacallit aside, in the end, teachers always wind up back in the classroom with our beloved students. Don’t worry. Your students will be more than happy to show you more things or guide you and their peers through the technology. Just remember, we are the experts in our subject. Kids always know how to use new toys better than we do. Let them show you and their peers. Now that’s exciting.
Named the 2012 TI:ME Technology Teacher of the Year, Barbara Freedman has been teaching Electronic Music & Audio Engineering at Greenwich High School in Connecticut since 2001. She is the author of the book “Teaching Music Through Composition: A Curriculum Using Technology” published by Oxford University Press. She is a technology trainer, leads professional development workshops around the country and is a consultant to schools and districts on building technology labs and integrating technology into the curriculum. Barbara is the Co-President of the Music Educator Technologists Association/Technology Institute for Music Educators (META/TI:ME), Connecticut Chapter. She holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Music in Performance from Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music City University of New York and Professional Studies Diploma from the Mannes College of Music. She studied conducting at the Hartt School of Music, Westminster Choir College, and The Julliard School.