Did you get the chance to read Karl Ochsner’s bit on building the classroom of the future yet? In it, he outlines a series of steps that we simply have to take if we’re ever going to see educational technology efforts take hold in our schools.
His first suggestion—guaranteeing that our infrastructure is ready for the changes that we desire—struck me as a simple first step: We do need to ensure that teachers and students have access to working devices and strong Internet connections.
That should be an absolute promise that any parent, pundit or policymaker interested in changing the teaching/learning transaction is willing to make, right?
After all, it would be disingenuous to simultaneously grumble about traditional practices while stocking classrooms with a few antiquated desktop machines running Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6, wouldn’t it?
Unfortunately, simultaneous grumbling seems to be all-too-common—and it’s forcing teachers to be far more digitally resilient than you can ever imagine.
I used to wear my digital resilience like a badge of honor.
Roll into a computer lab with 12 broken machines? No sweat. I’d pair kids up and move on without missing a beat. Struggling with a slow Internet connection. Fine—I’d stay all night to upload student content if I had to. Need a hand-held video camera to make digital storytelling possible? I’d buy six and hide the receipts from my wife.
Sure, we’d have to eat Ramen noodles a few extra times that month but it was worth it, right? I was on the cutting edge of change and that required a bit of personal pain and sacrifice.
But here’s the thing: It’s been almost a decade since I started experimenting with technology and I’m still forced to fix broken machines, stay at school all night to upload student content and pull cash out of my own wallet to pay for new tools and services.
Sure, there will always be guys like Karl and I who are willing to do whatever it takes to drive change in our classrooms regardless of how broken our digital infrastructures may be.
But if change is going to be systematic and sustainable—replicable without relying on superhuman patience and ridiculous acts of professional altruism—it’s high time that we start making investments in the kinds of tools and networks that our teachers and students have access to.
To do otherwise is nothing short of hypocritical.
Bill Ferriter is a 6th grade science teacher in North Carolina, Solution Tree author, and education blogger.
The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.