4 Mistakes That Lead To School Technology Graveyards

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donsolo4 Mistakes That Lead To School Technology Graveyards

by Dawn Casey-Rowe, Social Studies Teacher and Learnist Evangelist

If you walk around the dark corners of most of America’s schools, you’ll find tech graveyards–technology that’s outdated, wasn’t properly used, or simply didn’t serve its purpose.

This costs schools–and taxpayers–money and makes many think technology is a waste. Technology doesn’t have to be the big elephant in the room or the computer graveyard that’s never upgraded or used. It can be simple, clean, efficient, and helpful to students and educators in so many situations. The problem is that because of small glitches in the system, purchasing, tech support or professional development, tech goes unused. It becomes a graveyard.

If you’d like to create a technology graveyard, here’s how you can do it. The good news is that you can fix this, too!

Mistake #1: Relying on computer labs

Computer labs waste time–kids shuffle around school for five to ten minutes getting situated. There’s always one kid who “forgot,” and waited outside the door their classroom next to the note that said, “Computer lab today.”

Students work at different speeds. If some need more time and class isn’t in the lab, they’re out of luck. Often, several teachers compete to get lab time, and who’s to say which teacher’s assignments are more critical? It can be tough to plan, too. I am planned out well in advance, but students come up with their own ideas using tech they know and love. It’s impossible to schedule ahead for student innovation, and I want them to be thinking of creative solutions.

I don’t want to shut them down because I can’t get them to a computer.

The solution

Technology must be in every classroom. It needs to be part of the flow, not an add on. If it’s an add on–just cool gadgets or a bunch of locked labs, it won’t be used properly. While BYOD or 1:1 is ideal, a bare minimum should be a section of student stations in each class big enough to allow for kids rotating in and out.

Mistake #2: Spending a huge sum of money at any one time

Even in schools with technology, there’s often a “desktop graveyard.” It’s not always obvious to the casual observer, but look closely in the corners and folders of school computers and you’re certain to see icons for platforms the taxpayer bought and nobody used. Students will say,  “They’re awful. Boring.” Usually, the students are right.

The solution

Start by outlining objectives you want tech to accomplish, and involve users when possible. If it’s a platform for students, involve them. If it’s for faculty and staff, have them test it out before buying.  Many of the programs and platforms students and teachers most use are free, but paid platforms and subscriptions often offer free test licenses. Ask.

Be flexible. Tell students what you’d like accomplished, and let them bring their own solutions to the table. Students often show me things I use for future classes. Student solutions are nearly always free and fun

Mistake #3: Leaving old junky computers in classroom corners

Sometimes it looks like there’s technology in classrooms, but it’s sitting dusty and unused. If you ask you’ll get answers like, “Well, I only have one computer station and twenty students. I can’t rotate them in effectively,” or “It’s not upgraded.” or “It’s broken–I put in a work order months ago.” Something as small as a missing mouse creates tech that will never be used. That’s a waste.

The Solution

Get rid of the old CRT monitors and outdated stations. They’re not serving anyone. They are cluttering up the environment and cutting down classroom flow. Take time making a technology plan that will replace them with something that will serve your students. And in the mean time, use some old-school creativity while you do.

Even without computers in the classroom, it’s possible to set up a teacher blog to showcase student achievement and promote home-school communication. You can also do what I call the “involuntary flip.” I first got rid of textbooks and put my material on blogs and Learnist, telling students they could do the assignments at home or “use the text.” You can guess what they chose!

Mistake #4: Buying technology students dislike and teachers can’t use

Some educators get overwhelmed by technology when it’s mandated. They are given tech that they end up never using, and they feel that technology isn’t useful. Then, it’s even more difficult for them to open up to the ideas that tech could bring to the classroom because integration has been handled poorly.

The solution

Offer elective workshops on just one or two things at a time. This gives teachers or educational leaders ideas they can take with them. Give examples of how the specific idea and technology can be used in class. Most important, set up partnerships between teachers and educational leaders who are using technology with those intrigued by the idea.

Oftentimes tech users don’t reach out because they don’t feel they’re good enough to teach technology. They are good enough to showcase one or two things they’re doing well in their classrooms. Outreach, and a couple of educators having coffee while talking tech build community and demystify technology. Grassroots outreach is a win-win for all.

It’s good collaboration.

Conclusion

Technology graveyards don’t have to exist at your school. Getting rid of them saves time and effort that can be directed into providing technology and training you’ll use and enjoy. And when you’re happy, your students are happy. At least until they find out you can use the technology to give them homework. But in my case, I discovered, they actually do it better.

That makes me smile, too.

4 Mistakes That Lead To School Technology Graveyards; image attribution flickr user donsolo

  • Alvin Brinson

    Going 1:1 technology without thinking it through is a huge mistake. This has happened at my school. They tossed (expensive) laptops at every student in January this year. There was NO thought for a number of issues.

    1) Not having a safe place for students to leave the laptops at school. This includes during lunch or if their home environment isn’t such that they can safely carry a laptop. I work in a school with a LOT of low-income students many of whom are illegal immigrants. Taking a laptop “home” isn’t possible, but there’s no safe place at school. So theft rates, loss rates are huge, and students who simply don’t complete requirements to check out a laptop, or always “left it at home” is huge.

    2) Not thinking of charging issues. There’s NO way for a student to charge a laptop at school except begging teachers for access to the 2 or 3 outlets in the room. We’re not allowed to run power strips, and don’t have charging tables/docks for the students. They’re not even allowed to leave the laptops charging during lunch.

    3) No IT or little support for controlling off-task usage at school. Students are watching Netflix and listening to Pandora all day long. Nuff said.

    With all of these issues, our school has one of the highest rates of laptop loss/damage/theft in the district. Even when they have laptops, teachers can’t depend on them for a lesson because many students don’t bring them, or they aren’t charged. Students who DO bring them are typically off task….

  • George Viebranz

    IT folks are generally not educators, and educators are not generally IT folks. I remember the education technology grant written by a neophyte curriculum director and a neophyte IT director in which their real motive was to acquire technology for technology’s sake to appease the public perception that the district was falling behind. They got the grant over the summer, immediately used their autonomy to purchase over $500,000 worth of new equipment and network backbone, and unveiled it on the teachers as they walked in for their first day of school. “We are integrating technology into our new STEM program!” The only good part of the story is that at least they talked with each other and tried to make some instructional decisions. The bad part is that the teachers, who make all decisions inside their classrooms, were never asked for their input or opinion on the proposal, then were told that they must integrate all of the new technology into their instruction.
    Oh, yes, forgot to tell you that their grant was originally for an amount of nearly $750,000, but when they received the reduced amount, they just cut out professional development and outside consultants/advisors. Things that make you go, “Hmmmm…”