I dig technology when it’s used well and thoughtfully and purposefully. Heck, sometimes I just dig shiny things. But I have to say that what I like and what’s worth spending time on and with in a classroom are two very different circles in the Venn diagram of my life.
I often hear that teachers using technology in their classrooms should have a Plan B or a backup lesson for if (and many would say when) a technology component of a lesson fails. The latest place I saw this was in Andrew’s piece over at Edutopia ((And I don’t mean to pick on him here. This is just the latest place I saw the “Plan B” argument. He’s been writing some really useful stuff lately. Earlier in the piece quoted below, he gave a great answer for what to do when someone asks you if they should move from a thing that’s working really well to a new thing that everybody’s talking about.)):
Beyond ensuring that your students are actively learning or creating to meet certain goals or objectives, the key with technology is making sure that your technology use is organized, and that you’re ready to use it. And, as we all know too well, technology will sometimes present a minor glitch. That’s why it’s always important to have Plan B ready to go, possibly an analog version of your scheduled activity, in order to keep the pace of the class and keep the lesson on task. So that’s one of the first steps in successfully integrating technology into your classroom: have a backup plan ready. Without a plan to seamlessly transition from a digitally-infused lesson to an analog lesson, your class will surely descend into chaos.
I certainly think that teachers should always balance careful planning with the ability to move when the circumstances change. If students already understand the material you’ve prepared and paced and planned around, you’d certainly change up the instruction. A fire drill happens, changes get made. Every once in a while, the rock solid wireless in your school may well stutter ((Like, say, in March, when everyone that has a screen seems to be streaming a college basketball game. Or today, when a large software company launches a major software update.)) Occasionally, the website you’re sending folks to will get overloaded, or some other thing will happen. I get that.
But the idea that I should always have a second plan ready to go if the technology fails says, to me at least, that the technology isn’t ready for my classroom, and probably shouldn’t be in my Plan A.
If Plan B’s plenty good, then why bother with the technology in the first place? And if the technology isn’t so reliable, then let’s not rely on it.
Focus on the purpose of your activity in Plan A before you worry about anything else, technology included. If you know the purposeful way you want to spend students’ time, you can make a Plan B, C or any other iteration on the fly without too much trouble.
Said another way – experimenting is fine for plenty of things, but if something just HAS to work, and is likely not to, don’t invest time and effort into giving it a whirl with a class full of students. Their time, as well as yours, is better spent on other stuff.