Friday, December 04, 2015

When the Tech Doesn't Take

I was exiled to the trailers for at least a decade. Technology came, and technology went. There were rolling tables filled with laptops. There were other rolling tables full of ipads. There were little projectors that allowed you to show images from your computer. There were smartboards. There were manipulatives and there were workshops that taught me how to use all of the above.

Of course, in the trailer, there were four walls (most of the time) and a blackboard. At some point, while everyone else had smartboards, they wheeled in a Dell laptop with a projector. It was secured to the wall with a chain that made it look like something out of The Cask of Amontillado. It frightened me. And it had no speakers. I actually bought a set somewhere, and used it to show video from time to time.

In our school, the principal took a dim view of smartboards, as he'd grown weary of replacing lightbulbs at $400 a pop. So he started taking them down and replacing them with LED screens. Shortly thereafter, a smartboard was installed in the trailer. It was pretty imposing and impressive looking. Of course no one bothered to connect it to a computer, so as impressive as it looked, it was really more of a dumb board than a smartboard.

A little over a year ago, my AP kicked me out of the trailer. Sure, I'd been kicked out of worse places. But one good thing was that my new classroom also had a non-functioning smartboard, so I kind of felt at home. I took to hanging my jacket on it every day and pointing out to both the students and my supervisor that I was making use of the technology. I demanded credit for it on my observations, but you know how unreasonable supervisors can be.

But then the principal went and installed the LED screen in my room. Not only that, but he attached it to a computer that actually worked, a Mac no less. I was really up against it. I had our twenty-something Chinese teacher explain to me what to do. She was very thorough. Now I've got PowerPoints to accompany my lessons. They're really great for vocabulary. I'm not much of an artist, but I can find pretty much anything in Google Images.

The thing is, though, that once you get used to this, it's hard to do without it. Doubtless the Mac Mini in my classroom is equipped with Mini Memory too. Sometimes my PowerPoints freeze and die. When that happens I usually have to restart the machine. I pull my thumb drive out of the Mini and use my Macbook Air to display images. My computer, being non-DOE, seems to work all the time with no issue whatsoever.

Sometimes the Mac restarts before I finish, and I'm able to continue using the large display. Sometimes it doesn't, and I walk around with my 13-inch screen like an elementary teacher showing children pictures from The Cat in the Hat. But now that I've started with this stuff, it's really hard to turn around. I used to explain words and draw pictures. Sometimes I'd hear the words repeated in various languages I didn't want to hear in my English class. But pictures are the best.

When young teachers would complain to me about the tech crapping out, I used to think how lucky I was to not depend upon it at all. Now I understand their complaints and have pretty much the same ones.

I can't tell whether I'm moving forward or backward.
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