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I promised myself this school year that I would move forward full speed ahead into the 21st century, use technology to provide students with a wider audience than their teacher and parents, and find ways to present content that was both meaningful and relevant. I have not gone back on this promise, but neither do I feel like I’ve moved as much as possible. Will Richardson might call this a “Yeah, but…” post, and it’s a reality that many teachers, with very good intentions, find themselves mired in.

Just some examples…
• iBook mobile lab: keys missing, dead batteries that no longer hold charge, newest iBook is 5 years old, oldest is 7
• 6 mac minis to be shared among 40 students in an open classroom, only 5 actually working (did I mention that they have different versions of various software and just recently had the same OS installed?)
• 1 video camera (yay! this one works! but keep in mind that the equipment is shared among the grade level — 4 classes, 80 students)
• 2 still shot cameras (again shared among the grade level)
• A school lab with 10 eMacs and 10 mini-macs which have been pulled from various classrooms who are awaiting updates

All this in a school whose mission is to “prepare children for the 21st century.”

I’m not bashing my school. Really. I’m not. (totally sans sarcasm here) There are many reasons why technology is not at the top of a school’s priorities. The pie is limited, and everyone wants their fair share. Truly, at this point in my life, there is no where else I’d rather work. Part of the reason I love this school is that teachers are encouraged to dream big, to be innovative, to teach in ways that honor each child. And yet, when it takes the students 15 minutes to log into their wikispace because supposedly its been un-blocked (interject sarcasm here), but they get stuck in a vicious loop of logins and DOE error messages, I just want to scream. Then they finally get to start a post, only to have to logout because our lab time is up. In the meantime, the other half of the students haven’t even touched the keyboard…again…

So I know all the pat answers.
“Put the computers in a learning center rotation.”
“Make a schedule.”
“Connect the computer to a projector.”
“Teach the students typing skills so they get done more quickly.”
“Assign the students roles (i.e. spell checker, typer, reader) to facilitate sharing of the responsibilites.”
“Use the computer as a teaching tool.” (read…the students never touch the computer)

At best, these “solutions” are antiquated answers, no longer relevant in a 21st century curriculum. At worst, the computer is rarely used by the students in any meaningful way. This cannot be allowed to happen in our schools. The machine that is education in the United States cannot continue to churn out students who are prepared for jobs that are either outsourced or no longer exist. Why sort and select students instead of providing opportunities for all to succeed? Why indeed?

In answer to these questions, teachers are making a difference in their own quiet way, in their own individual classrooms. Despite the many technical difficulties, the students plug away, using edublogs and wikispaces, communicating with their teachers via email, creating portfolios to demonstrate learning, and, hopefully, finding an audience to share their thinking and learning.

Maybe, for now, this has to be good enough.

June 2017
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