When the author and her middle school students became the first to receive laptops via a tech levy, they experienced a long transition period of adjustment. They were “guinea pigs” and along with that came the first-hand growing pains of classroom technology immersion. In the excitement of the unprecedented opportunity to receive laptops, no one anticipated the ensuing struggles, challenges or success stories the students and staff would encounter. While the question of student “access” seemed to be resolved, the unforeseen levels of frustration with student training, staff development time and people “disconnect” soon became apparent. The author found that there was little time to assess the negative impacts of the new technology. Surveillance during class time and ensuring the students weren’t emailing, texting or blogging, overrode teaching the lesson itself. Varying levels of student comfort and discomfort with technology became apparent. Face-to-face interactions between students and teacher became noticeably less frequent.
The situation was as if they were given a game and told to make up the rules as they went along, but weren’t given enough time to do this.
Question 1: Being aware of some of the challenges, would I be prepared if presented the same opportunity as the author? I don’t know how it would be possible to avoid many of the pitfalls experienced by the author. It seems this “opportunity” is still in its infancy, with brand new challenges most haven’t experienced or hashed through. Before reading this article, I had already considered what it might be like to have laptops for all and would never have been able to foresee the whole downside. One I had previously considered was the loss of face-to-face interaction with one another. As we now see in our homes and with kids who already have cell phones, video games and PCs, it has become easy for them to fall into communicating electronically rather than face-to-face. Technology has made communication more broad, but far less personal. There is also the lack of time staff needs to address and troubleshoot any new system. Teachers and school staff already face a time shortage, so introducing a full-blown, head-on tech immersion isn’t realistic. A gradual introduction of technology, rather than all at once seems more realistic and plausible.
Question 2: Should the students have been included in the tech immersion planning? Absolutely! They are equally as affected as the staff. While the staff would have felt privileged and excited at this tech opportunity, they soon felt apprehension and were overwhelmed at all of the unforeseen struggles. The students, most of whom were also probably excited at this new tech opportunity, would have appreciated and respected the chance to be included in part of the decision-making processes.