How to cope with poor technology or support

Let’s face it, not everyone teaches or works in a school district that has invested heavily in technology or the faculty support to use it. There are a lot of strategies teachers can use to continue to create a rich environment for learning. Some ideas:

1. Invite students to bring their own technology (BYOT). Many students have smartphones, tablets and laptops that may be used for browsing, writing, or to complete forms and documents.  Leverage this with small groups and student creativity. If there is a way, they will find it.

2. No wireless? If you have ethernet connections, but no way to go wireless, consider investing your own money, classroom budget money, or PTA funds in a small wireless router. This would make a tech-friendly classroom that would help with BYOT.  You may also have the ability on some desktop computers to create a small wireless hotspot just by clicking on “internet sharing.” In a pinch, some students may have mobile hotspots on their phones.

3. Hoard technology. This may raise a few eyebrows, but one strategy to pushing technology in your school and classroom is to hoard what is there. Everyone sharing one lab or one laptop cart? Make sure it never sits unused. Make sure everyone on staff is fighting over what is there. Direct controversy to administration. Suggest to students that they should demand to be using computers more often in their classes. This sort of strife is great for positive change.

4.  Pursue grants.  Ask for donations through local businesses. Call successful former students. It doesn’t need to be 30 iPads. Start with one. Let students check it out.

5. Be disruptive. Put in for tech conferences, requisition equipment you have no intention of being approved for. Get others on your side. Talk to parents. In almost every case, a school with poor technology or support struggles because of a conscious choice to invest in other areas deemed more important. You need to make sure people know how important it is to have students operate in an environment with current technology.

6. Use free online tools. If there is an internet connection, students have access to Google Docs, Wikipedia, Maps, etc. There are SO many great web 2.0 applications that are free to use! Send information on great apps home with students.

7. Team-teach! If there is a computer applications class that clogs up the lab for others, offer to team-teach with the computers teacher. Perhaps you can have those students for a few days in your room learning how to design a resume or how to storyboard a website while the computer teacher explores helpful sites or tools with your students.

8. Finally…the most effective way to improve technology at your school: ASK! Try to never get into assuming the answer would be no. In many cases, someone with a clear plan as to how to use a tool or technology will get to pilot it. If there is no one asking, there is no reason to invest in it. If you get a no, work on a clearer plan, and ask again in 6 months. Ask what it would take to get it.

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