How to Trickle Tech Into Your Tech-Resistant School

Every few years, there’s a new set of teaching must-haves that the powers that be say are effective for literacy, emotional health, numeracy, or critical thinking.

Nowadays, the new new thing is technology. And it’s no longer just about Powerpoint slides or showing clips of films to illuminate parts of books. Teachers (like myself) use computer programming, web searches, animations, game design, and even students’ smartphones to help strengthen student interest and deepen student learning.

As someone who has always been interested in technology, the search for ways to incorporate technology into the classroom comes naturally to me. I’m always looking for new tech tools to use in my own life, and from time to time, they trickle into my classes. I recognize that the world we live in is a media-focused world, and the more I can bring that world into my classroom, the more engaged students will be. More importantly, those students who don’t pass required tests will end the school year with some new technological knowledge they can use outside the school building.

But we all know some technophobes.

These are people who are perfectly comfortable using pen and paper to write notes and expect kids to do the same. These are folks who are not comfortable with technology themselves and so like to behave as if it doesn’t exist. These are folks who may be functioning just fine with a flip phone, so don’t even know what possibilities are out there.

These “tough sell” folks are the ones you need to convert first. Here’s how I did it:

1. Incorporate easy-to-use tools into basic school activities. Build them if you have to. Make it easy for others to use, even with no technical knowledge.

I teamed up with the school’s dean team to create a Google form that teachers could use to report misbehavior. I designed the form, showed the deans how to send the form out to everyone, and now our school’s digital discipline form is used schoolwide to report student misbehavior. It’s easy to use and decreases paper. Win win!

Here’s how to do it (text)

Here’s how to do it (video)

2. Use tech to solve problems at the school. Do it on your own at first as a pilot, then roll it out to allies. When the principal sees that you are doing good work, volunteer to turn-key training to the school.

I’m in the process of doing this with Remind. I work at a small high school in New York City. Because we don’t have regular assemblies, and announcements go out once per week on a one-page document, and I only teach the 11th grade, it can be difficult to share timely information with students and families I don’t see regularly.

I use Remind to stay in touch with students in my mullti-grade, after-school technology club and the yearbook club. I also use the app to announce information to students on the school yearbook and the school newspaper. It works. Students get my announcements sent directly to their phones. This solves the big problem of communication for an overscheduled teacher like myself.

Because it’s been so successful, I plan to recruit a few other teachers at my school to use it, as well. Start small, show success, then grow.

3. Use your understanding of tech to solve MONEY problems.

In a time of shrinking budgets, nothing speaks to a principal like saving money. I changed our yearbook company from the grandaddy of all yearbook companies, Jostens, to first Treering, and then Picaboo.

An article in Salon explains it better than I can:

Here’s how the traditional yearbook business works: When big yearbook providers sign up with a school, they ask the school to predict how many books it will need for the year. These estimates are due months before graduation. Because class sizes and demographics shift from year to year—and because some kids have stopped buying yearbooks altogether, thanks perhaps to Facebook—yearbook advisers don’t have much to go on when they’re making their guesses.

For schools and for parents, there are big costs to guessing wrong. If a school orders too few yearbooks, some kids who want a book will go without. That’s why schools tend to err on the side of guessing high—and then get stuck with unsold yearbooks, and a huge bill to the yearbook company. To cover costs of overprinting, some schools add an extra fee to the yearbooks—$10 or $20 per copy that you, the parent, must pay. Even so, lots of schools end up in hock to their yearbook providers.

Because of my background working with the printing industry, I was well-aware of the growing popularity of print-on-demand, which is cheaper and requires no estimating and overbuying of books. You buy what you need and ONLY what you need. My school went from regularly losing up to $2000 a year on yearbooks, to ending the year in the black, every year.

Note that I’m not talking about super high-tech stuff here. I’m not suggesting that you convince your school to buy a whole bunch of new technology. Instead, look for small, easy technologies that will solve problems at your school. Slowly, others will come around.

SOURCES:

Manjoo, Farhad. “The School Yearbook Business Is a Scandal. Here’s How to Fix It.” Slate. Slate.com, 28 May 2013. Web. 31 May 2015. .

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