Too much imagination can be a killer. I always over-think when we implement a new piece of technology into our classroom. What if it doesn't work? How do we connect it to our exploration? Did we waste our money? Is it just sitting on the shelf? Worries like these are what keep you from trying new things and adopting new tech. Our experience is that after an initial burst of enthusiasm for the new equipment, there's an awkward stage in which we try to graft it to our program, and finally, it becomes a regular tool for student learning. It's almost always the same progression, so why worry? It all works out in the end.
When we first bought a set of iPod touches, the kids went crazy with them. We were using Tony Vincent's blog on 'Learning in Hand', downloading all kinds of apps, struggling with printers and moving files, and generally sifting through what works and what doesn't. Then, after all of the processes and procedures had been mostly worked out, they just became a natural tool in the kids' hands. No longer a flashy, dazzly, shouty new toy, the iPod Touch became a work-a-day communication tool. Still fun, but more functional.
Next, we did some fundraising and purchased ten iPads. These went through an almost identical progression from newfangled toy to functional workhorse. The sizzle dies down, people relax, and the real learning-by-doing begins. I think it's always been the same. I can remember my first calculator being about the size and weight of a brick and spending hours transfixed by it's magical calculation power. How many hours of my life did I spend exploring computers when new innovations came along? Now, the laptop is a household appliance, almost as common as a toaster.
I'll never forget my first year with a Smartboard. The kids went crazy with all the buttons, made the most ridiculous flashy projects just for the pure joy of trying all the gee-whiz features, and predictably, settled down and used it for the wonderful tool that it is. Learning curves are steep when implementing new tech, but the effort is always worth it. Twenty-first century learners become adept at exploring features and fearlessly pushing buttons. My students can't wait to try new equipment and surprise me with the innovative ways they find to implement it into their project work. Boldly go, I say.
Peter Douglas is a Grade 4/5 classroom teacher.