I feel fortunate to be part of a school division whose leadership understands the need to provide teachers with full access to Web 2.0 tools when it comes to engaging their learners. For a number of years now this “Responsible” Use Agreement has been in place, paving the way for teachers to use their discretion when integrating technology into their practice. Twitter, Skype, eMail, Facebook, Kidblog, WordPress, Glogster, Edmodo, Voicethread, Youtube, and Instagram are just a few of the engaging platforms I have witnessed being utilized by teachers and their students. I would say we’re part of a growing number of jurisdictions who are realizing this and are beginning to take a much more liberal approach to policy creation around student use of technology in their schools. This is great news because if we want our teachers to be trying new and more engaging approaches to teaching, the last thing we should be doing is restricting them from using these engaging tools.
There is, however, one big problem with all of this. It’s the elephant in the room. It’s that ?#@*&%! bandwidth.
It appears that there has been such a spike in internet use in recent months that the infrastructure to handle the heavy traffic is simply insufficient. My school of 400 students has as many as 200 devices running at any given time throughout the day. Unfortunately, teachers and students often sit in frustration, waiting for them to boot up or connect. This doesn’t even count student owned devices, which are increasing in number every day. At times, teachers forego the use of netbooks or iPads (along with the engaging activity) for this very reason. And I know this isn’t just happening at my school or in my jurisdiction. I’ve heard similar stories across my PLN.
So this gets me thinking of all the things that are getting in the way of transforming education. They range from money and time to oversized curriculums and teacher mindset. Then, when someone is willing to take the risk and try something new it won’t work. I know its only one piece of the puzzle, and that technology is not the most important aspect of 21st century learning, but if we want our teachers to see its value, it has to work - and work well.
I think school divisions should make a serious committment to put in place the best possible infrastructure to support the use of technology in schools. Then I bet our teachers will make a serious committment to using it to engage their students.