One of my favorite lines comes from Ed Harris as Gene Kranz, the NASA flight director. In a discussion with frustrated engineers he says: "I want this mark all the way back to Earth with time to spare. We've never lost an American in space, we're sure as hell not gonna lose one on my watch. Failure is not an option!" This line really helps keep perspective when the metaphorical trip to the moon doesn't work out.
This may seem kind of dramatic, considering I'm trying to help students understand fractions and not save their lives in an aimless spacecraft, but the long-term stakes can be as high. One thing I love about our District is the access to technology in so many classrooms. I have been helping teachers in my schools to use the tools they have to most effectively reach their students. The place I'm starting is with whole class instruction. I've become an advocate of abandoning the Document Camera in favor for the iPad if it is available. I do have to help the teachers see all the parts they have available on their ship and put them on the table, so to speak. I'm helping them to see how these parts can fit together to create an engaging lesson and improve their delivery and opportunities to respond.
The teachers have the equipment, they just need some help putting it together to bring the lesson home. In an recent inservice at one of my elementary schools, I showed the teachers how to display their iPads on the computer using a program called Reflector. They can plug their computer into the projector (a practice they've used for a while) and have their iPad displayed. The teachers were very happy to see how much more they could get out of equipment they already had in their classroom. The implications for them were great. It solved a seemingly impossible logistical problem of being tethered to the document camera or the location of the VGA port in the wall. They can now solicit more participation from students and be WITH them more as they learn.
Besides an opportunity to talk about Apollo 13 in a blog post, something I've always wanted to do, I wanted to share the excitement teachers experience when we see what's possible. This logistical adaptation helps answer the question they're asking, "What can this fancy piece of equipment that has just made me feel guilty for not using it fully, do for me?" Technology has the power to solve seemingly impossible logistical problems, increase enthusiasm for learning, and give students more opportunity to engage. That being said, technology can't solve all the problems encountered in education today. Just as the Apollo 13 was lost even though it had the equipment that could save the astronauts inside, technology is of no use in a classroom where the teacher doesn't know how to use it. It is our responsibility to find ways to solve problems, and technology can be the air filter that can reduce the CO2 levels when attached with duct tape. On its own, it's just a filter that doesn't fit the compartment- with some clever and resourceful engineering it was maneuvered into an improvised tool that saved the lives of the men inside the spacecraft.
My experience as a teacher has taught me that I'm more effective when I'm excited about something new I've learned. I felt that energy as I was working with my teachers and showing them some ways they can have the "power" to bring their lessons home with time to spare!