Mar 19, 2010

Barriers to Technology Integration - Hello! It's NOT always the teacher: One "classroom for the future" teacher's recent story about barriers to technology integration in her high school history class

If you work in education, you probably heard the term, "21st Century Schools". All teachers must become skillful integrators of technology and pedagogy, and this will be the solution to cure all of public education's ills, right?!

Many teachers DO embrace technology, but find that despite the technological revolution, there are many barriers to moving forward.

The link below is to a 2009 thesis written by Barbara J. Wismer, a teacher who devoted much of her her life, 24/7, as a Classroom for the Future teacher while working on her Master of Education degree. Her classroom was provided with a set of laptops, an interactive whiteboard, an LCD projector, a video camera, a digital camera, and an assortment of applications.  In her thesis, Ms. Wismer describes numerous barriers that she faced nearly every day during her study.  These are barriers that hold true throughout many schools in the U.S.  Ms. Wismer provides a personal description of her experiences, a breath of fresh air when compared with most academic papers that have crossed my path:

Wired Students, Motivated Learners:  The Effects of Classrooms for the Future Technology on Student Motivation and Achievement

Here are a few examples from the "Problems and Shortcomings" section of the thesis (p. 89-96):

"The “right click” function is disabled (it is also disabled for teachers, too). This made the copying and pasting of pictures and information more difficult."


"Flash drives (USB saving devices) are the biggest gripe among teachers in my district. We are not allowed to insert a flash drive into a school computer; it can result in immediate dismissal. The technology department places such a restriction (the staff has all the same restrictions as students) on us out of fear that someone will bring in a virus or operating system that could compromise our school district’s system. It is frustrating to be treated like we are children. There is constant uproar in the district to treat the teachers like adults and respect the decisions we make – like not abusing the right to use a flash drive. Many of the saving issues that I brought up previously could be avoided with the permission to use a flash drive."


"Internet connection and network connection issues plagued us the entire semester. There were some days when half of the class would lose their connection and any unsaved work would be lost."


"By why is Google Images blocked? Why are all blogs (even educational ones) blocked? Why can I not download a video from United Streaming or a flipchart from Promethean Planet? We were told that if we wanted any of those things downloaded, we were to provide a list to the technology department. I did that and was told that I could download them myself at home and then save them to a CD-ROM and bring them in to use."


"The only complaint that I would have is that about half of the teachers that have the equipment actually use it. The other half just lets the equipment sit in a closet. I have found that those teachers only signed up to be part of the Classrooms for the Future program to have a laptop cart permanently in their room."


I had no idea that teachers could be restricted from access to the right-click functions of their mice at work, and could be fired for inserting a flash drive into a school's computer!   Both restrictions had a negative impact on Ms. Wisner's ability to do her job with efficiency.


There is a long road ahead.


RELATED


21st Century Tech for 21st Century Schools
(Mark Prensky, Edutopia)
Classroom for The Future
Partnership for 21st Century Skills
National Educational Technology Plan 2010
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