Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Technology Anecdote

A student sets up a computer for a slideware presentation, fiddles a bit, then looks at me in confusion--the display projected on the screen is different from what he sees on his screen. I sigh and head to the front, trying to quell the rising frustration that the students don’t know how to handle the technology (thinly veiling defensiveness about my own lack of competence) and worry about what this delay is doing to my carefully planned presentation schedule. 

Stop! Rewind! That is NOT what happened this time! This time, with the heady feeling of impersonating a tech-savvy person, I stepped to the front of the room and modeled for the entire class what to do. 

It was a road getting to this point. For years, I’ve just hoped there was someone more knowledgeable than me in the room when it happened. Usually there was. But he clicked through the process so fast I could never really follow what he was doing. Recently, though, I was at least picking up on the phrase “mirror images.” A month or so ago, I was clearing out of a room where another teacher was setting up and having this problem. I poked around on her computer a little bit, then said, “You’ll have to find a tech person and tell him you need to do that mirroring thing.” 

In preparation for this round of student presentations, my kids were practicing in front of small groups, scattered around the school in classrooms that were empty that period. As I circulated from room to room, I came across one student who was having this same problem--what the projector was showing was not what was on his computer display. I said, “That’s why we do these practice presentations! Now let’s figure this out...I know it has something to do with mirroring images. Where would that be...?” He said, “Oh! I think it’s in systems preferences.” From there we decided it must be “display.” We got stuck there for a while, but finally found the tab with the mirroring option. Eureka! A team effort. 

And now I’ve got it. The next time a student had the problem, I knew what to do. Except one time when I got to the display window, there were only 2 tabs, not 3. Aargh. I hate when I figure out the technology just in time for it to evolve beyond me. I’ll have to grab an IT guy when I get back to school after break and ask about that. 

But this little incident reminded that I have learned a number of things about technology in 2013:
  1. Modeling learning and use of technology for the students. I’ve taken to calling attention to my use of technology (“Let’s look that word up right here in my desktop dictionary”), talking through my decisions and steps (“I’m just going to hit the ‘AV mute’ button right here rather than turning the projector off, so it won’t take 2 minutes to turn back on”), showing students on the projector (no longer viewing these presentation glitches as interruptions but as learning and teaching opportunities).
  2. Learning takes practice. How many times had I seen someone do that? Heard it explained? But finally I had to figure it out myself. Another tech thing I’m relearning this vacation is uploading videos to YouTube--something I first did last June (see my blog on that), but had to really go back almost to square one to figure out again. 
  3. I can learn to master digital technologies!
  4. Just do it. I have gained a little more confidence that in poking around, I can figure things out, and that most of the students really don’t know so much more than me--at least about academic and professional use of technology.

So to all you other digital immigrants out there--embrace the challenge! Growth does come. After all, it’s what we ask of our students every day. Learn, model, teach. All the time.

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