In preparing our students for 21st century work and life, we, as educators, must understand and use 21st century technology in our classroom instruction. When provided and implemented with clarity and thoughtfulness, technology can turn our classrooms into amazing sites of learning. When implemented without this thought or clarity, our classrooms become places of confusion, frustration, and even disappointment, for educators and students alike. The stories that follow provide a glimpse into the struggles experienced by educators in the classroom and offer a look at what our students see and experience every day as educators work to make their lessons meaningful, creative, and quite simply, available on the technology at hand!
Classroom and Information Technology
Computer design classes NEED computer design software
I teach graphics and photography. My curriculum is designed around the programs Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Unfortunately, every year when I return in the fall, my computer lab is not set up with the programs I need. Since the move to the cloud-based “Adobe Creative Cloud”, not even my school provided laptop has the program installed. Since new features are constantly being added, those days before students arrive are crucial for me to get in to the Adobe programs and insure my lessons are still current. But no! I don’t have access. So I put in an E-ticket for my computer lab, and one for my laptop. And wait...and wait. I put in more e-tickets. I type in all caps. I call. I email. The last two years, despite my best efforts, it hasn’t been until the second week of school that I have all of the programs installed and running. Since students are signed up for a class called “Adobe Photoshop”, it puts me in an embarrassing situation when I spend two weeks saying “maybe tomorrow”. This is just absurd. Next year I plan on sending an invitation to the IT chiefs, the superintendent and the school board and see if they can help deliver my two weeks of “icebreaker activities” while the students who came back eager to learn patiently wait for the software tools they needed. I certainly hope it doesn’t come to that. Maybe with the 9 days staff are here before Labor Day next year IT can figure it out.
Email to IT on March 31st Record Keeping Day
I am working on getting all my grades in, because today is Record Keeping Day. Why am I getting updates pushed out from the software center that are going to automatically shutdown and restart my computer to complete the installation of applications? It is very disruptive to teachers who are trying to work. Seems like there are better times to this. Please consider us teachers when these updates are planned!
Limiting resources leads to limiting the ability of educators to provide instruction
Why do we have to beg for the tools we need to do our jobs? I am a TOSA. My job requires me to use a PC for Discovery access. However, in the summer, I teach a class. I have many instructional videos of myself explaining math problems. These videos and other curriculum that I have developed only work on a MAC. This is how I adapt and differentiate instruction to my students' needs. However, when I asked for a MAC to teach my class, I was told that I already made my choice of computers, and I couldn't have another one. This is like telling a cook that you already chose a butcher knife, you can't have a paring knife, too. Surely there is a MAC laptop sitting unused somewhere in MPS that I could use for the summer. Doesn't technology exist to support instruction?
Limiting access to our future educators does not create a realistic experience.
Imagine an intern at a hospital not being given access to patient data, surgical tools, or the ability to prescribe treatment. Would a medical licensing board be quick to offer a license to practice medicine without having performed the essential functions of a physician during their internship? The hypothetical situation is, unfortunately, not so hypothetical when it comes to educator interns. I am currently a cooperating teacher for a student teacher from Augsburg University. As the cooperating teacher. I am tasked with providing my student teacher with the most realistic teaching experience possible while also serving as a safety net to the student teacher should they stumble. The district’s current governance policies do NOT provide student teachers sign-in credentials and therefore profoundly limit the student teachers’ duties. To be clear, student teachers are not given a username and password of their own. Additionally, student teachers are not provided with laptops to be used during their internship. Consider the implications: No access to district applications Attendance Gradebook Illuminate Copy Machine Google Classroom E-mail Credentials including Receiving of confidential IEP, 504 and Emergency Health Plans Emergency Notifications from district communicitons department and school administration Responding to parent and student e-mails Administrative Access to classroom webpages such as: assignments.html No access to the software needed for writing lessons and presenting. Promethean ActivInspire The Geometer’s Sketchpad Texas Instrument’s TI-Smartview Publisher’s Test/Worksheet Generators Without a district laptop there is no access to printers Just how realistic is the student teaching experience if all of the resources listed above are removed from the student teacher’s list of duties? The job of a teacher is so much more than the conveyance of information into the heads of the students. A big part of the student teaching experience is to learn how to organize one’s time in order to maintain a balance between one’s personal life and one’s professional life while producing lessons, delivering lessons, assessing learning, and contacting and parents. The Minneapolis Public Schools policy of denying access to the tools and resources needed to do these jobs severely limits the tasks a student teacher can perform and therefore hinders student teachers from learning all that is expected of a teacher. The district’s policy leaves the cooperating teachers with a dilemma. Do we provide the student teacher with our ID badge so that they can make copies? Do cooperating teachers provide the student teacher with with our username and password so that they can take attendance, enter grades, etc.? Do I hand the computer over to the student teacher so they can plan lessons that can be shown on the classroom’s Promethean Board? With my user name and password, the student teacher has access to the data in my personnel file. The student teacher could change the amount of tax exemptions on my W-2 form. The student teacher has access to all of my e-mails including those sent to their university supervisors as well as confidential student information that the student teacher should not have access. The district’s restrictions leave the cooperating teachers vulnerable. In my 33 years of teaching in the Minneapolis Public Schools, I have seen the dramatic transformation from dittos and chalkboards to PDFs and flipcharts. Unfortunately, our district’s policies have not kept up in how we think about the needs of our interns. MPS must do better.
A Technologically Frustrated High School Math and Co-operating Teacher
Lack of access limits aspiring educators
Please send this note to whomever has the power to change the practice of not giving student teachers access to the Gradebook Portal, Google Classroom through the MPS system, etc. Without official student teacher login access, I cannot take attendance for any class periods on my own. I cannot create and enter grades in Gradebook for the homework, classwork and assessments I have created, nor am I able to see what students are English Language Learners or have IEPs or 504 plans. Additionally, I am unable to see student parent/guardian information, and it makes it that more difficult to contact parents or guardians about their student(s)' progress. It is an impactful hindrance to be unable to do these things, as I either need to always borrow my cooperating teacher's computer- which inconveniences them and the class-, or I am unable to do it all, which is a hindrance to my student teaching, my currents students, and to my future students who will be impacted my lack of practice and experience in current educational system practices. This is especially true as other districts, but not Minneapolis, give their student teachers personal log-ins to fully participate as student teachers. Please consider changing this outdated, inconvenient practice. Thank you. Sincerely, a Frustrated Student Teacher