When the all the whiz-bang technology lets you down…

May 26, 2011


"OMG!!! FRUSTRATED!!" by Jonathan Robison

You’ve planned your lesson perfectly, made all the right preparations, and then suddenly…

…the power goes out.

…or the data projector overheats.

…or the computer crashes.

It’ll happen sooner or later, most likely sooner. I had all my ducks in a row: assignment sheets printed off, spare earphones handy, research space allocated, notebooks organised. All my students sat with their laptops in front of them, ready to get into their composition assignment – the first one I’d ever set where the use of music creation software was a central requirement.

One by one, my students raised their hands and told me they couldn’t log on. We tried everything I could think of before I gave up and called for the computer tech, but he was busy in another computer lab trying to solve exactly the same problem. One false circuit in something, somewhere, had brought down the whole network.

Resigned, I got my students to pack the notebooks away into the recharge trolley and head back over to the classroom.

Rule No.1: when planning a technology lesson, always have a Plan B.

Rule No.2: memorise Rule No.1.

Since I have access to the musical instruments and a stock of practical lessons up my sleeve, technical hiccups like this aren’t a major drama.

I do feel for those colleagues whose subject matter absolutely depends upon a working computer, like IT Studies and the like. It must be incredibly frustrating when the network isn’t functioning, and I wonder how they manage it. How many Plan B’s can you have for a subject like that?

Those reticent about technology would seem to have a point: why go to all the trouble of decking ourselves out in all this whiz-bang technology when a: talk and chalk does just fine, and b: we can’t rely on all those gadgets and gizmos to work?

However, as Chris Betcher points out, staying up-to-date with technology and use it as fully as possible in the classroom is all part of the job, pretty much whether we like it or not.

Our students see all this technology around them every day: they should be able to expect that their teachers know how to utilise it. Age and the idea that they are “digital natives” whereas we ourselves may not be, doesn’t really make a difference: they go through exactly the same process of learning how to use something as we do. If they do it younger, so what?

Failing technology isn’t an excuse to neglect it: it’s a reason to make sure it gets continual improvement, and to invest in quality professional development so teachers have more strategies and technical know-how for when things go haywire.

In the meantime, have a Plan B. Always.

Creative Commons License
This article by Gabrielle Deschamps is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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About Gabrielle Deschamps

I'm a secondary music teacher, interested in music technology and its integration into classroom pedagogy.

View all posts by Gabrielle Deschamps


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3 Comments on “When the all the whiz-bang technology lets you down…”

  1. Chris Betcher Says:

    Hi Gabrielle,

    Thanks for the linkback. Glad you found my post interesting.

    To your point “why go to all the trouble of decking ourselves out in all this whiz-bang technology when a: talk and chalk does just fine, and b: we can’t rely on all those gadgets and gizmos to work?”

    If I may suggest, it’s because a) talk and chalk does NOT do just fine. That’s the whole point. If we could do with Chalk and Talk what we could do with tech, then we wouldn’t bother with all the expense and complexity that tech inevitably implies. As a musician, the things I can do with technology – multitrack recording in a box, composition and production tools that allow students to create final products that rival what would have required a full recording studio to do even 10 years ago, massive banks of digital effects, synthesisers, drum machines, etc, that can be purchased as an app for under $10… I think you’d have to agree that chalk and talk does not even come CLOSE to comparing to this new world that musicians now have access to.

    and b) I don’t know your exact situation, as all schools are different, but if your school is like most of the ones I’ve been in, your network probably experiences better than 99% uptime. Networks are far mor robust and reliable than most users give them credit for, and most networks are significantly more up than down. Of course, when it does happen to experience a problem in that one time you’d planned to use it, it’s bloody annoying. No argument there, and yes, you should always have a plan B. But try to see it in the big context and realise that just because a user happens to be affected by the 1% of time that the network was down, doesn’t mean they should get put off using technology. That’s just part of life and being flexible and resourceful. Sometimes things don’t always go to plan, and that’s just as true in the non-technology world too.

    So hang in there, don’t be put off, and give it another go. And if your network really IS that unreliable, get them to do something about it! A robust network and computers that work need to be a baseline standard. Teachers need to demand that this stuff works, but they also need to see the big picture and realise that if it works 99% of the time, then they really can’t complain too much about that.




    • Gabrielle Deschamps Says:

      I agree with your suggestion that chalk and talk doesn’t do just fine (these days). I was just pointing out that some do make that first argument, as well as the second one (that technology is inherently unreliable). Also that we shouldn’t be discouraged, as you say.

      Thanks for reading, and for your comments 🙂



  2. Chris Betcher Says:

    They can make that first argument all they like. They’re still wrong. 🙂


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