#EdTech Struggles - And Solutions!

If you know me well, and my wife will actually vouch for me on this, you know that I don't get mad very easily. In fact, Angela used to (jokingly) get mad at me because I would never get mad at her. Teaching for 5 years has helped develop this in me - if you get upset at every mishap or moment of rude, teenage behavior, you'll be mad your entire career. Some teachers seem like they are always mad.

I don't ever want that to become me. 

One of the reasons why some teachers stay away from technology in their classrooms is because of the incredible number of things that could go wrong! And it's a valid concern - on any given day, a laptop could break, a student could come in without their device charged, a web server could have crashed or any other number of things that you cannot control.

The other day I tried to have my class watch a live STEM in 30 webinar from the National Air and Space Museum.  The plan was relatively simple:
  • Connect to a live feed of the webinar during my 3rd hour class and record video using a screengrab. Simple enough. 
  • Quickly upload the video to YouTube before 4th, 5th and 7th hours so that each class could watch the video. 
  • Host a Today's Meet back-channel discussion. This kind of discussion allows students to have conversations while something else is going on. We all get bored during videos at times. A back-channel can help catch some of the kids who don't learn well visually and keep them engaged. 
First, the district filter blocked the streaming video site that the National Air and Space Museum was using. Easy enough - I just needed our wonderful tech wonder-woman, Colleen, to come down to my class and log in with her username and that would be overridden. What we didn't plan on was for my desktop to need about 8 minutes to log out of my user screen and log back into hers! We talked and neither of us know why it took that long, but it did. There goes the first 10 minutes of the live webinar.

Next, to solve the first issue I tried to connect to my mobile hotspot, which wouldn't have the school filter anyways. It would use some of my data, but it was only 30 minutes, so whatever! For the only time in my memory, my laptop would not connect to my hotspot! Now I'm feeling cursed.

We finally get logged in with Colleen's information so that she can bypass the filter. The webinar gets on the screen about 10 minutes in, so we still have about 20 minutes of live webinar and Today's Meet back-channel. This isn't perfect, but it's going and it's a learning experience. I have the screen recording and all appears on track for the rest of the day.

The webinar ends and I hit save.

I then see the most dreaded image at the top of the video recording software that one can see:

At this point, I'm ready to throw my desktop out the window, order some pizzas and call it a day! I'm done! I'm angry; I'm flustered; the kids are acting great, but I feel like they're all looking at me thinking what an idiot

One of the many skills teachers have to develop is a short memory. Third hour ended, I took the 5-minute passing period to take a lap around the hall and relax, 4th hour began and I had to make something up on the fly. 

I went to YouTube and searched for a WWI documentary on flying, which was the topic of the STEM in 30 webinar. I found one that was from a source that I had used before. My next class entered and I told them all about my terrible morning in what I can only describe as a 3-minute melodrama! 

This melodrama accomplished two important things. First, it calmed me down. I was making a joke of my morning, but I was also getting some real frustration off of my chest. I was yelling, but not at anyone. The yelling just made the kids laugh a little at me. Second, and probably more important in the long term, is I tried to make the whole thing a learning experience. Once I got the kids laughing a little bit about my follies, I got a bit more serious and talked about how my entire plan had crashed and burned. I talked about my thought process for figuring out what to do next. I compared it to their 20 Time Passion Projects and reminded them that some of them would have similar feelings at some point during their projects. 

And then I started the documentary and began the Today's Meet with them. Fourth hour went great. Fifth hour went great. Seventh hour went great. The students were engaged, some more in the documentary and some more in the Today's Meet, but they were engaged. You can scroll through the finished product below:

The lesson here is to keep calm, keep pushing and keep trying. You may not end up with the polished off, wonderful end result that you envisioned. You could end up with something even better.

Thanks for reading this blog! I hope you'll consider taking a moment to comment below and turn this into a conversation. Whether you are an educator or not, we have all had common experiences with education both good and bad. I want to hear what you think! 

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