When it comes to technology, plan for failure

Despite best intentions and preparation, school technology integrations never go exactly as planned.

You’ve heard the horror stories—the large urban school district that bungles its multimillion-dollar 1:1 laptop initiative, the small rural district that invests in technology, but doesn’t have the network speed to deliver online learning.

Whether you’re introducing a new online curriculum or outfitting classrooms with rolling computer labs, problems will happen eventually. What matters is how you react, writes David Guerin, principal of Bolivar High School in Bolivar, Mo., on his blog.

“If you get frustrated every time you have a problem with technology,” Guerin writes, “you’re either going to be frustrated all the time, or you’ll just give up…So make up your mind before you start that technology failure is possible and prepare for how you will respond when it doesn’t work right.”

Easier said than done? Guerin outlines a few strategies to prepare for failure in your ed-tech integration:

Expect the worst
There’s a snowball’s chance that everything goes according to plan. That’s why you need to plan for the worst. Before you integrate a new technology in your school or district, make sure you’ve thought through the possible pitfalls and developed fail-safes and workarounds to protect sensitive information and keep things moving.

Become an expert
Technology continues to play an increasingly vital role in classroom education. Yet, many educators still don’t have even a passable level of expertise. To survive in today’s always-on, digital world, educators must become masters of classroom technology.

Prepare your community
Your next technology integration will fail spectacularly if the changes you decide to make catch your community by surprise. Before you undertake any new technology initiatives, prepare teachers, parents, students, and other community members for the changes you are about to make. By warning them to expect a rough patch here or there, you can more effectively manage expectations and limit unnecessary disruptions.

Don’t apologize
Writes Guerin: “Usually tech failures just happen and aren’t anyone’s fault. It’s Murphy’s Law, right? If it’s not your fault, don’t apologize to your students for the problem.” That goes for the rest of your school community. Assuming you followed the previous step, your community will be prepared for problems. Don’t run from the first sign of trouble. Make sure your community understands what’s going on and knows what to expect next.

Use failures as learning experiences
The best educators have a knack for turning even the most challenging situations into opportunities for learning. Is there a better way to teach perseverance than  to overcome a real-world failure in the classroom? Before integrating new technology in your schools, ask for input from your students and their parents. Let them help you plan. And, when that inevitable technology “issue” does crop up, invite them to help as you test and develop solutions.

As a new school year heats up, are you integrating new technology in your schools? Have you anticipated the inevitability of failure? You should.

Introducing new classroom innovations in your school this year? Invite students and community members to develop a plan for what to do when things go wrong.

Author: Todd Kominiak

Todd Kominiak is Managing Editor of TrustED.

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