Teachers are asked to do a lot.
As education practices evolve, teachers are asked to change their approaches in all areas of our profession. From academic delivery to communication and documentation to professional development, we must stay current and innovate to best meet the needs of our learners, their families, and our global community.
Many aspects of this evolution, advancement, and change is out of our control. PLCs, IGDPs, cloud storage, collaborative documents, mobile devices, classroom technology, this committee, that committee, email, text, website - ah! It can all be very overwhelming - and it can be frustrating, too.
If you allow it.
I have seen the power of the positive mental attitude (PMA) payoff in extraordinary ways in teachers in multiple schools with multiple teaching styles. For this post, I will focus on PMA with technology, as this is the foundation of my position within our district.
Let's recall that a stone wheel was a technologic wonder in our not-so-distant past. That tool, made life easier for our early ancestors. Was it a perfect solution? No, it probably failed frequently as the tool broke, got stuck, or was used inappropriately. I imagine that it was frustrating for the user when the wheel they depended upon failed when they needed to use it. To this day we have to replace, repair, and maintain the tires covering the wheels of our car if we hope to get the best out of them.
Interestingly, we don't get upset with the tire or the wheel when it fails. We are frustrated with the inconvenience and personal connection we have to what happened. Immediately, we begin to problem solve and address our issue to correct it and learn.
Overhead projectors were state-of-the-art several decades ago. They, too, were a tool that made life easier for our students and teachers. Was it a perfect solution? No, it probably failed frequently as the bulb burned out, power cut out, or it was used inappropriately. As an overhead user for years at the start of my teaching career, I know it was frustrating when I lost my tool in the middle of a lesson. I quickly learned who had the bulbs, requested a stock for my own room, and learned to troubleshoot my problem and maintain my overhead in good working order.
I did not get upset with the overhead or bulb when it failed. I would be momentarily frustrated with the inconvenience and disruption to the flow of my lesson, but I addressed the issue and carried on professionally. Immediately, I problem-solved and learned how to do it more efficiently.
Today's technology is really, truly, no different. It is a natural progression in technology and societal advancement. Wheels have led to many other advancements over the decades. Overheads led to their own advancements (LCD projectors, SmartBoards, and screen mirroring). And today's tablet technology in the classroom is poised to do the same. And it will - if we have a positive mental attitude about it.
It's easy, although largely unfounded, to be upset at a tech tool when it fails. Like an airplane, millions of unseen and under-appreciated components must work in unison to deliver the experience you desire. All the parts of the device must be functioning correctly, the network must be working, the source files, servers, infrastructure, and software must all be connected, updated, and in sync for everything to work. This is important to remember when your iPad "isn't working." Chances are, your (insert your end-user tech tool here) is not the problem. There is more likely a kink in that ever-increasing length of crucial hose that connects your device with your desired source.
Remember this as we introduce iPads into our classrooms, into our learning, and into our lives on a more regular basis. Like the wheel and the overhead, an iPad is a tool that depends on many other aspects of non-iPad tech to align and work simultaneously to provide that rewarding experience. In a way, that is similar to the individual relationships we have to establish and maintain with the people in our lives. The network matters, people matter, technology advances, we adapt - and we must do so with a positive mental attitude if we hope to remain effective, current, and relevant.
Andrew G. Leiser