What’s Your Tech Back-up Plan?

This week was a borderline technological nightmare for some of the staff at my school, me included.  First the bulb on a projector attached to an interactive white board died with only half its estimated hours used.  The teacher had to wait 4 days for a replacement bulb to arrive.  Then the wireless projector in our conference room wouldn’t connect to the principal’s laptop during the annual State of Our School presentation to district leadership.  The next day the library checkout system crashed mid-way through checking out books to a 3rd grade class.  The day after that the entire district Internet crashed while a group of 4th graders were finishing Glogster webpages with me in the computer lab.

Technology is great, but it isn’t 100% reliable.  That’s why it is important to always have a back-up plan.  When planning your technology lessons, take into consideration that sometimes things go wrong.  What if the power goes out? a bulb dies? the internet crashes? the batteries in your remote die?  Every teacher has their own bag of tricks for on the fly lessons and activities.  Have you include back-up technology in yours?  Here are a few questions you should know the answers to.

*Do you know what equipment your school owns, where it is located, and how you can access it?
*Is there a central stash of batteries somewhere in your school or do you need keep your own?
*Do you have a hard copy of web sites or online resources in case the Internet crashes?
*If you have a digital camera in your classroom, do you have quick access to a card reader or download cable?
*Do you have back-up copies of your computer files in case your computer crashes?

What do you have in your technology back-up kit?

All was not lost in my school this week.  Thankfully we keep a few spare projectors around, so our principal had me set one up for her presentation to the superintendent and leadership team.  The teacher whose projector bulb died had chart paper handy that she used while she waited for the new bulb.  In the library, we grabbed a digital camera to photograph students and the barcodes for their books.  The barcodes were scanned later from the photos.  And the Internet crashing provided a great opportunity for me to review the rubric for the 4th grade Glogster pages.

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  1. anne said:

    while i can appreciate the “difficulty” of working without technology in a high-tech school, i want to acknowledge that there are many high-poverty, low-tech public schools like mine who would be grateful to have half of your available technology. we have no projectors except the one in our outdated, winXP computer lab. when that bulb burns out, it is months, not weeks or days before we can afford to replace it. “spare projectors” is a pipe dream for us. digital camera? we teachers use our cell phone cameras and other personal devices to record images and videos. as i tweeted to a friend in response to this post, the cynic/realist in me says that my kids will never be important to the powers-that-be. low tech is a way of life for us. even if we are able to get some minor tech upgrades on our zero (yes, that was ZERO) tech budget through begging and other creative funding tricks, we are still light-years behind the 21st century.

  2. Kathleen Diver said:

    Wow…Anne, I teach in a school where some resources are available, but many of us purchase our own equipment. Our community is a middle level blue collar community. There are schools in our district with higher poverty rates, but because of Title I funding, they have monetary access to more technology than we have. So student poverty is not necessarily the only reason you do not have tech equipment.

    During the last couple of years, I have been amassing technology equipment through grants and give aways sponsored through private and government agencies. Let me give you a couple of concrete examples- Recently I put in a request to Donorschoose.org. I think I was asking for too much, so my project was not adopted. However a mini grant from a local water agency came across my desk and I submitted the Donorschoose project I wrote. I adjusted the grant enough to show how I could use the equipment (5 mini camcorders and a digital camera)to reinforce what I was teaching about California Water issues.

    Another way I got 4 computers into my room was through a connection a friend had with the Department of Defense. They were upgrading their office computers and we put in a request to \adopt\ their cast offs. We ended up getting a total of 12 computers 14 flat screen monitors, a scanner and a laser printer. We split the equipment up and it have been very useful in my classroom for students who do not have online access at home and when we are doing rotating lab activities. I also registered with adoptaclassroom through Office Max. That has gotten me some funding for things like safety goggles and a cloud chamber.

    Earlier this year I also experimented with the idea that the kids could use their cell phones to take pictures of their lab results and send them to me- I got mixed results with that one, and I will have to adjust how I did that to make it more successful.

    I hope you can find some good mini grants out there of your own. Target loves to give to schools in poverty areas. And if you can get a parent to nominate you to Walmart’s program, you could get money from that source. None of this is a cure for what ails us, but if you get enough of these little grants and equipment donations, your classroom would become higher tech. Good Luck.

  3. Gwynn Moore said:

    Great post Shannon. Very mindful that as techie as some schools have become, flexibility and thinking about back up plans are essential to keep students engaged.

  4. Shannon Wentworth said:

    You bring up a good point about the discrepancies in funding and access to resources in schools across the country. We are expected to prepare students for 21st Century jobs and skills, yet we don’t all have equal access to the tools needed to do that.

    As Kathleen mentions, DonorsChoose is a great way to fund technology. There is also DigitalWish.com. If your school receives Title 1 funding there has been money from that set aside specifically for school technology. Your district should also be receiving E2T2 funds for ed tech equipment/infrastructure. There are also many many grants out there you could apply for from Microsoft, Toyota, BestBuy, and other corporate giants. Or like Kathleen you could contact your local government offices about receiving their old equipment. If you have a major university nearby they might be willing to do a similar project.

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