Some time ago I read about a competition that they had to design a space-ship that could go to Mars. There were entries from multi-million dollar labs in the USA, but the prize was won by a team from Cambridge. Their entry consisted of a piece of paper and a rubber band, and was based on an idea that one of the chaps had in the bath.
I cannot remember the source of the story, but even if it is apocryphal, it ought to be true! It is an important reminder, too, that we need to ensure that the introduction of technology into the classroom does not ignore what can be done simply and effectively with imagination rather than with expensive equipment! My first teaching job was in a People’s Education School in a squatter camp in Durban called Phambili. Many of the classrooms did not have electricity and there was precious little in the way of technology to use. Some teachers used jelly pads for reproducing material. Teaching Science meant taking the students outside and doing experiments using common house-hold chemicals and home-made equipment.
Now, I am not for one moment suggesting that we do not use technology. Far from it! But I am suggesting that we use, wherever possible, the cheapest and most commonly available technologies, rather than going for the most expensive solutions. The Internet has a wealth of tools that are totally free, and to my mind, using these free resources makes available a bigger slice of the budget for getting bigger bandwidth or getting more devices into classrooms. This includes using the mobile devices that kids already bring to school as much as possible.
One of the things that quite overwhelms teachers, I suspect, is the notion that they will never be able to cope with the work-load.
Part of the paper and rubber band approach to education is that teachers need to learn to take a back seat. You don’t need to understand the technology, all you need to do is pose a challenge to your students: use the technology as you see fit to tackle the problem at hand. You will then learn how to use the technology alongside your students. You will also empower your students to source their own technological solutions.