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Plan B From Outer Space

21 Jul

When you teach using technology, you always need a Plan B in case the technology doesn’t work! Sometimes that can feel like being on the set of a very bad B movie! More and more teachers are designing lessons which not only use technology, they actually depend on the technology. In Ed Wood’s classic movie, Plan 9 From Outer Space, celebrated as perhaps the worst movie ever made, the star Bela Lugosi died. Far from being phased by this, the director used a double, his face permanently covered by a cape. The show must go on!

In the classroom too, the show must go on, so what do you do when your lesson depends on technology, and the technology isn’t working? Murphy’s Law ensures that this happens often! In fact a rider to Murphy’s Law states that the likelihood of the technology going wrong is in direct proportion to its importance! In other words if the technology is going to fail, it will fail when you’ve invited all the parents, the principal and the school board to come and watch your lesson!

The glib answer is that you always need a plan B, and that’s easy to say, but less easy to hold to. Sometimes you can forge ahead with a less than ideal, but still workable alternative in place. I’ve emailed files to students when my Moodle is down, or Google Classroom isn’t responding. Sometimes you can simply present material in another way, whip out your flash drive which has a copy of the file on it, or quickly print hard copies for the class!

But sometimes you have to abandon the lesson altogether. It’s a good idea to have some low tech, fun lessons planned for when technology isn’t your friend, so you can say, “This isn’t working – put it away, and let’s do this instead!” If you have a box in the corner of your classroom with some of these lessons in it, you can even get your class to pick one at random. This helps mitigate the sense of let down that failing technology always leaves in its wake, and gives the class a sense of shared misfortune overcome.

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