What to Do When Technology Fails
posted by: Melissa | January 16, 2018, 09:44 PM   

It happens to the best of us. We have a great lesson and the center of it is a bit of technology. Maybe your computer won’t boot right when you’re trying to show the one video that would explain your current subject perfectly, or maybe the flashlights you were planning to use for your science lesson are all out of batteries. I once planned a year-long project with my students that relied heavily on a website that went down half-way through the year. If there’s one thing that we can rely on with technology, it’s that we can’t always rely on it. So, what do we do when the technology that we’re using fails us?

As they say in sports, the best defense is a good offense. If we know that technology is going to fail at some point, then we should be prepared for that to happen. Ideally, we should be prepared with work-arounds when common technology fails happen. It’s a good idea to include links in our lesson plans, or to copy PowerPoints and other files needed for a lesson onto a thumb drive so that we can easily access materials from a number of different computers.

Having redundant technology can also help alleviate the catastrophe when technology fails. If you have multiple iPads in a class, it’s not that big of a deal to make the groups using it a little larger or grabbing a student computer when your own won’t boot. I know of one teacher who keeps a wireless hotspot in his classroom for when the network goes down, since it does so frequently.

Although sometimes there is no workaround and your lesson relied on that one particular piece of technology. Perhaps you had planned to go to the computer lab and it ended up closed for some reason or you wanted students to do a certain online simulation and the website itself isn’t able to be accessed. Whatever the case, sometimes redundancy and workaround just won’t solve the problem. In those cases, having a backup plan that doesn’t rely on technology can save your skin. If possible, jot down a quick alternative activity at the bottom of your lessons. For example, consider having students create skits that illustrate the topic instead of doing the situation, or have students peer-edit the papers they would have been working on in the computer lab.

If you don’t have an alternative planned ahead of time, mine the materials that you already have. Nearly all teachers have a “sub plan” for each unit, there is no reason that you can’t grab and use that yourself in cases of emergency. Having extra worksheets or readings ready to go in your classroom can also save you in a pinch. Finally, you can also swap in a lesson you had planned for a future date. This is not always possible if your lessons must be done in a sequential order but if not, consider switching the days that you have planned for different lessons.

What do you do when your technology fails in the classroom?

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