10 February 2010

Battling the Tech Learning Curve

Is it poorly designed tech that sometimes has a steep learning curve, or does it just depend on the skill?

Last year our school got our first set of student response clickers (ours are from Turning Technologies), and as a techie, I was very excited to give 'em a go.  My dept. chair and I sat for at least an hour one afternoon learning how to develop interactive slides integrated into PowerPoint and practicing the actual polling process.  There was certainly a learning curve, but we eventually figured it out and were hopeful at the promise of our new toy.  I never ended up checking the set out last school year, but several did, and student response was postitive.

This year during one of our district professional development days several of the math teachers had a chance to go to a session about using these clickers in the classroom for formative assessments.  They learned how to make slides, create session reports for easily entering students answers as graded assignments, and a few bells and whistles to boot.  I was busy leading my own session that day, so I missed out on the collaboration.

After finding Poll Everywhere through an #edtech tweet, I actually decided to ditch the district clickers and hold out for the day when my kids could just use their cell phones.  The reasons I liked Poll Everywhere were simple:
  • (with sacrificing some functionality) it's Free
  • The interface is pretty user friendly
  • No hardware to keep track of
  • No hardware issues to destroy my lesson
  • Possibilities for short-answer responses (Turning Technologies makes clickers that make this possible also, but we do not have this model.)
  • Students love using their cell phones anyway
But still, teachers were using those clickers, students were engaged, and I began to feel left out waiting for my day that is still a long time coming.  So last week I signed up for the clickers and sat down to create PowerPoint lesson with those interactive slides.  To my utter frustration, I'D FORGOTTEN EVERYTHING.  I left school that day after slaving at those slides for 45 minutes with nothing to show for it and dejectedly crossed my name off the clicker list for the next day.

What does it mean, then, if a teacher comfortable with tech (who has already once learned the basics of the software or hardware) gets frustrated enough with its implementation that even they give up?  Was I expecting too much to have a bicycle-type experience?  Or does Turning Technologies need to make its PowerPoint plug-in more intuitive?

Are there other tech toys or software that have given you a similar experience?

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Thanks for sharing!