Sync Saved My Life

The Sign of Death

On Tuesday I boarded a flight from Minneapolis to Washington D.C. to attend the Google Teachers Academy (more on that later).  Before I left, my BlackBerry Tour told me I needed a software update.  Since I try to obey gadgets when they command me to do something, I obliged.  After the captain of the plane told me that turning my phone on would no longer cause the air vessel to plummit to the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, I turned my phone back on.  Or at least tried to.

It completely crashed.  Again.

The only thing that appeared on my phone was a white screen with the error message pictured above.  This was the second time this has happened to me in the five months of owning the phone.  Seeing as how I was no a stranger in a strange (but patriotic) land, this was completely unacceptable.  How the heck was I supposed to navigate around the city and find my way to the conference I needed to be at?  How would I enter contacts of teachers I met into my phone?  Write things down with paper and pencil?  Was the wheel just invented?  What year is this anyway?

Needless to say when I hopped of the Metro line at the Farragut North station and marched to the nearest Verizon store, I was not happy.  I pleaded to them to let me return the phone so I could get a Droid, but to no avail.  The worst part of all of this was my lost contacts, over 354 of them thrown to the digital wastelands.

I tried, oh, how I tried.

Or so I thought.

After I returned home, a bright idea struck me:  didn’t I download Google Sync to sync up my Google calendar with my BlackBerry on my other phone(s)?  It’s supposed to sync contacts too, right?  Yes, yes it does.  Very well I might add.  I re-downloaded the sync app, and restored my contacts, all 354 of them.

Sync, to me, is a little like the extended warranty I bought on my car.  I thought I would never need it, and then two months after owning it, the transmission blows out.  The extended warranty ends up saving me over two thousand dollars.  Many a time while using sync, I thought to myself, “why am I doing this?  Is this ever going to be worth it?”  Now I know, and knowing is half the battle.


I wish I would have had something like this after my laptop was stolen.  Yes I could have saved my materials to our district’s server, but I need to be connected to the district to access them.  I could have also backed them up on an external hard-drive, but even that is prone to failure too.  I’m trusting the cloud more and more these days.  Someday, that might come back to bite me in the butt, but for now, I will sing the praises of Google Sync to high heaven.  Or, on all my connecting flights to Washington D.C., at least.


Do These Britches Make My Technology Look Fat?

After my recent trip down victimized lane, and the preceding practical joke of my school Macbook deciding not to work for a day, I began to wonder…….if the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plains, does it just kinda rain in the Pyrenees?  After I was done marinating on this, I turned my attention to what I think may be the number one difficulty in broadly integrating more technology into the classroom: infrastructure.

The day after my laptop was stolen, my lesson plan in class primarily relied on my laptop, which was now in the hands of another.  So, I had to punt and show do lesson plan on an Elmo, which isn’t as bad as those archaic overheads, but still not as good as the Activboard experience I had planned.  This made me ponder (as I am oft to do):

“My laptop was stolen, and my lesson was sub-par because of it.  If I ask students to do a lot of activities/assessments/what have you, and they don’t have the Internet/home computer/printer/what have you, how are they supposed to do this?  Are my assumptions too broad when I think, ‘Ah, any kid can do this assignment.  After all, we do have the Almighty Media Center, any kid can complete an assignment requiring a computer there.’  And, if I do that, am I immediately placing them square behind the eight-ball?”  I guess I talk to myself a lot.

Broadband acceptance and usage of technology in the classroom needs its own "Interstate System"

Consider the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 which committed $25 billion to constructing 41,000 miles of sprawling Interstate highway through the United States.  Imagine how much different our country would be if points on the map were not connected more than 50 years ago.  Things in this country would certainly be different.  Our country has since thrived off that commitment to connect people, goods, services, and ideas.

Similarly, if this whole push towards an increase in technology in the classroom is going to work, there needs to be a similar commitment.  Although I accept that there are great things available out there that can connect students with learning experiences, I think the technological infrastructure needs to be addressed first.

Many teachers are making huge gains with students in a lot of different ways, but there are a lot of students within those same classrooms who are being left out in the cold.  Something like Skype is great for conversation.  Twitter is an awesome form of communication.  Moodle is terrific to convey information, take assessments, and hold forums.  These experiences need to be accessible at many places other than just at school.

Here are some humble suggestions (of which I have no idea how to actually make work):

  • Instead of looking into 1-1 laptops for every student, figure out a way to get 1-1 smart phones for every student.  A lot of things can be done outside of school on a smart phone while more intensive and specialized programs can be used inside.


    Moto Droid
    Every student could use one of these, assuming Skynet isn't involved.
  • Stop buying so many laptops and start buying netbooks that run over 3G networks.
  • Purchase personal wifi hot spots and check them out to students through the schools media center.
  • Stop asking for so many donations from parents and communities for things like glue sticks, markers, and colored pencils, and ask for more donations to contribute to monthly plans to help alleviate monthly data plans.  Most of those supplies get wasted or unused anyways.
  • Create service learning projects where kids can actually pay off the cost of a phone by doing something in the community.  Kid gets a smart phone, food shelves get stocked.  Where’s the downside?

We as teachers may be getting a little ahead of ourselves.  It’s fantastic to see so many educators doing such innovative things in their classrooms.  How much better would it be if every student could actually do them?  I’m not promoting that we slow down our innovation, I’m positing that we need to do more heavy lifting to support the base of our 21st century learners.  It feels a little like we are, at times, working from the top down.

It’d be nice if it this issue could be fixed at the federal level, but it would be even greater if the problem could be fixed locally.

What needs to be addressed, and how should it be tackled?