My Troubles with Technology

I suppose any reader of this space knows that I can come across as a cheerleader for the ways that technology can be used to transform the possibilities of composition and publishing for young people. But not everything is all rosy all the time. I admit that I am lucky to work in a school where the administration understands the power of technology, and invests as much as it can in equipment, but we still run into all sorts of hurdles.

I regularly use the Dell PC Cart that is housed in my classroom (convenient!) and leave the MAC carts for other parts of the building, particularly for my colleagues in the younger grades. But the Dell Cart is now going on six years old. I remind my students that the computers they are using were brought into the school when they were in kindergarten. That opens up a few eyes. And softens the complaints of processing speed and error messages.

I do a lot to keep the cart running because I don’t want the technology to interfere with the learning. I am not always successful and if often feels like I spend some days in a wrestling match with technology, both of us determined to conquer the other. So far, I am winning. I think. But every day is a new battle, and I need to be light on my feet. It also makes clear, though, why so many teachers give up on technology when the glitches take place, or the computer won’t start, of whatever. It can be exhausting.

Here are just some of the problems that I regularly run into:

  • Six-year-old PC laptops. ‘Nuff said. This would not be as big an issue if they were Macs (says the former PC evangelist);
  • Wireless data flow. When 21 laptops are streaming a heavy-duty site (like Glogster, or Voicethread, or Gamestar Mechanic), the wireless system often gags, and loading of webpages slows to a crawl;
  • The batteries on our laptops are deteriorating … I can barely make it through one hour-long class, and I have four hour-long classes each day. I do a lot of juggling at the end of class and at the start of class to leave a window open for recharging. It does give me time for mini-lessons, but sometimes I am just dancing around in the front of the room, praying for more time;
  • Updates clog up the system, too. Between Windows XP updates, Firefox updates, anti-virus updates, the flow of data coming through the air and into the laptops makes me wonder we don’t see the bits and bytes flying before our eyes. And since that happens in the background, the laptops can crawl at times, and then suddenly, the students are confronted with a shut-down/update;
  • Our Internet service is pretty stable but the other day, we lost it for about four hours, and that impacted an entire day of game design.

I should point out that the students roll with it. While they expect speed and instant connectivity with equipment these days, they mostly complain, ask for help and then wait out the fixes with patience. Maybe more patience that I show at times. But together, we use what we got, and we keep pushing the equipment to the edge of what it can do. We don’t give up. Well, at least most of the time.

Peace (in the gripe session),


  1. At my school, we too are struggling with keeping the old pc’s running, & the updates for the macs, of which we have many, but still they too are aging. We have all the problems you mention, & not a lot of budget to keep up. Things in the tech world are changing faster than we can keep up, & we’re better off than most. Luckily for us, different students work on hands on projects, and hands on writing along with needing a computer, but when one is doing a whole class project as you are, it must be so frustrating. Best wishes in solving some of the problems.

  2. Check out Lubuntu ( It’s brought new life to our old Thinkpads (R50e, about 6-7 years old with 512MB of RAM). As long as you can stay on the web or get by with open source software it’s a great way to use old equipment.

    Next up would be LTSP, but then you pretty much lose wireless.

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