I had, two years ago in my twelfth grade remedial English class, John, a student with a number of issues in his life that were preventing him from any sort of success in his classes. If he did attend class he was inevitably late; his mind often wandered if he managed to stay awake during the period.
After many discussions with John's parents and our school administrators, I decided to simply welcome John when he was present, and encourage him to complete a portion of the assignments. As difficult as it was at times, I continued to do this for class after class even though I witnessed little change in John's behaviour.
Coincidentally, I was completing post-degree training in technology as it relates to education, and therefore had technology on the brain more so than would normally be the case. I was experimenting with a number of technological tools in my classroom, including the use of a class website, and most notably, the use of a wiki.
After months of failed attempts to engage John, I finally stumbled upon something that peaked his interest - technology. Whenever we were working with the wiki or website, John went from being "the sleeping guy" at the back of the room to someone who was engaged in the learning. In fact, John assumed the role of peer-teacher during the class' time with the wiki. I was truly startled by the zeal John had when given the opportunity to learn through a medium with which he was comfortable and interested.
That experience, and several others like it, have changed the way I teach.
Wikis and web pages are only two tools of many that are available: the figurative tip of the iceberg. I now not only provide students with the choice to demonstrate their learning through various technological means (from creating Facebook profiles for characters to digital storytelling), but encourage students to seek out new methods using the latest techno-tools.
Whether students are filming video, recording audio, creating a mashup, or creating some other representation of their learning, an unfortunate common theme is evident - a distinct lack of hardware.
John from the previous story, as I later found out, worked at a computer store, and so had access to many of the newest toys and tools with which to work. The average student at Lord Tweedsmuir is even hard-pressed to gain access to a computer lab, as there are only about forty-five computers (three portable labs) serving over sixteen hundred students.
Perhaps there is no better example to illustrate the shortage of technology than the issue of camcorders. When I asked to borrow the English department's camcorder for my students to film I was given a shoulder-mounted-VHS-recording behemoth that didn't actually function.
I truly hope there is more technology in the future for LTSS, as there are many more "John's" out there, and I hate to think that we are missing an opportunity to engage them.