If there is one quality that I am being sorely tested in this year, its my digital resilience.
I heard the term during Jenny Luca’s keynote at last week’s Edutech congress in Brisbane when she shared this slide:
It seems that almost every digital project I have worked on with students this year has hit a wall due to infrastructure problems, blocked websites and security protocols.
For two terms now, I have been trying to get a school news show off the ground. A group of Year 5 and 6 students have been filming and editing news reports which we are putting together into a single news program. We’d planned to have our news come out at least twice a term, and we would have, if we hadn’t hit a brick wall of security protocols and infrastructure failures.
Our first issue was security protocols. At some point over the Christmas holidays, a change was made to the security protocols that allow us to transfer data from our school iPads to our school computers. I’m not sure if it was a school security issue, or an apple update, but no matter what we tried, we could not move the films off our iPads as it they would not ‘trust’ the connected device.
The files were too large to email, so I tried setting up a Google Drive account for the group and we attempted to upload our videos to that. This is when the infrastructure started to fail. Our school wifi, which is usually reliable became patchy. Some of the iPads would not connect at all. Others would, but transferred the data so slowly, it took days to upload the videos we needed. Eventually, I took the iPads home and was able to upload over my home network, but there is still one iPad, containing some of the best videos, that I can’t shift data from.
Our computer coordinator managed to work out a fix for all this, but installing it means wiping all the data off the iPads, including the videos we are trying to save.
Meanwhile, I’ve been working with another group of students teaching them to code using Scratch. They’ve been developing games for a games arcade that we plan to link to our school website. Today, after several weeks, the games were ready to upload. Scratch has a built in uploader which will share games created in the software directly to a user account on the Scratch website. Today I learned that the uploader won’t work in our school environment. We need a password to get through our proxy but the software won’t let us enter one. As a workaround, I had the students save their projects to my USB stick and I uploaded each project from home.
Hitting obstacle after obstacle takes its toll. They slow our projects down, and they frustrate and disappoint our students. It is so hard not to give up altogether and I’m tempted at times to choose non-tech projects in future just to avoid these problems.
I persist for a number of reasons:
- I believe in the value of these projects. I see how they’ve engaged and excited my students, and the great learning that is occurring by participating in them.
- I don’t see the setbacks as defeats. I am convinced that every problem can be solved, and it’s just a matter of finding a workaround.
- After years of trouble shooting issues, I’ve developed a fairly wide repertoire of strategies which allow me to find workarounds to the sort of tech problems I’ve been facing.
- When I can’t find a workaround myself, I consult with my network of teachers on Twitter and Yammer. Inevitably someone will suggest an idea I hadn’t considered, which solves the problem.
- When no solution presents itself, I’ve learned to let it go. In every case learning that has occurred in spite of the problems encountered. While the end result of the project may be different from what we intended, the process has still been worthwhile.
I would love to see an easing of security protocols which impede learning in schools and I would love to have reliable wifi that never drops out. But as technology continues to develop, at a faster pace than our protocols and infrastructure can possibly keep up with, I suspect we are always going to face issues like this.
Persevering can be stressful, but if the project is worth doing, then it’s better than giving up. If there isn’t a workaround, then adapt the project. Our twice a term news project looks more likely to become a year in review video, and that’s okay. It’s not quite the project I’d intended, but the students are still learning and developing their skills.
And there is an unintended but valuable consequence for our students. Our students get to see us learn. They witness us solving problems from different angles, trying new strategies until we find the one that works. They see us research answers and consult and collaborate with others. And they see us remaining positive in the face of set backs. They see in action the life-long learning skills that we would like to see in them.
So when faced with set backs, stay positive and persevere. Be digitally resilient. It’s worth it.