Thursday, December 20, 2012

Epic Fail Part #2

A now for the second installment of Epic Fail..... For those of you who missed the first installment, please click this link to read up on what happened to our teacher before reading this installment.

Remember when we met... I was in sheer panic mode. No syncing meant no apps on this extremely critical day in my career. Soooooo.....

I took a moment to breathe deeply and fight back all the tears that were threatening to escape my eyes. I was soooo crushed! It didn't work! Technology!!!! I couldn't believe that I spent all that time and everything was failing me.

I did my best to keep some form of cool in front of my students. I didn't want them to see me in a panic. I had to fix this! I asked my class to sit down and to remain quiet for a few minutes while I began troubleshooting the problems. The request that must have been impossible for them that day!
It was if I was in an episode of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. These kids were not handling the stress of technology failure. All my "angels" we're gone and replaced by alien beings. After witnessing a minor melt down, I raced downstairs and pleaded for a postponement in his visit. Remember this lesson was to be for my "pull out all the stops" formal observation in our new COMPASS system.

I do recall that I was wearing red that day. I am quite sure my face match my shirt perfectly. Technology can be a blessing AND a curse!  When you are innovative and technology savvy, many times there are few people who can help you. And on this very day, I was alone in the world! No one in my school has a MacBook/class set iPad situation. I was on my own in this frontier. There are times I can see why teachers may be scared to step out in this wilderness. Technology does come with worry. Things don't always work or your amazing technology lesson could fall apart right in front of your eyes. I know the last time I checked, teachers are their own IT department. If you need help, it will have to wait.

Now my team members were troopers. With the look of Def Con 5 on my face, they offered to help. However, we all knew that I was solo. So I mustered up some strength, found something else for my students to work on, and proceeded to calmly troubleshoot.

Pause for a visual: 
This is what the technology set up looks like so you can have a picture of what I'm dealing with in this very moment. Thirty iPads that are in a syncing station. All of the iPads hook up inside the station and then one USB cable connects into the MacBook which syncs all the iPads at one time. 

This is the overall set up of the cart. It is a Bretford Syncing Cart....beautiful, isn't it?

So I tried everything. I went through my basic troubleshoot checklist. I restared the computer several times. No luck! I disconnected the USB cable and connect it to a different port several times.  I could hear the happy "bling" sound of all the iPads connecting. You fruit preferred tablet owners know that sound. Now multiply that times 30. Music to the techie teachers ears! Nothing was syncing, so I was sinking.

 It was doomed and that meant in turn I was doomed. Here I am on the copse of one of the biggest observations of my teaching career. The need to perform to to a new level through this new system which many of us feel is unreachable and is INSANE! However I am a techie teacher and I rise to meet the challenges before me. 

So I heard the "happy" sound and I was jittery inside hoping that it means success. I watched the wheels of progress turn on the MacBook. Deep breathe...finger crossed! With one iPad complete, I pulled it out and checked for any sign of progress. Well it didn't! The apps still weren't there! I was in MAJOR freak out mode at this point. I NEEDED this to work. This wasn't a normal class lesson where I could just veer off to plan B. I HAD to have this work. I hung my head as the last possibility of fixing the iPads came to me. I was going to have to restore all 30 of them. EPIC FAIL!

I began the LOOOOONNNNNNNGGGGGGG process of restoring the iPads. Only being able to do one or two at a time. It hurt my heart as I erased the information from each one of them and set them up again. It took me FOREVER the first time I had set them up. I worked so hard to make sure that everything was ready for this lesson. I was so fortunate to be granted this class set of iPads. I really wanted to showcase them. I wanted the granter to know that they were being used and were a valuable tool that was added to my classroom. I was determined to overcome this issue! I would prevail and the iPads would be used in this lesson! At least that's what I kept telling myself. 

I had to break in the middle of the day to do my pre-observation conference. I explained the epic failure briefly and moved on as I assured my observer that we'd be ready when he came in the next day. He had faith in me. I knew I couldn't let him or my students down. 

With renewed passion, I pumped up the new class that was going to be observed since they were not my original observation class. For me it's important to inform students know up front what I expect of them and their goal, especially when someone is coming for a "visit". I asked them to be the best class that they could ever be. I was so nervous and worried because we all know what happened with the previous group of "angels".  I didn't want the same thing to happen to this group of students. So I in essence pleaded with them to be the best class that ever existed. I NEEDED them to come through as I had already watched everything else fall apart. 

I was so defeated at this point. I worked on those iPads until 7:00 p.m. that Monday night. I restored iPads all day. I wasn't going home until I knew for sure that the iPads were functioning properly. I was exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally. I had nothing left to give and nothing more I could put into this lesson. At this point it was going to have to be what it was. I couldn't do anything else.  I wisely moved my observation time back a couple of class periods so I could work out any kinks. I had lost a whole day of the lesson. He wasn't going to see the part I wanted him to see, but I assured myself that all be fine and the lesson would be great.

The day of the big observation came. It was either going to be a success or another day of Epic Fail! At this point I couldn't take anymore defeat. I tried out my lesson with my first class. You remember them? The kids who turned into a bunch of crazy people. The ones who I didn't recognize just the day before. They did a great job with the lesson and things seemed to be working and in order. The next class went by without a hitch as well. My stomach was so sick with nervousness from the previous day's events. My next class went by and the kids really were enjoying the lesson. I smiled a little on the inside. I felt a small victory as if I had done something right for them. 

The most important hour of the day had finally approached. I was sick with nerves. I felt like I could be sick at any moment. Normally I'm fine when I'm observed. However I think because of the previous day's Epic Fail, I just didn't even know what to expect at all. My administrator was behind my desk before my students even entered the classroom. I gave them the "look" that I hope conveyed how important this observation was to me. I NEEDED them to do what I asked of them the previous day. They entered my classroom like they should... very quiet and copied  their assignment in their agendas as they should be doing daily. They worked on their problem of the day. And the moment came....I had one of the students at each group gather the iPads for their group members. I proceeded with the lesson introduction. My class was SUPER quiet almost to the point of being scary. We got through the fifty questions that one of my students had to ask. I turned the students loose to begin working on the tasks they had to complete. I watched them walk around the room and survey each other using an app called TallyPad (Be sure to check out our app reviews. I'll review that one at a later date). I watched as they whispered the entire time they were talking. Holy Cow! These kids were sooooo quiet! They really were being the best class they could be! I really felt like God was looking out for me that day as everything unfolded as it should. The lesson was a success. Everyone participated 100%. I couldn't have asked for a better outcome to the lesson based on the previous day's events. 

After the observation was over, I felt like I could breathe for the first time in weeks. My students did what I asked and really enjoyed the lesson! They were fantastic. All of my classes enjoyed the lesson and did a great job. Even my inclusion class (which contains many resource students) had a blast. So all in all I would say that the lesson didn't end up being an Epic Fail. It just began as one. Many times when we plan technology lessons, we have to work out the kinks before things run smoothly. I did pass my observation with a rather good score. I guess  it wasn't a complete fail after all. 

I chose to do this post because I didn't want to paint a pretty picture of technology! You may be thinking that should be the point of our blog right? Well it is, but it isn't! Working with technology is hard! There are just as many defeats for every success we have in the classroom if not more! I think about myself as a math teacher and what I try to convey to my students on a daily basis. It is ok to be wrong and make mistakes. I tell them that I'm 31 and still make mistakes. So I share that with you, the classroom teachers, who desire to be innovative and creative. It is ok to make mistakes! It is ok for your technology to fall apart at times! It's the troubleshooting of those issues that help us become stronger technology users. Working through those moments help us become more comfortable to try again next time. We can never consider ourselves to be innovative if we aren't willing to step out and try something new.

So I encourage you to consider stepping out and trying a new venture in your classroom. Just maybe pick a moment that isn't as important as the BIG MASSIVE observation! You'll never know what you are capable of doing until you take that first step.  

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