Here is my response to @jasontbedell‘s request for help with his book. He was looking for stories of when teachers used a tech tool in their classroom, and it didn’t work.
My worst moments with technology have come when I found a great tool that I thought supported what I was doing in the class, only to find, as I employed it, that the time required for the students to use the tool was far beyond the time I wanted to spend on the topic. The worst example of this was when I thought it would be fun for the class to create movies showing the causes of the Revolutionary War. It seemed like a great way to highlight cause and effect, as the Americans and the English acted and reacted to each other, an important lesson in history.
I divided the class into groups and had each group choose 4 key events that led to the war. They then wrote a script and planned for making their movies. At this point, it seemed like a brilliant plan. They were talking about all sorts of history ideas, debating significance and making clear choices about what to include and what to leave out.
Then it was time for the filming, and each group had 4 major events to portray. The back of the classroom was piled high with costumes and props that they had created. The filming began. Each group disappeared off, around the school, to get the best backdrops for their scenes. After the first day, a slight portion of one scene had been finished. After the second day, a bit more. So it went for over a week, by which point, I was beginning to wonder if there was any history being learned in the midst of the mad dashes for costume changes and grabbing of props.
They were having a great time, one that I let go on for almost two weeks, when I finally pulled the plug. At that point, the students didn’t even protest, a sure sign that the activity had gone past its time of value. It was a good idea, but one that needed to be focused better. I had given each group far more than they could accomplish while still learning history. The technology no longer supported the growth of the students’ understanding of the topic, but instead became a distraction.
When I do it again, I will still have them make a movie, but I will have them choose one event per each group to script and film. Then from whose scenes, they can create a class movie. The same enthusiasm will be generated by creating a movie, but it will make the task one that can be done in an appropriate amount of time.