I proudly and regularly share in my PhD classes that I was a teacher for ten years in inner-city public schools. I draw on my teaching experiences to analyze articles in educational research journals, and I remember my classroom as a fun and inspiring place for me to be. I do not, however, often remember some of the drudgery associated with the job.
One of the most ominous moments of a work week is the realization that a lesson will need computers. Teaching a class of thirty students would often require more than one laptop cart and opening the school’s laptop calendar to find an adequate combination of working computers was always a crapshoot. If I could assemble a workable combination from empty slots on the calendar (or barter them from teachers who had checked them out), it was always a question as to where those laptops were the period before I needed them. It was less than likely that they were all plugged in and if there was enough battery life required to make it through my class. Even if all went smoothly, the end of each lesson always featured the frantic, paranoid dance to ensure that no precious computer left the room surreptitiously in a student’s backpack never to be seen again. With all the computers safely back into the cart, a student and I would always need to spend about ten minutes organizing the haphazardly returned and sporadically plugged in computers that wreaked havoc on any later laptop distribution. From start to finish, laptop use in class was a stressful endeavor, and my decision to undertake it necessitated my belief that it was essential to classroom learning.
Reflecting on my teaching now reminds me of the importance of accessing that experience when conducting research. Amidst the excitement of implementing our work on the Mission: Admission Challenge, I got so caught up in the exhilaration of playing games with kids and talking about college that I neglected to meaningfully think through the high-tech slog of laptop access with teachers and counselors. In every school that I worked with, technological issues were salient. Even schools that had built considerable enthusiasm for gameplay experienced a “buffering” of student and staff excitement when confronted with the realities of tech shortages and software inadequacies. Even in schools that offered relatively flexible advisory periods, teachers became reluctant to endure the onerous process of technology acquisition when gameplay was only designed for a short amount of time.
As our team prepares to reload for the second launch of the Mission: Admission Challenge, I am excited to look at some of the hugely successful schools across the state that overcame any technological barriers to see how we can replicate their successes. Perhaps by building a version of the game compatible with mobile phones, we can circumvent some of the school-based technology shortages.
Most importantly, however, I need to remind myself that I am no longer a classroom teacher. It has been nearly a year now since I last checked out a laptop cart. I should spend less time getting excited about my own research project, and more time reaching out to teachers who are closely connected with the anxiety-inducing process of signing out computers at their schools.
The contents of this publication were developed under grant # P116F140097 from the U.S. Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.