|Unfortunately, it is necessary for teachers to have a back-up plan in case the technology fails. For situations involving the use of the Internet, teachers should make sure they know if an alternative site is available and they should have this information written down in a convenient location. Teachers can also make print outs of specific images or data ahead of time to have on hand, or they can save these images and web pages to the hard drive of their computer. Alternatively, teachers can devise a plan for switching to an optional or non-technological part of the project, such as watching an educational video or journal writing, if a technical problem arises.|
A high school physics class uses the Navigational
Vectors project to track airplanes flying in U.S. skies. Using trigonometry
they determine the plane's air speed and predict its time of arrival at its
destination. Prior to undertaking the project, the teacher has devised a back-up
plan. She has identified back-up sites that can be used to access the real
time data in case those sites are down during class time. Additionally, she copies relevant images to the hard drive of the
computer so that the images can be viewed later in class if the Internet
connection fails. The image may be a few hours out of date but will be
sufficient for the purposes of the project.
Consider these questions as you review your project.
|Use these resources to help you develop a back-up plan.
Stevens Developed Content
Potential Back-up Lesson Plans
Presentation Hardware and Software
The Internet is an amazingly complex system of interconnected computers and networks. It can send millions of packets of data, along different routes, from New York to Japan in only a few seconds and then reassemble those packets to form a picture on your screen. As much as I use the Internet this fact still amazes me. As unbelievable as the technology is, a lot of people do get frustrated when this system has a temporary problem which slows their connection or prevents them from accessing it at all. This is very understandable but should not be reason alone to stop using the technology, which is unfortunately how some people react to it. This would be like you deciding to never watch your cable TV again after it went out for a few hours. My point is that the Internet is not 100% reliable but this should not be a reason to stop using it or to be constantly worried that it will not be available when you need it.
On the other hand, I also understand what it means to have a room full of 30 7th graders who all need to access CNN.com for that day's lesson and who cannot get online. That is why I always stress the importance of having a non-technology based back-up plan in case the Internet or other equipment develops problems. Unfortunately, as much as I stress the importance of having such plan many teachers see it as time consuming and often tell me that they simply do not have time to put one together prior to starting their project. I always hear back from them the following year saying that they wished they had developed one because as we all know it is not a question of will the technology fail but when. On a final note, when you develop your back up plan you will want to make sure that you have everything you need ready to go at a moments notice. If you have to photocopy papers or other work to get prepared you will often not have the time to get it all done. Again, putting a little time into developing a simple back up plan will definitely pay off in the long run. So, here are a few ideas for back-up plans that are easy to put together and which can be used at any time:
Videos - I used to have a small library of videos that dealt with most of the subjects that I taught all year. When we encountered a problem with the Internet I would sometimes bring out one of the videos and would have the students watch it instead. I also had some worksheets and group activities that went along with the video that I would use. This worked well because the videos were general in nature and therefore could be watched at any point in during the project and still make sense to the students.
Archived Internet Data - We looked at a few techniques for saving Internet information to your hard drive or disk. This can be a good back up plan as well as it allows you to show students Internet-based information even if your connection goes down. This works well when there is a really critical need for some particular Internet data on a given day. For example, maybe you want the students to analyze the infrared satellite image on a given day but are concerned that the Internet might not be available. You could download the image, save it to a disk, and then bring it in as a back up. This technique works well but can only be used for that specific lesson. It would not help you a week later when you are covering a different topic and need a back up plan.
Research - I often included a research project with each unit I covered with my students. This was usually on a topic they could select and was something they worked on in their spare time and handed in at the end of the unit. When the Internet connection went down I would often just give them the class period to continue researching their topic. I had several CD-ROMs that they could use as well as a range of reference books. I usually set aside 2-3 classes for this research anyway so if we used some of them as "backup plans" then I would just have fewer scheduled during the unit.
Class Discussion or Debate - If the Internet went down, I would sometimes use the class period for a class debate or discussion. I would break the class into groups and have them each pick out a position or question from a hat. The issues related to the topic of the unit and dealt with ethical questions. For example, I asked them if their were a farmer and they found an endangered species of rabbits eating their crops, would they kill it? What if they had to support their family and the rabbit was eating the last of their food? The students had fun with this activity and it provided some time to expose them to issues and questions not normally discussed in my science class.
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