Yep. It happened. I rocked up to a full day workshop – as facilitator, for the first time – to find that my laptop didn’t connect to the big black cord which in turn connects to the projector. I had forgotten the little dongle which connects the two. First rule of using tech in the classroom: don’t panic.

Luckily I had developed the presentation in Google Drive and so was able to share it with the participants and on we went.

So, despite a technical hiccup that may have ended a lecture or workshop (especially one called Digital Tools) in other circumstances, we were able to push on and get to what was more important than my slideshow: the learning.

I started to wonder as my fellow History teachers – who had signed up to the first “courses” run by the History Teachers’ Association of NSW – began to engage with clicking through the presentation, flicking back and forth at their own pace. We came back to certain slides to grab links or see questions that triggered discussions but the freedom that came for these budding Digital Tool integrators (most of whom had self-confessed little-to-no-technical skill) was palpable. Each person had signed up for different reasons and once we’d spent a little time getting a taste for a particular tool or set of tools, they could choose to ignore that tool and go back or forwards depending on their interests. Soon they were teaching each other because they had the resources they needed and a fairly clear idea about where they wanted to go.

This probably wouldn’t have happened as easily had I remembered my dongle. Interesting.

We had wonderful discussions about the nature of school research today (plagiarism, requirements v aspirations, bibliographies etc), the differences and challenges and opportunities provided by digital spaces as “virtual classrooms”, and the problems and possibilities of social media for teaching and learning. These and many other issues are things that have come to the fore because of the onset of technology in schools. However, we need to move away from seeing technology as something outside of schooling. I challenge any school to say that they could do their work as efficiently without any technology at all. We might grumble and whinge when it fails (everyone needs a good whinge) but do we really want to go back to a world of dissertations on typewriters and research on punch cards. **Note: if you  just got wistful. That’s cool.

At its best, technology liberates us from as much cumbersome administration as possible and gives us breathing space and new fields of possibility to explore. The best part about this is that regardless of how busy we are or how overwhelmed we might be, we can just switch off and unplug for a while. We still have choice.

Back to the Digital Tools course to finish. It was a class that chose to be there. They knew what they were in for. They’d given up a day to do it. We had interest. We had time. We had a relaxed and appropriate learning environment. We had 12 people, which meant I could actually chat to each of them in a meaningful way and they could chat to each other. It was really the perfect group of people to try and teach. They were patient and forgiving with me when things went a bit awry and I hope I was flexible enough to satisfy their different interests and talents regarding digital tools for teaching and learning.

So go on, try it. Forget your dongle one day and see where the learning goes.