The Jitterbug of Educational Technology

The Jitterbug is a cell phone marketed to baby boomers (my parents’ generation). The Jitterbug’s advertisements highlight the key features of the phone as large, easy to see buttons and displays, preprogrammed and ready to use out of the box, and overall simplicity. The advertisement running in this month’s issue of The Atlantic boldly exclaims, “It doesn’t play games, take pictures, or give you the weather.” In other words it’s perfect for my step-father who, much to my mother’s chagrin, still prefers to keep a ham/ c.b. radio in his car rather than use a cell phone.

Yesterday, the staff at my school was introduced to a new grading program. This new software has a staggering number of capabilities and uses (it should for what it costs). Unfortunately, the presentation of the software to the staff was butchered. Rather than showing and having staff try the basic tasks like taking attendance and listing assignments, the staff was shown, in a large auditorium, a myriad of functions that 98% of them will never use. As I looked around the room I saw many, I dare the vast majority, peoples’ expressions bely their utter confusion and stress from just thinking about trying to use the software on their own. A much better approach to introducing the staff to new software that they’re required to use would have been to break the staff into smaller groups, distribute step-by-step directions for the basic functions, and then let the staff try those basic functions. In other words the staff would have benefited from trying the Jitterbug instead of being shown, but not touching, the Nokia N95.

Application for Education
The lesson to take from this story is that as teachers in love with and comfortable with technology we sometimes get ahead of ourselves when showing students or staff a new website or piece of software. It’s important to remember that there are always people in the audience that need to get comfortable with the Jitterbug before trying the iPhone or the Nokia N95.


Thank You Readers for 14 Amazing Years!