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Rich Henderson's Diary
The First 180 Days

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Rich Henderson, a lawyer, always dreamed of being a teacher. Last year, he gave up his law career and returned to the classroom to earn his teaching certification. This year, his dream finally comes true in a fifth-grade classroom in suburban Woodbury, Connecticut. Each week during this school year -- Rich's first year in the classroom -- he will share with Education World readers his thoughts and feelings about his first 180 days!

Rich's Diary: "The Best Laid Plans"

Week 15

"On your mark, get set, STOP!" Sounds frustrating doesn't it? You prepare for an event, and it is unexpectedly thwarted by some circumstance. That is what happened to my students this past week.

Last week, I wrote about the beneficial aspects of using computers for educational purposes, such as Internet research. This week, my students and I experienced a certain degree of frustration as I attempted to implement my technological objective. Simply put, we all ran into a brick wall.

"The best laid plans ... " That quote is so applicable to the teaching profession that it should be considered our motto. This week, I planned to have my students begin using technology in one of our lessons. It was to be the first step in teaching my students how to do research on the computer. Specifically, I had planned that each student would begin working on a short research project in social studies. Each student was to research a topic, using various computer-aided means, such as the Internet. Students were not to seek any information from "old fashioned" books. I paired the students based on each student's access to a computer and the appropriate technology. That was the easy part. What I soon discovered was that the computer was both a blessing and a curse for my students.

The computer was a blessing when a student understood how to seek the information, embrace its intellectual content, and apply it. It was a curse when a student became aware that the information was "out there," but could not access it because of his or her inability to navigate through the myriad of information that was available. The computer was also a curse when a student harnessed a great deal of information but had no idea what to do with so much material. With both the blessings and the curses, frustration set in. Those students who grasped the basics of Internet research were frustrated with those who didn't. Those students who couldn't find the information, or found too much of it, were frustrated with themselves, the computer, the Internet, and me. What I thought was to be a fruitful beginning in the use of technology turned rather sour. Although I expected some degree of frustration from my students, I didn't plan on this much.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and frustration is inevitable at first. In time, and with more practice, I hope that my students will be able to use technology in a manner that will maximize its blessings and minimize its curses. I am sure that one day, the frustrations they encountered will soon turn into excitement and enthusiasm for using technology to complete research projects. I can dream can't I?

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Rich Henderson
Education World®
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12/14/2000