Spine-Chilling EdTech Nightmares: Tales From the Classroom


Technology can be great. So many wonderful things have happened solely because of technology (I'm looking at you, drone pizza delivery) but it’s no secret that with these advances, a few hair-raising nightmares have staggered out of the woods with chainsaws or lurked in closets waiting to pop out at just the wrong time. Glitches, bugs and mishaps, (*cough* user error) occur with more frequency than we’d like to admit — inside and outside of the classroom. So, in the spirit of things that go bump in the night, enjoy a few spine-chilling accounts of real-life edtech nightmares from these educators.

Dr. Amanda Cadran, former technology facilitator

"The year was 2013. We were piloting a collaborative piece of software that allowed for multiple students to edit a document at the same time. I thought I’d have my seventh graders test it out for me. This was the first time I had ever planned such an immersive and connected type of lesson, and I was so excited to see how they would be able to share out their self-designed project ideas. In short, the software worked. It worked so well that all 30 students were in the document at the same time, editing over each other’s posts with such speed that the projected live image looked like a text-based fireworks display. Heart racing, I tried to slow them down, but middle schooler + open online forum x 30 = chaos!

Fortunately, and to my amazement, the kids stayed on task and kept it clean while I took a deep breath and determined the best way to proceed. To be honest, it was an amazing testimonial to the power of intuitive and easy-to-use software, albeit a complete nightmare in terms of management. I wish I had known about the difficult management aspect before I started using it! There was no easy way to stop the madness other than restrict the editing rights of those students and setting up documents in smaller groups with more clearly defined parameters. Going forward, I did not have this issue again, but for that lucky beta testing group, I learned how exciting (surprising) edtech can be!"

Dr. Frederick Van Sant, former educator and edtech implementation specialist

"This particular edtech nightmare was not a part of my organization (though I had my fair share when teaching K12 and later as a university professor) but rather a university that I was working with through my role as the senior implementation specialist in international markets. I was visiting one of the largest universities in the Middle East (40,000 students) and found out that they had purchased enterprise-level graphics software for more than one million dollars and hadn’t touched it once in the year since purchasing it. They didn’t have any faculty that actually knew how to use the software to teach it to the students, much less use it themselves, nor did their IT training consultants have the skills to even deploy the software. I couldn’t believe how much money was being wasted! The worst part was that this wasn’t the only product that had met a similar fate. Some dean or senior administrator would hear about a new technology and think that their university must have it in order to be the best....  and oh, another million dollars wasted."

Kevin Uy, former high school teacher

"Scanners were a nightmare! Our school had a program that would scan bubbled in sheets using a regular scanner and then grade them. This was fantastic for grading long multiple choice benchmark tests and having accessible data. It was not so great when it was the last day before you had to submit grades and the scanner kept jamming! Not to mention the trouble the software had reading any answer sheet that didn’t print quite right or had stray marks—suffice to say this grading “time-saver” ended up causing more nightmares than just grading by hand would have."

Tina Avis, former curriculum developer

"I think most teachers tech nightmares include inappropriate images or sites getting through the firewalls. One day, I was helping a student find images of a popular tourist destination for their class project. I entered the town’s name expecting to find photos of scenic mountain views. It just so happened they were having their annual naked bicycle ride that weekend and that was the first image that popped up on the screen! I was mortified and couldn’t click out of the browser fast enough."

Cori Odom, technology teacher

"This particular nightmare has surfaced a number of times when the video on one of the sites I’m scrolling through opens, loudly! I have been in classrooms, staff meetings, conferences — you name it —scrolling through ideas on Twitter, facebook, Google, etc., and had a video - whether on topic or off, open and very LOUDLY start playing!  EDTECH HORROR!!!!  When this happens, you can’t swipe, click or exit out quickly enough!" 

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