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Dodging Digital Difficulties: Implementing Digital Tools in Rural Schools

Written by Jeremy Hyler
January 24, 2012

Is there anyone else out there who get the feeling from time to time that people are either reading your thoughts or they are on the same wave lengths as you when it comes to specific topics.  I have been freaked out twice by this in one day and though it can be a little spooky, I feel like I am making connections with people and it feels great!  This is how I felt when I found this great video on what it is like to teach teaching in rural America, that was tweeted by my national writing project colleague from West Virginia April Estep. You can follow her at @MsEstep on twitter.

I am not going to lie here folks, I know funding is an issue and every school district could use more money.  On the other hand, throwing money at the situation doesn’t always fix the perplexing problems we have in our rural schools.  And yes, I do teach at a rural school! With that being said, I know there are many rural schools that face technology issues in their district and each district can be very limited when it comes to students being able to access technology.  Believe me, I am guilty of crying and whining and wanting to kick my feet in frustration because I don’t have access to working computers or my students can’t use computers on a regular basis. Realistically, I strongly believe we waste more time complaining when we can find ways to improvise the use of technology.

First, I urge you to open up the use of cell phones in your classroom or your district.  My district is going to re-write the policy it has on cell phones just so students can use them in class.  I currently use Celly in class and Wiffiti has been suggested as a great tool to use too.  Second, I would like to suggest using something like Grammar Girl in your classroom.  There are multiple podcast for free available on many grammar issues.  My students love the fact they don’t have to always listen to me preaching about grammar.  Most audio sessions or lessons are no longer than 6-8 minutes.

Finally, as one last suggestion I would like to offer up the idea of students doing a paper blog.  Blogging on a computer can be challenging for teachers and educators that don’t have technology readily available to them.  However, that doesn’t mean we can’t teach students what a blog is and why people write them. Give students an opportunity to create a “paper blog”  This is a lesson I plan on sharing with my students on January 30th and then they will create their “paper blog” on February 1st.  There are many different ways to approach this lesson.  You can check out some paper blog activities on

So, channel that valuable energy for positive use and be creative in your classroom to help our 21st century learners.  Other simple ideas could be to allow students to bring in their Kindles and Nooks and designate some time to let them read.  Allow students to have their iPod or iTouch in class to use for a day.  Calculators on cell phones are also ways we can get around budget constraints for our students.

Although my suggestions may not fix the bigger problem, there are still other avenues to explore for implementing a digital world into our classroom.  My school isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  However, I have hard-working colleagues who are willing to put in the extra time to find grants and figure out what it is going to take to make our school more 21st century friendly.


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