In one of those on-line CS courses I am sort of participating in, one of the discussions was to talk about the classroom technologies the teachers were using. Almost exclusively the conversation is Smart boards, computer labs and a teacher iPad. Some discussed computer lab management software like LanSchool. One teacher even said she used classroom technology every day because she entered her grades into grading software. Is this stuff really classroom technology considering the year is 2014? Here is my idea of classroom technology – the kid has it in his or her hand whenever it is needed. The kid can project to and for the class when needed. The kid has all the software needed, at hand, whenever needed. This does not mean the class goes to a lab when needed. It means the kids open their backpack and fish out their classroom technology.
Here is my present math and programming classroom.
- Every kid has a laptop. If they do not I have some loaners but I rarely have a kid needing one. Parents seem to have added laptops to the school must have list of supplies. (My programming kids need a Windows laptop. Macs resulted in a pain in the rear.) I do not use the laptops every day but when needed I expect them to have one available.
- I have a method of handing out and receiving digital homework. Right now it is either through a server that has no access outside the school network or email. I will play with Google Classroom this fall to see if it will do the trick. The main issue is having a one way folder for kids to turn assignments into. There are solutions, I just have to find one that is easy.
- I have a projector that plugs into the network. Up to 4 kids can simultaneously connect to it wirelessly from their own laptops. A kid in each quadrant if need be. The projector (Dell S300wi) was $2000 3 years ago so I assume there are newer cheaper models out there now.
- I have a Smart board I rarely use. The projector reduced the need. When I need to do Smart board type stuff I do it on my laptop anywhere in the room.
- I have a good old white board for the “sage on the stage” type stuff. I do not think teaching will ever be able to completely escape that presentation mode. It works well. There are some things that just work best on the big board. Now if I can just learn to do legible handwriting.
- My furniture moves. I am not a kids in nice rows type. There is an outfit that makes student desks on wheels. My ideal desks. But I can foresee bumper car issues and classroom management issues. Movable furniture allows physical collaboration. Two kids side by side comparing projects is not always somebody just copying. It sometimes means one kid is teaching another. A teacher’s greatest teaching goal.
5 and 6 are not “tech” but they are necessary for my concept of a tech based classroom.
I have one last desire for classroom technology, a large touch screen tablet with an attachable keyboard. A 17 inch would be dreamy. I have 10 inch tablets but it is hard to hit the icons sometimes and I am also blinder than a bat. I want the mobility the tablet offers yet the convenience of a full sized keyboard. Removing the keyboard also makes the thing reasonably light.
My concept and goal for classroom technology minimizes the teacher held tech and maximizes the student held tech. The teacher needs to get out of the way and let the kids learn.
Is real classroom technology economically feasible for all schools? In my opinion student owned technology to be used in the classroom is not a thing of choice. If the American education system is going to do any fundamental job market or “real world” preparation for our students it has to be to get them ready to actually use and manage their own technology, not watch the teacher teach with it. “But our school cannot afford this” is what I hear a lot of. I spend about $400 for a new Windows 7 laptop. I can get refurbished Win 7 laptops with a lifetime parts warranty for $200. The local public school system pays $800 a laptop to do the same job the $400 laptop is going to do. A new Chromebook (which I am not a big fan of) is about $230. They are correct, they cannot afford to purchase laptops for their students. Most schools do not seem overly concerned.