Reading, writing and arithmetic have been the foundation for educators since Cro-Magnon was scribbling on the wall of his cave. Obviously, a lot about classroom teaching and learning has changed in the last 43,000 years - heck, the last 5 years alone has seen a rapid swing towards advanced technology in the classroom.
We’ve certainly come a long way from demonstrating cursive on chalkboards or even overhead projectors, sheets of plastic and red felt tip pens that were used to solve mathematical equations. And now that both of those methods have gone the way of Raphus cucullatus (the Dodo Bird), we have to find a way to settle in and accept the fact that digital teaching tools are here to stay and should be utilized to connect with today’s students.
So with all the digital teaching methods and available tools, what is best? Recently, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Chief Technology Officer, Ray Reitz mentioned 3 criteria that he will use to measure the value of any technology that goes into their classrooms:
- It should have an inherent value that is ready and available to the teacher for immediate use.
- Should NOT take months or years to deploy.
- Should have a simple, intuitive design and be easy to teach so that professional development time isn’t necessary.
Those are three very good criteria and seem pretty basic, but they are easy for developers of classroom technology to get away from. Public School Districts also generally add another point of affordability. Funds are generally limited when it comes to the “bells and whistles” so reducing or eliminating recurring costs could be another determining factor.
In our humble opinion, the number one need for great technology in the classroom is the infrastructure to support the effort. You can purchase from companies that manufacture wireless devices at affordable, “bulk” rates, but if you have 500 students and they all turn on those devices at the same time and start trying to stream multimedia, there are going to be issues on your network that prevent reliable operation. Make sure the infrastructure is there before powering up.
A secure wireless network that supports technology in the classroom also allows for the safe implementation of BYOD. Without security, BYOD can be an effort in futility.
Other great technology in the classroom can be found in the form of video conferencing or teleconferencing. Unlike a live network television broadcast, a teleconference can provide individual or group instruction through a secure connection. Share with another class in Japan about biology while your class teaches them about geology in Arizona.
Smart boards have web access as an added feature built right in and many run interactive software or applications that enhance the materials in each class. Save the content you create and then email the class session, complete with attached notes to the students or make them available online on a teacher’s class YouTube channel.
Most computers now have built in cameras and recording software so you can literally produce your own programming and post to the web directly. The creativity that can come from a simply edited program or “commercial” for your economics class would add tremendous value, maybe even humor to keep students’ attention, all done from one location.
Audio and video of any kind broadcast live or taped that incorporates additional sources like slide show presentations can make for very effective teaching tools. However, without the appropriate equipment to present to the students in the classroom would be less effective. Think of computers that can export to a digital projector or be saved to and sourced from a hard drive on the school wireless network and displayed on a large screen, those type of solutions are a nice way to present the material but can also be complicated to connect correctly.
There are plenty of cool solutions that could be added to the list, but remember the three points above will put you on the right path to effective technology in the classroom.
If your school is considering implementing technology in the classroom we are here to help. We have worked with schools all over the country to bring mobility in the classroom. Jus contact us here with any questions or for a free consultation. Good luck!