17 July 2005

Technology Management Idea

A couple of days ago, I posted some information from Edutopia concerning the use of media in the classroom. There were some new things to think about in the article---something I always appreciate. One of those was pondering how to actually get the technology. eSchool News published an article (id: bugmenot@123.com) the next day about a possible way to hold costs down while keeping the technology sustainable.

The idea here is that instead of outfitting a classroom with a set of computers, software, and miscellaneous hardware which has a three - five year "life span" before becoming obsolete, that you buy one set for the teacher. Here in Washington, a program will be piloted next year. These classrooms will receive the following (at a cost of ~$8400):

It is still a hefty price tag---but is far cheaper to update over time than continuing to buy new classroom sets of student hardware and software every few years. "The combination of a whiteboard, projector, sound system, and personal response system makes up for the lack of individual computing devices for students by allowing them to engage with the instructor, the technology, and each other, while not leaving them huddled around a single desktop PC four at a time."

I admit that I really do like this idea. I am especially interested in the wireless response system and would like to see one demonstrated. According to the eSchool article, "the wireless eInstruction keypad system permits anonymous, immediate student responses to teacher polls and allows educators to view the success of any given lesson immediately. Its data-management system also allows teachers to track student progress and performance data against state standards." Sounds like quite a tool, don't you think?

When I begin to think about the cost involved in outfitting classrooms like this, my head hurts. My district has always been generous about getting technology into the classroom, but we are mostly the "buy new computers and software" mode. I wonder if I could convince anyone to try to switch us over to something different? Some long term planning, some thought given to this for our upcoming Maintenance and Operations levy, and maybe the process could be started. In the meantime, perhaps I'll try to sniff out some tech grants.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. My high school geometry teacher had a system that was pretty sophisticated for its day and dirt cheap. She used an overhead projector with a little gadget that scrolled a roll of plastic film over the surface.

She had a chair adjusted the exact height, so she could sit comfortably next to the surface of the projector with her right arm over the plastic. She would write with a marker that would rub off so that she could fix mistakes. As she drew diagrams and explanations, she would just scroll the plastic by. If people had questions about earlier steps in a proof, she would just crank back to the appropriate spot and walk them through it again.

To her credit, she actually erased it and drew it all over again for each class, so that they could see it unfold the same way.

I'll bet it saved a lot of wear and tear on her feet too.

The only problem with doing this today would be that she had her back to the classroom most of the time. These days, I don't know if you could turn your back on kids like that. But the solution is obvious: you hook a tablet to your PC for input, then project your screen. You could face them AND draw conveniently.

The Science Goddess said...

That same system was used when I was in high school (now 18 years ago) and is what I have for my own classroom now (along with the standard chalkboard). It is...adequate.

But I can't think of very many "industries" that are using the same technology as 20+ years ago in order to make their "product."

It would be wonderful to have a way to better reach kids where they are today. How powerful it would be to even have the new AverKeys: to be able to do a demo the whole class could see from their seats, to put samples of student work for everyone to look at, to even place the textbook or a magazine article to use together.

Beyond that, an LCD projector would allow for other ways to present information (e.g. Powerpoint) and to look at other digital information together.

Until the funding for all these kinds of things is worked out (if ever), we're going to keep teaching our 21st century kids with 19th and 20th century tools.