Classroom Technology – Not Keeping Up to Classroom Demands

In many school districts the technology team spends much more time repairing equipment or answering software questions from faculty rather than planning new projects or helping teachers incorporate technology into their instruction.

In addition, according to a recent survey, IT staffing shortages continue to afflict schools keeping many of them from realizing the full potential of classroom technology as a learning tool. The survey indicated that less than one third of the respondents work in districts where adequate IT staff is present to meet their needs. On top of that, slightly more than half of those who responded indicated they spend more than half their time addressing help desk issues instead of working on long-range planning and projects. The survey suggests that the burdens placed on school technology teams are limiting innovation rather than fostering it.

Classroom Integration

Topping the list of specific IT positions the respondents said were lacking in the schools was instructional technologist, an indication that teachers are not getting the help they need to use classroom technology to improve their instruction.

Funding Challenges

Most school leaders cite funding as the number one challenge facing their technology departments and one source of their staffing problems as well. Even districts who have received grants for equipment have problems going forward. Once district received a $600,000 for laptops but is now faced with replacement and upgrade costs to the district when the grant money is gone.

Rapid Technological Advances

Another key challenge to school IT departments is the rapid pace at which new or upgraded forms of technology are emerging. For example, bandwidth needs have increased tremendously in recent years, driven by the rise of video applications, and are placing a huge burden on school network infrastructures.

The Impact of Data

One technology department staff member reports that they support over twenty disparate data systems that directly support classroom technology. The time spent supporting databases is now equal to time spent on desktop support.

Conclusion

Without the help they need from the experts in the IT department to help them integrate computer technology into their lesson plans, teachers are challenged to find classroom technology that does not require IT support. In this computer-centric, visually-oriented age, we often forget about our tried-and-true technologies, such as educational DVDs and video, that work reliably a majority of the time, even when other technologies fail.

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A Day in the Life of a Teacher Using Technology

Let’s take a quick look at the technology adapted teacher operating in the future (the near future!)

It’s Monday morning, another day and another fun week in the tech supported classroom.

Mrs. Apple (Psst! That’s you!) walks into her classroom, quickly turns on her laptop and reviews the daily news program and podcasts that the students will soon be watching. She then proceeds to check out the schools web community where there are some announcements and where her students have been busy overnight finishing their online activities.

She answers a few of their questions about an upcoming project and addresses a few concerns from a parent about their son’s math marks. T he parent is traveling on business in the southern US but has been keeping an eye on her son’s progress in the schools password protected virtual community.

A journal, a science quiz and a French crossword were assigned for homework. Mrs. Apple reviews marks and comments on the activities quickly and efficiently without shuffling a page. She smiles as she notices that the students’ Space Glossary has grown to over 100 words. The morning news program will feature the return of the Space Shuttle so this may extract some additional space words. She reviews the latest entries and approves them to be posted on the website.

As the school day begins a student that loves working with technology enters early to set up the classroom projector, digital whiteboard and electronic tablet. He tests the equipment and the student response systems to make sure they will be ready for the days work. Meanwhile, the teacher loads several digital lessons, Power Points and websites that she will be using throughout the school day.

The students enter and participate in the schools opening exercises which are played over the schools multimedia system. The national anthem’s words run across the bottom of the screen as pictures of their country’s landscape and images for its history appear on the classroom monitor. Following the anthem a recorded inspirational message is given on the screen by a popular figure in order to give the students a positive start to the day and lessons that they will remember throughout their lives.

Class begins with a ten minute synopsis of world and national events delivered in a format that is appropriate for students. After a short discussion and activities related to the current events the students prepare to find out more about their world from people their own age. The class links up via video link with their digital pen pals on the other side of the world and a student moderated discussion begins that allows both classes to ask questions and gain a human perspective about their pen pals country which help them on their upcoming projects.

Once the online conference is complete, each student writes a formal letter to their pen pal and sends it via their school email. A few students attach their animated short movie which they created in computer class, while others send their video skits which they preformed in drama class and uploaded to their personal hard drives.

As it nears noon hours the excitement begins to mount as students prepare their questions for today’s special virtual guest; a real astronaut. Several other classes across the continent link into a video conference with the astronaut to hear about the training he underwent and the Science he performed while in space. Once they are inspired and informed by their newest hero they continue to work on their space websites which they have been developing over the past few weeks.

A few keen student web designers decide to put their skills to the test and enter a youth web design contest that is sponsored by a multinational technology company. The students get so engrossed in the project that they spend their lunch hour and weekends attempting to win the big prize.

After lunch, the teacher has the students answer questions using their electronic student response systems in order to gain instant information about the student understanding or lack thereof of the previous day’s lesson. After a quick scan of the quiz results the instructor uploads a few pages from the previous day’s lesson in order to give the students the necessary clarification they need.

Now that the teacher is confident that the class has a good grasp of yesterday’s lesson, he introduces the new topic using video, interactive software, the electronic whiteboard activities and constantly monitors their understanding using the student response systems. Once the lesson is complete students complete their assignments and a couple of students review the lesson again using a visual software program.

At the end of the day the class decides to add to Wikipedia. They have been updating information about the history of their town. One student has brought in an old history book belonging to her grandmother which will help the class find new information for their entry.

This is how the day and year continues in this technology supported classroom. Interactive lessons, professional online presentations, conferences, hands on activities and digital assessments are all used in an interesting, efficient and effective format. The only question left is…are you heading towards this type of classroom?

Educational Technology Needs a Lesson Plan

I remember feeling very progressive when I purchased my daughter her first educational software, Reader Rabbit, in the early 1990s. Now a 22 year-old college graduate, she and many like her have never known a world without computers. Not only does she use an internet-enabled phone to constantly communicate, but her job as an emergency room nurse requires computer skills as well. So, needless to say, I am a strong proponent of using educational technology, both in the classroom and at home. Whether we like it or not – it’s a part of our daily lives now.

But that is only the first of a couple of reasons I support the use of technology with young children.

A second reason is that the use of educational technology in early education programs tends to level the educational playing field between those who have this access at home and those that do not. Being able to use computers and other technology at school can help all children develop the necessary life-skills needed in our technologically focused society.

Many experts recommend that all early childhood classrooms have an educational technology center that includes a computer, a printer, a digital camera, age-appropriate educational software, and access to the Internet. We would like to suggest that these centers also include a variety of educational DVDs and videos for those students who learn best with the added audio visual element that these mediums provide. Because children learn differently, at different rates, requiring different stimuli, when integrating technology into the lessons, it is important to plan to use all forms of technology – not just a few.

When creating such a technology center, here are some things to remember.

o Technology is not a replacement for the teacher. Technology elements, whether computers or educational DVDs and videos, are merely tools designed to help children learn. The teacher is still the guide.

o Consideration the applicable students’ age, developmental levels, and individual needs when selecting software, videos, and other technology.

o Don’t forget the parents. Collaborate with them and impart the importance of their involvement when their children are watching an educational television program or playing/working with computers.

o Monitor children’s use of all forms of technology that use earphones. Some research suggests that the volume at which children listen to the music can be extremely harmful.

In other words, what educational technology needs, to be properly integrated into the classroom is a good old-fashioned lesson plan.