The overwhelming thought I had as I attended numerous EduComm sessions at the magazine's show in Orlando last month-and walked the massive InfoComm floor-is that the future is now.
While this certainly isn't an original statement, veteran ed tech watchers will understand immediately what I mean. For years, we have gone to shows getting a glimpse of a breakthrough in some technology, hearing of an early adopter district somewhere in the country, but all the time waiting for the day when these advancements were embraced by everyone.
As recently as two years ago, the buzz at InfoComm was that projectors were now clocking in at less than $1,000, lowering the barrier for districts to place units in each class. Last year's message was the convergence of various items-from projectors to document cameras to whiteboards to computers-that could work seamlessly together in a classroom.
There was less of a single, unifying breakthrough this year, and that's good news for educators. Oh, don't get me wrong, there were still plenty of technological wonders to marvel at, from new high-end projectors that could practically fit in your pocket to larger whiteboards with intuitive software to document cameras that can magnify a newspaper and make the projection look better than the actual paper does. And maybe more importantly for tech directors, there were sophisticated systems to help oversee all these digital tools that would let a remote user know if a projector's mute button was pushed or if the unit's bulb was about to burn out.
The lack of a great leap forward means there's less for schools to catch up with. Even the most optimistic ed tech advocate admits schools remain behind the curve. But with the curve flattening, school districts have a better chance than ever to get the equipment that's needed and improve the education offered to students.
Not only do they have the chance to do this, but as most of EduComm's 30-plus sessions showed, this work is already taking place at a wide variety of school districts throughout the country. Randi Zwicker told how Collier County Public Schools in Naples, Fla., is now providing interactive multimedia opportunities for every student in every grade. The director of the district's instructional technology/media services explained how Collier went from its vision to its plan.
Chris Kenniburg, the Web master from Dearborn (Mich.) Public Schools, talked about how his district uses streaming video for live events and professional development and how both teachers and students create podcasts. The same type of examples were given for various other platforms, from blogs to RSS feeds to virtual schools to distance learning to online AP classes.
Management issues were discussed in explaining how to properly oversee all these technology pieces by including students in the work to showing how to develop a sustainable classroom model using digital cameras.
So as you relax during the one true downtime that school administrators have, let your thoughts wander to the possibilities that can be in your classrooms this year. If you attended this year's EduComm, look back over your notes for your highlights. And if you didn't attend this year's session, you can still catch up by watching video of some of our sessions, and picking up handouts of many of the other sessions at www.DistrictAdministration.com/EduComm.