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Articles: Classroom Integration

The textbook, The lecturer and the classroom are three pillars of modern-day schooling that date back hundreds of years. Each was invented to solve a problem.

The textbook was invented because information was scarce, the lecturer because teachers were few and the classroom because learning was local. These enduring icons persist into the Internet age, shaping our view of learning and driving the popularity of their digital grandchildren, things like iPad “textbooks” and the Kahn Academy “lectures.”

I have a monthly email communication with Elliot Soloway, a University of Michigan professor and the chair of ISTE’s Special Interest Group on Mobile Learning, who writes our Going Mobile column with Cathie Norris. Somewhere within the email thread, Soloway is sure to write words such as these: “Someone has to tell the emperor he’s naked.”

It’s becoming clearer by the minute that, as Web technologies open more and more doors for learners, they also pose more and more challenges to traditional thinking about schools. At the center is figuring how best to prepare students for the vast learning opportunities they have outside of the traditional education system. While the challenges are different for each individual school and district, all will be forced to come to terms with five new realities in the short term.

If we want children to memorize the capital of each state or the presidents of the United States, then 3x5 flashcards, at $0.99 for 25, is a time-tested technology.

Students at the Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton, Conn. can walk on a boardwalk through a pond and marsh.

“It’s a three-dimensional textbook,” says Jeff Elliott, architect with JCJ Architecture, of the aquatic-themed Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton, Conn. The school, located on the Connecticut shore near New London Harbor and designed by JCJ, first opened its doors to roughly 100 ninth- and tenth-graders this past fall. It includes nautical features such as large windows for observing the aquatic culture and a first-of-its-kind ship simulator for learning how to navigate ships in ports.

Until recently, student electronic devices, from cell phones to iPods to laptop computers, were the forbidden fruit in schools. But with technology budgets languishing and such devices becoming more powerful, affordable and omnipresent in students’ lives, district technology leaders are now eyeing a welcome educational harvest through bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs.

While Facebook and Google+ are popular social networks for everyday life, dozens of other networks have been created to provide safe and effective social learning environments for K12 education. Social learning networks (SLNs) allow students to learn 21st-century skills. Students can build online portfolios and resumes and collaborate with peers through project-based learning, which will help them in college or the workforce.

Since the launch of the Apple iPad, educators have touted the tool’s ability to engage special education students with autism spectrum disorder through unique, customizable applications and stimulating touchscreen technology. Many still feel, however, that although touchscreen tablets work well as personalized tools, they cannot be a replacement for interactive whiteboards, which help autistic students with social learning in a group setting.

Whiteboards began making headway in the K12 arena in 2006, and their presence in classrooms has increased exponentially ever since.

The New Tech Network, which began in 1996 as a nonprofit school improvement organization, made a splash at the Educon conference in Philadelphia earlier this year, explaining how it reformed 86 schools in 16 states. And the difference with the model is that communities, not schools, fund them. Through fundraisers, donations and other contributions, the community “invests” in the change that happens.

First-ever national Digital Learning Day on Feb. 1 attracted participation from 39 states, 15,000 teachers and 1.7 million students . – Alliance for Excellent Education (2012)

Let’s be honest. Flipping the classroom and using clickers and other new products can only have a modest impact on student achievement. Why? Because the underlying pedagogy of such innovations is still direct instruction, with a teacher telling students stuff and then students working to remember that stuff.

We at DA keep our ears to the ground and our noses to the grindstone always looking for new stuff to keep you, our readers, well informed. Much of what we’re hearing these days points toward the growing use of predictive analysis—looking at student data and seeing where kids are going, rather than looking at where they’ve been, as is used with data-driven decision making. Sophisticated modeling software is beginning to move from the corporate world and higher education admissions to K12, and the potential is huge.

Netbooks Replace Smartphones
Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Central School District

Back in December 2009, Watkins Glen Central School District in Garnerville, N.Y., gave smartphones to 200 fifth- and seventh-graders and 20 teachers in three schools. Two years later, this small pilot program has transitioned away from mobile phones to a one-to-one netbook program for all 850 pupils in grades 5-12. According to Superintendent Tom Philips, the HP Pavilion netbook is more educationally appropriate for Watkins Glen than tablets or mobile phones.  

Michael Peveler, vice president of education sales at AMX

Michael Peveler has been vice president of education sales for AMX for five years. An education major in college at Texas Tech University, he taught for eight years. He has been exposed to the industry and the transition toward a networking type technology over the course of the 13 years that he has worked for AMX. At the same time, he is receiving an Executive MBA in International Business at the University of Texas at Dallas.

In the last few years, smartphones have moved quickly from banned to embraced in K12 schools as educators have realized that mobile learning devices engage students, enhance the teaching of 21st-century skills, and instantly check for understanding with student response applications. Districts have started upgrading their wireless networks to accommodate one-to-one technology initiatives, while others follow a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy.